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Mechanic is trying to cheat me - help required


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Hi Guys,

I have just taken my 1978 Hiace camper van to in for a WOF. I wont name and shame just yet as i want to give them a chance to re-mediate their work first. But i would much appreciate some advice on the matter. I know a little about basic mechanics but not a lot.

The WOF check itself was okay - i failed for the following things 

  • Leaks from exhaust - True the joints are in bad shape. 
  • Play in one wheel bearing - i did not check to confirm this
  • brake were pulling to one side. True, i had noticed this (drums all around)
  • Hand break needed adjusting. probably

They quoted $450 for the work. I thought this price to be okay if they actually fixed the issues so i went ahead with it. They had the van for day and when i came to pick it up they said all went well. Claimed they had balanced all four breaks. taken the breaks a part and cleaned them and adjusted and this was all that would  was required - no new parts. I trialed the breaks and i could not see any improvement on the pulling to one side. I probed some more and actually realised i had forgotten to give them the key for the mags. They admitted they had not taken the wheels off and just sprayed brake cleaner through "a hole"? they then changed their tune and said that they actually they didn't need to take the wheel from the drum to get to the brake and they did it this way for the front and back. is this even possible? Especially on the back wouldn't you need to pull the axle out of the diff or something? They then said that it doesn't matter if it still pulls as it passed there break test machine. Well their test machine was just an acceleration box sensor. I had already good stopping values on the WOF report. The only way to test brake balance is a roller machine right?   

They also said they had fixed one the exhaust joints and checked all the rest for leaks. Well the other joint, the badly rusted one was still obviously leaking and a hole in the rear tube section...  

I haven't given them any payment yet. they still have the van and are going to take it a roller tester on monday to try and prove the brakes are fixed. They also said they would fix the exhaust properly. Given just how much they have blatantly lied to me so far i'm pretty concerned. I am worried they will fake the brake report or something. 

Any advice welcome... I'm keen to offer some money for only the work they have actually done and get the hell out of there. How much should i pay to have hand brake adjusted, one wheel bearing re-packed with grease, one gasket replace on exhaust joint and have some crap sprayed at my brakes. They charge $70/h


Cheers, Will

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With drum brakes the adjusters are usually accessible with the wheels still on as they are on the inner side (if that makes sense). They may have sprayed brake clean through one of the adjuster holes or through one of the shoe inspection holes. You could ask them for a print out of the brake test (if They used a roller brake test machine) to see the results.

Edit: just read they didn't. Could possibly take it elsewhere for a brake roller test for proof of braking performance.


The wheels would have been needed to be removed to repack and adjust the bearing. Hand brake adjustment is pretty simple and straight forward as well.


I'd ask them for a break down of the work they've done, hours etc and go from there. $70 per hour is a pretty cheap rate to be honest.


My 2c anyway.


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My shop charges $90/hr but we also fix things instead of just giving you a bill.

Spraying brakleen randomly through the adjuster / inspection hole will achieve nothing. Drum brakes can be an absolute pain to get balanced sometimes, and VTNZs stupid rollers pick up imbalances you won't feel while driving. If you can feel it pulling, there is no way they will pass it.

My method of sorting drums: Strip the lot down. Clean everything until shiny. Inspect shoes for wear,  if low or worn unevenly, replace. Inspect cylinders for leakages and smooth operation, any doubt, replace. Inspect drums for wear / deformation / cracks. Might get them machined, might give them a sand, for the price half the time it's just easier to replace. Lube up all moving bits with brake grease, reassemble, take for a good ol' thrash to seat everything in, and adjust. No idea what this is all worth as I don't do the office stuff but it'll no doubt set you back more than $450 depending on how much needs replacing, but at least you'll have known good brakes.

I'd be taking the car elsewhere from now on.

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Hi Guys thanks for the response!

Taistorm - So would you definitely need to remove the mag stud nuts (ie the wheel from the drum) to do the wheel bearing? If this is the case they really haven't done anything for sure other than replace a gasket in one of the exhaust couplings and adjust the hand brake cable. they did no welding on the exhaust, the hole is still there.

Yowzer - Yeah i really did expect some sort break down inspection to happen. I should been more suspicious that they would quote for all this work with actually knowing what needs replacing, also they were sure they would have it done on a Saturday. I don't think they ever intended to replace any parts no matter what they found.. if they ever intended to look. 

On a side note i read that around this era drums brakes were auto adjusting when you brake in reverse?

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tbh, the brakes should have been fully inspected,

which means wheels off, no excuse

you need to check the brake shoes for wear, uneven

you need to check wheel cylinders, are moving freely, also not leaking

then you need to adjust the brakes, 

yes, drum brakes can be adjusted from outside, inside face of drum, but you wouldnt waste your time unless you knew the condition of the brakes etc


you can check balance, fairly acurately, if you have a good feel for things

2 persons, one in car for brake pedal operation, other with wheel/brake

spin wheel, person push brake pedal, feel when it contacts, do front axle first, so r/f then l/f, a few times to get feel

rear, do same,

handbrake easier to test,

get person to pull handbrake up one click at a time,

go from side to side feeling the brake bite, should be equal bite from within 1 click etc

should bite at 4 clicks be fully locked at 7 clicks



no excuse for a exhaust after its been looked at,

easy to test, engine idling, hold a good thick rag over end of exhaust, another person check for leaks

no excuse this wasnt fixed, either by cleaning and resealing joints with joint sealer, or replacing joints or exhaust pipe


give them another go, if not fixed, go elsewhere ? :)




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Do they have any affiliations with MTA(Motor trade association) or similar at the workshop? Could have a yarn to them about it if they are.
Also LTNZ are getting pretty strict on the WOF workshops now - if you feel it shouldn't have passed due to the work not being done, then formal complaint to them and they will investigate.

FYI - Wheel bearings can sometimes be adjusted with the wheels on the car - if you can pop the outer grease cap off, you can pull the split pin and pull out the outer bearing to jam in some grease. Then bung it back together adjust the nut till tight etc.  Depends on the type of wheels and centre caps. (I would however not recommend this be done .. ever)

Also - drum brakes need exactly the treatment @Yowzer mentioned to properly get them working. If nothing needs changing, then it would probably take the same amount of time to try and clean it from the back as it would to remove the drum and give it a decent check/clean and proper adjustment

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27 minutes ago, sleeektoy said:

 ... Wheel bearings can sometimes be adjusted with the wheels on the car - if you can pop the outer grease cap off, you can pull the split pin and pull out ... adjust the nut till tight etc ... (I would however not recommend this be done .. ever) ...

Why wouldn't you recommend adjusting a wheel bearing this way, dude? Is there another way?

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1 hour ago, johnny.race said:

What are you on about bud? How else do you take play out of a wheel bearing on a IFS on a RWD vehicle? I took it as the OP was talking about one of the fronts needing adjusting. It'd have to be because the rear ones on those are not adjustable.

Op = troll, seen him post lately? 

Must have had nothing better to do on a Saturday night 

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2 hours ago, Mof said:

Op = troll, seen him post lately? 

Must have had nothing better to do on a Saturday night 

Or maybe has other things to do in life than post on a forum? 

Just sayin. Pretty weird thing to troll about, and not like the normal bot posts you see.

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