Did Stoney Trail Mazda Scam Me?

I don’t know much about cars. I’m one of those guys that, if something goes wrong with my car, I’ll call the AMA and let someone smarter than me figure it out. The most complicated thing I’ve done on my own cars is replace a headlight. So there’s the context for this story.

On Friday I took my 2003 Mazda Protege 5 to Stoney Trail Mazda in Calgary for an oil change, and after 30 minutes a woman came back to tell me that they were suggesting the following procedures for my car beyond the oil change:

  • Replace air filter ($30)
  • Injector flush ($170)
  • Power steering flush ($90)
  • Replace broken fog light ($270)

I was expecting to walk out spending under $50, and they were suggesting I spend more than 10 times that much! I felt a bit overwhelmed at first, but I started asking questions because it seemed curious that so much needed to happen at once. The broken fog light, she said, wasn’t just a simple blown bulb – the entire assembly needed to be replaced. The car has 61K KM on it, and had never had any of the fluids replaced/flushed beyond the oil and wind shield wiper fluid, but did that mean that both the power steering and injector systems needed to be flushed? I ended up saying yes to the air filter and power steering flush, but said I’d decide later on the injetor flush and fog light.

After she walked away I started searching online for articles related to the topic, and found a good one on injector flushing. I also found a bunch of forum threads where people were discussing the same topic, and the general consensus I found was that unless there’s a suspected problem with the injectors, there’s no need to flush them. It seems that telling customers that their vehicle’s injectors need flushing is an easy money-maker for the auto shop. I’m glad I said no to that. As for the power steering flush, that seems to be more of a mixed bag – some people say it’s good to have it changed every five years or so – which means my car is due – but in general unless you’re having problems with your power steering, the fluids don’t need to be touched. As someone who does computer consulting, it looks like most fluid flushing is right up there with me telling someone the SATA ports on their computer need defragmenting, or their WiFi signal needs cleaning because it’s dirty.

Here’s what ticks me off about this: I took my Mazda back to a Mazda dealership rather than taking it to Mr. Lube or another quick-change shop because I wanted, and expected, by-the-book Mazda maintenance. Meaning that unless Mazda themselves recommended a certain procedure in the owners manual, the Mazda dealership wouldn’t recommend anything different. When I went up to pay for the procedures, I told the woman at the desk I wasn’t sure I’d ever come back to this dealership again for servicing. I wasn’t rude or angry when I said it. She asked me why, and I explained that after some research I didn’t believe that they were giving me sound advice about what really needed to be done on my car. She replied that merely relays what the technicians tell her.

The kicker? When I drove home and pulled into the garage I turned all my lights off and on, including the fog lights, and they all work just fine. I find it hard to believe that Stoney Trail Mazda would be so bold as to tell a customer a light isn’t working if it is, but on the other hand I’m baffled as to why they thought it wasn’t working.

So, any car experts out there care to weigh in on this?