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Vehicle Inspection When you take your car to be inspected and you have a list of what is required by your State, other than enrolling in auto-mechanic school, are there precautions you can take to keep from getting ripped off when they mention that something on the list needs fixing? In other words, are there red flags, etc. that tell us that they are not being straight with us? For example, I was told and shown that my brake needed fixing, but I don't know a bad brake from a good brake. Should I have just accepted the rejection Notice, paid the $37 inspection fee and gone elsewhere for a second opinion, but run the risk of being stopped and ticketed? Or just pay the inspector in question the $204.00 for the repairs. FYI: I paid the $204, but what about next time? Signed, At Their Mercy

Answers from the Automotive Experts

Amy Mattinat, Owner and Author at Auto Craftsmen Ltd Stacy, When your car needs to have any repairs or maintenance service done, and you don*t know much about cars, you could purchase a easy to read book to gain an understanding of what the repairs shop folks are talking about. Car Smarts by Mary Jackson and Lucille*s Car Care by Lucille Treganowan are two of my favorite books. You could purchase them online at You may also want to ask around for a good referral for a shop that is good at communication /education to it's customers. I have given many a short lesson on brakes so that my clients understand what kind of brake system they have, what parts need to be replace and why they wore out the way they did. It's not rocket science, it's not hard to explain, and it's not hard to understand. A shop that takes the time to explain what is going on with your car is more likely to do a better job and are showing you up front that they care about you and your car. Best of Luck, Amy Mattinat

Suzanne Grego, Technician at City of Philadelphia Fleet Management Stacey, I*m not exactly sure what you mean by a "broken brake". I can tell you that in Pennsylvania, a bonded brake pad can be worn as low as 2/32 of and inch and a riveted brake pad as low as 1/32" and just pass inspection. However, if the pad (or shoe, for drum brakes) is badly cracked, or has chunks missing, that will not pass inspection. You can always ask your mechanic to measure the pad or shoe in front of you. If you are afraid that you are getting ripped off, ASK PATTY has a list of recommended service areas. If none of these are near you, ask some friends, coworkers or neighbors who they trust. Suzanne

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