Rebel Mechanic

Reporter: Clare Brady

Women and mechanics - it's an oil and water cocktail that doesn't seem to mix. When it comes to mechanics, Suzanne Knight is bitter - her garage has been empty after a protracted quoting dispute. "The engine on the car blew up. It's not your average car", Suzanne said.

She'd nicknamed her dream car "Musty", but the Ford Mustang needed work. Suzanne found a mechanic but things soon soured. "I feel very frustrated, I feel powerless. It cost me a lot of money and I think people like that should stop and think how they treat females, because we are just as valuable customers as the males", Suzanne said.

Richard Palmer's been a mechanic for 22 years, meeting bewildered women everyday. "You do feel the women are more of an open target, a lamb to the slaughter", he said. But after his grandmother was quoted $15,000 for a roadworthy certificate, when only a new headlight was needed. Richard was outraged. "I see myself as a bit of a policeman in the street to keep mechanics honest", he said.

Richard has set up a national call centre called Ausquote, where women and men can fax him a mechanic's quote -- he then assesses the costs. In short, Richard decides whether or not you're about to be ripped off. "If you're an honest, reputable mechanic, they won't have a problem, they have nothing to hide", Richard said.

With Richard's help, our researcher, Kerry, road tested a few mechanics and left a trap for the lazy. Within seconds, our first mechanic found the set-up fault and fixed it -- a good start. Then Kerry hit the road again. Her quote from a K-mart Tyre and Auto Service left questions. We have a price there of $247 and asked Richard if that was reasonable. "Well, it's miles too high. It should be around the $55-$60 mark and that's the official price from Holden", Richard said.

Richard says he believes the $200 profit is because Kerry is a woman. But when we queried the K-mart quote, the shutters went up and we were told to ring a number in Sydney. Officially K-mart said they, "believed Holden's assessment of the cost to replace the part looked only at the cost of parts and replacement labour and not the diagnostic test". Admitting they "made an error when quoting an hour's labour to replace the part............."

So, moving right along, Kerry hit another mechanic and a hurdle at the Ultra Tune Centre. Kerry had her quote in hand, but the mechanic missed the set-up fault. "That should be one of the first things picked up, it shows a lack of attention detail", Richard said. So now there's a middle man between you and the mechanic.

For further information on Ausquote, visit the website at: http://www.ausquote.com.au/ or phone 1300 729 585.