Back in the day, car dealers were only interested in fleecing you out of money when you actually bought the car. Subsequently, if anything needed fixing, you would take your car to a local garage, or gas station to get it fixed. There, the mechanic would take you through a complex process of diagnosing what was wrong using the following technique:
Mechanic: So what seems to be the trouble?
Owner: I don't know, it's making this noise whenever I turn left.
Mechanic: What's it sound like?
Owner: (makes a sound like a muskrat in a clothes dryer)
Mechanic: Hmmmmm...I think I know what to do...
The mechanic would then take a day or seven to order replacement parts, leaving the owner stranded long enough to fall in love, solve crimes, invent rock-n-roll, or whatever other plot points needed to be resolved in the particular Michael J. Fox movie we happened to be watching.
These days however, auto dealers realized that there is way more money to be made fleecing owners on the maintenance side of the business. But because everyone kept taking their cars into their trusted mechanics, they devised "the diagnostic" which is a computer who lives inside your engine, gathering secrets about it which it will only tell to computers at the dealership. What sort of secrets it gathers I prefer not to think about. Of course this makes figuring out what the problem is very easy for the dealer. But the problem is that if the diagnostic doesn't see anything wrong at the moment, it assumes nothing is broken. Thus, in my case it made for trouble, since every time I brought it in to get looked at the diagnostic refused to tell the dealer's computer what was wrong (not unlike a passive-aggressive significant other).
Needless to say, the dealer kept my car for two days and eventually figured out what they thought was the right answer - and that would essentially cost me $2100 to fix. Naturally, I calmly inquired whether the service guy was high and if so, when would he be talking sense again so I could call back. In the end, he confirmed the diagnosis and I refused to get it fixed, choosing instead to get another problem fixed that would not require me to sell a kidney on the black market.
Once the parts were in for that fix I dropped it off last Friday morning. When I got a call a few hours later from the service guy telling me he had "some good news" - that the fix they thought they would have to do on the ABS light was, in fact just a faulty sensor that would cost me "only about $300" to fix, not the original $2100. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! I just saved $1800! Woo-hoo! The GF will confirm how excited I was, because I called her in my excited, somewhat spastic state of glee. Of course, in her wisdom, I'm sure she was saying to herself "Doesn't he know he's spending another $300?", but kudos to her for letting me have my moment.
Of course, that feeling only lasted for an hour or two. That's when I started wondering if the whole thing was a ploy. I mean after an initial quote of $2100 - *anything* would seem reasonable. So now I'm a little paranoid that this is a new trick the dealers are doing to get more of our money and pay off their boats. So the next time someone quotes you $2100 to fix anything on your car, back away slowly.