TOLEDO (WTOL) - During these tough economic times, we here at News 11 are aware that many of you are choosing to keep your cars in good repair rather than buy new ones. With that in mind, we wanted to check out a few local mechanics to see if they're dealing fairly with the people they serve.
We took a 2004 Chevy Venture to the AAA Car Care Plus on Central Ave. -- not to fix but to mess up. One of AAA mechanics loosened a nut and pulled a tie rod off the left front tire, changing the angle of the wheel towards the car's axle, which is known as toe in and toe out.
The van was now out of balance. The mechanic also took off the left front tire and put on a smaller one that did not match the other three.
Then one of our producers went undercover to put local repair shops to the test.
The first stop was Monro Brakes and Tires on Secor at Central. Monro's mechanics caught the small tire on the front driver's side. After replacing it, the mechanic noticed something was still not right with the balance. So, he did an alignment.
After $165 dollars worth of work, we went back to AAA to see how Monro did. The van went up on the rack for an alignment check.
Triple A car care manager Ed Bengela was pleased Monro found the wrong tire.
"It's something that they need to catch, obviously being a wrong tire size. So that's something that was good that they did catch that."
The van was then hooked up to Triple A's digital imaging technology. Sensors were placed on each tire to make sure the left and right sides of the van were at the same angle, indicating they'd been properly aligned.
"I'd say they did a decent job. The only thing we found out is the left toe is out more than about four degrees. It didn't have any pulling concerns and the steering wheel was straight, but that would still cause an uneven wear issue, especially with the tires, premature wear," Bengella said.
The alignment should have been within one degree on each side, but Triple A says Monro did a good enough job that the problems were fixed and it was no longer a hazard to drive.
To get us ready for our next stop, Triple A put the small tire back on the van on the right front side. They also made the left front tire out of balance with the toe in toe out problem.
We then went to Michel Tires Plus on West Alexis. The mechanics found the small tire and replaced it, and they also spotted the alignment problem.
After $217 in repairs, we went back to Triple A for an assessment.
The sensors were placed on the tires again as the mechanic looked over the printout of the work we had done.
The alignment at Michel Tires was only slightly over one degree off. Triple A's mechanics say Monro did a thorough job and that the price was, for the most part, right.
The upshot is that Monro and Michel Tires Plus did not do any work that did not need to be done.
But Triple A's Bob Kazmierczak says you don't get good and honest service at every place in town.
"You have your 20, 30, 40, $50,000 investment that you're entrusting to a shop to take care of, you definitely want to make sure that the work is being done properly," he said.
Here are the top five tips to keep in mind when you need an alignment.
Back to our investigation, the manager of the Monro Muffler and Brake said they don't have digital imaging alignment equipment. But he said he always recommends to customers to come back in a week or two for a free check, to see if the alignment held.
He told me if our van had come back to them, they would have adjusted the alignment further.