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My mom has a 1998 Cadillac SE, with about 65K on it. It has been garaged, and is not driven hard at all. 95% of mileage is local. She is in her 70's and is on a fixed income. The "Service Stability Sensor" light came on recently. A few days later, the sensor engaged (anti-lock brakes automatically engaged) for no reason as she was driving down the street. Our local mechanic - who is excellent - can't fix it for he doesn't have the diagnostic software Cadillac does. She had it towed to the local Cadillac dealership, where she has had work done on it before. They told her this is what the car needs: - replace steering sensor ($462) - can't guarantee anti-lock brakes won't stop the car again even after the stability sensor is replaced - has broken motor mount ($510) - gas pedal is sticking ($90 to take out the carbon) - both tie rods worn ($310) - rear brakes worn ($513) She expressed shock on the phone when the service rep told her all this. She asked what was the priority - besides the stability sensor - and he replied that EVERYTHING is a priority (which is crap). We both believe she is being worked over. But it's not like she can have it towed out of there and to another Cadillac dealership (the other one nearby is worse than this one). I suggested she call our mechanic and ask, when he had the car this past week, if he (a) observed any of these other problems, and (b) if he didn't observe them, how would he prioritze them, and (c) what work can he do that is not so specialized that Cadillac has to do it. She is reluctant because Cadillac said she could have the car back by end-of-day tomorrow (that's where they get ya). Any thoughts from women professionals how to go about this? It is really angering what repair shops do to women, but if one pushes back too hard, they could purposefully do something to the car so it has to be fixed. I suggested that she have them focus on the stability sensor, since that is so very Cadillac-specific, and take the car back to my mechanic for the generic stuff (like brakes). Then again, they could pull her brake pads and stick worn ones in their place, etc. etc. I wouldn't put it past them. Thanks for any advice you can offer. It's really maddening what dealerships do. Karen

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Patty Streeter,  at AskPatty.com Get a second opinion ( you can call around to ask questions about repair costs ect) from an independent ASE Blue Seal Service Center that specializes in Cadillac's and has the right equiptment to diagnois and quote a price, you can locate one here: http://www.ase.com/bluesealsearch/locator.php Each dealer or independent service center pays at cost the same for the actual parts for your repairs , it is the mark up on parts and labor rate that makes the big difference in the price for service. Ask the Cadillace dealership to break down the prices for each - Parts and Labor, then compare with your independent shop of choice. Here is a recent great article for women from Ask Patty on how not to get ripped off by service centers on repairs: http://askpatty.typepad.com/ask_patty_/2007/01/how_not_to_get_.html

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