When it’s time to give your car for its routine service, be aware, be very aware!

On the face of it, a routine service may not seem like much other than the usual oil and filter changes, but very often cars owners are in for a nasty surprise when they see the bill and the hidden charges that are suddenly served up. And that’s not all, there are other ways in which many an unscrupulous car service center will look to make money off you. After all, authorized service centers are one of the biggest money spinners for car brands.

car service station cheating

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It’s even more likely that you will be hoodwinked by a service station if you don’t keep an eye on what’s going on with your car, as sometimes service centers will include charges in your bill, which were not performed on the vehicle at all.

Here’s a list of some common ways in which car service centers look to make money off unsuspecting customers.

Unnecessary labor charges

Many service stations will include labor charges in the final bill given to the customer for tasks that were not performed, especially if there was no complaint raised by a customer when giving the vehicle for service. For instance, you may find a charge that says “Brake service labour: Rs. 600”. This is a valid charge if you have seen mechanics actual open up the brake pads, inspect, clean and re-install them. However, there have been instances where this task was not performed, but added to the bill simply because the customer was not around to double-check. It saves the service station time, allowing them to accommodate more vehicles in a single bay by not performing this task that takes around 30 minutes. And it gives them that extra profit.

Flushing and additives

Engine and radiator flushing and adding oil or fuel additives are other ploys employed by service stations to make an extra buck. Many a time, car owners would notice a service advisor asking a customer to perform a radiator flush or add some brand of additive to the engine oil to “improve life-span” or “improve mileage”. These additives, though useful at times, are not always needed at each service. Many service stations will try and sell you a fuel additive that’s not needed or is very expensive compared to other popular brands available in the aftermarket, saying that this additive has been “authorized by the car manufacturer”. The profit margin that service stations make on these additives is huge, and hence this is a great way of mooching some more money off an unsuspecting customer.

Car dry cleaning and wax coating

Dry-cleaning the car’s interiors is another way in which service stations make a few extra bucks. Some cars with dirty seats and roof lining genuinely need a dry clean during service, but some service stations will nevertheless try to get customers to opt for this at every service – something that’s not needed especially for well-maintained cars. A charge of Rs. 1,500 just for dry-cleaning is quite steep, when this often involves just a rubdown of the seats and roof-lining with an old cloth brush and a little solvent. Some service stations just use foam and a blow dry.

Wax polishing also is a useful item if your cars finish is old and dull, but the labor charges associated with the task are not worth it. Service stations can charge up to Rs. 1,000 for a wax polish job, while you could do the same at home on a Sunday morning, and spend money on some good polish that would last you at least a year.

Engine decarbonizing and dressing

Engine decarbonizing is another charge many service stations will try and dump on a customer every 15,000 or 20,000 kms. In reality, engine decarbonizing is not needed on cars for a minimum of 50,000 km, especially with modern cars and better fuel quality these days. Service stations charge around Rs. 1,800 for “engine decarbonizing”, which involves running a chemical solvent mixed with fuel through the engine for about 15 minutes to remove carbon build up. In any case, this is not the best way to decarbonize an engine, as proper decarbonizing involves opening the cylinder head and physically cleaning the valves and ports. One can avoid this task by just using a good fuel additive or injector cleaner from time to time, to keep the engine clean.

In addition, some service stations also bill separately for “engine dressing”. This is nothing but a silicone or oil spray that’s sprayed on to the engine to give it a shine. Charges can be as high as Rs. 800 for this task, but the effects don’t last long enough.


Billed, but not replaced

One thing to be very wary of at service stations is that all parts that have been billed for have been replaced. Always ask to see or collect the old parts from the service station, as sometimes parts can be billed to you but not replaced. This also fuels the grey market for genuine spares. For instance, a service station may bill you Rs. 800 for a new AC filter, whereas in reality an unscrupulous mechanic can just clean and replace the old filter and palm the new filter off to the grey market, if you don’t bother to cross check. Always make sure you collect old parts to be certain that tasks were carried out.

The easiest way to avoid being fooled by a service station is to actually be present when service is being carried out on your car. Always make sure you check from time to time on work being carried out. Most service stations now have a customer lounge that overlooks the shop floor, allowing you to monitor progress. Some stations may even allow you on to the shop floor once in a way to keep track of progress.

Have you got some more instances of service stations cheating customers to share? Do tell us.


  1. This is is one of the better stories Cartoq has done in a long time. 3 more common rip offs were missed. 1. Citing minor leakages when there are none and replacing the part. 2. Replacing parts which can be easily and properly repaired. 3. Billing obscene amounts of money as ‘outside labour’ charges. The instances of malpractices is only increasing, which is rather unfortunate. People buy expensive cars hoping for a good ownership experience but are in for a shock when service bills exceed the EMI amounts. I have more than had my share of bad experiences with different dealers and authorised service stations of different companies. So much so that I actually prefer to stick to my friendly neighbourhood mechanic.

  2. very good article,everyone should read it thoroughly,the most important thing they waste is the precious time, the service which can be done in 1 hour or max 2 hr service stations waste the whole day of a customer to play their tricks and fool the innocent customer.

  3. thanks ROSHAN. But dont you think that customers still wont be able to do anything about the fooling that goes around at the service station , cazz we as customers are not allowed to stay around our vehicle while its being serviced & besides tht 90% of the customers are not technically educated about their vehicle and hence they fall prey to the service station’s misleading advice’s .

  4. Well Girish, there’s only so much one can do. Just by being wary and well-informed on what can potentially be done at a service station is a start. But can’t help it, as service stations try to squeeze more money out of a customer.

  5. There are service stations where they replace used component from a previously serviced or damaged car and bill for a new one. Check for your wipers, for example, as chances are they might be replaced. They don’t do the entire servicing in your presence.


  7. I have been a victim of such Ripoffs several times. I have a feeling that the supervisor who acts as a liason between the customer and Service Station gets a commission on the final bill. This is apparent from the fact that even if we have no complaint with the car he will ask certain parts to be replaced or certain procedures to be carried out if a particular time has elapsed say 6 months or 12 months. If the car has not run, if the part is Ok or reusable why replace ???

    The service charges are abnormal to say the least. A radiator cap that needs to be replaced costs Rs.30, and the labour to replace the radiator cap is Rs.50 ! Labour involves screwing the cap for half a turn, thats it. when the bill runs in thousands they say, you should get the car “frequently” for service. If not, then you end up paying this huge amount. so any which way you look, they see to it that the customer is fleeced.

  8. For Additives It is better to purchase Good brand additives like ABRO etc from market and give it to mechanic to use the time of service. THis can save lot of money.
    Secondly keep the record of every service in booklet of car. most of customers never knows the service & spares replaced in previous time .

  9. Folks ! Its your birthright :) (drive-right) to see you car being serviced, if you have the time, you can stay at the service station and see it being done, you can demand that you want to see the car being serviced, else ask the service advisor to call you each time he does a replcement or any changes without which no payments will be done….
    One of the manufactures who are bad in Service is TATA and their service center at Kudlu Gate, Bangalore run by Prerana motors caused more damage on the car than fixing the issue of a 5 day old car procured from their showroom…

  10. Thanks Roshun, this is very helpful article. do service center people allow us to be around the car at the time of servicing? can we ask for that?

  11. Yes, you can demand that you want to see your car. Many service centres also have waiting lounges that overlook the work area and some allow you to hang around the service floor as long as you don’t bother the mechanics unnecessarily.

  12. Almsot all service stations adopt these strategies. Compelety irratioanl abour charges. I was about to be charged 500 bucks + taxes for just the calliper greasing for my swift at the so called authorized service centre. Had to escalate it all the way up to Maruti , finally paid the charges of 100 Rs.

  13. When i took my Etios car for service at Galaxy Toyota, Moti Nagar recently, the guards at entry gate made me open the car boot and stole my stepney. On investigating , it was found that the relevant CCTV footage was deleted .

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