A month after we made aliyah and living on a yishuv with a baby (and thus dependent on the bus service) we felt that we really needed to get a car (spoiled Americans that we are). So we asked around among our neighbors and were given the recommendation to call M. M owns a car repair shop and also makes money selling used cars (basically serving as a middle man between buyers and leasing companies trying to get rid of 3-4 year old cars that are just off lease). So he stopped by our house and recommended a car to us. A few days later he pulled up in front of our apartment with the car (2002 Ford Mondeo). I did a quick test drive, shrugged my folders, and bought the car (went with M to Yerushalayim, got insurance, changed money, paid M, got security device installed, and was home three hours later). Seemed OK at the time.
In truth, it was an ok deal, and M’s staff did help me with going around to the insurance office, getting everything setup. After that though, everything did not go as well. It took us more than six months (and a number of phone calls to M) to receive our car registration in the mail. M claimed that this was a one in one hundred occurrence, and was because there were some old unpaid fees on the car from the previous owner that prevented its transfer. Then (because of the delay in transferring the registration), we got a call from M’s office that they had received a traffic violation bill for me that I had to pay. Apparently a traffic camera had caught me speeding. They sent the violation notice to the old owners of the car (since the registration had not been transferred). They had ignored it until they received a second notice (with a fine for non-payment). They forwarded it to Moshe who forwarded it to me (I refused to pay the fine as I considered it to be M’s responsibility). There was an explanation for everything, but it still seemed kind of sketchy.
Then came the repairs. I had a four year old car, and things happen that need to get fixed. Since I knew that M’s primary business was the car repair shop that he ran, I brought it to him. However, every time I brought something to him, they always seemed to not fix things perfectly (but fixed them well enough to not make it worth our time to waste half a day bringing the car back in). Additionally, most times that we brought our car there, they ended up finding some other major or minor item on the car that needed to be replaced (but that we had not known about before). I am no mechanic, M is a frum man, and I didn’t know where else to go, so I felt that I had little choice but to accept the diagnoses each time, and pay for the repairs. However, one time when I brought my car in (to have the front bumper reattached) I got a phone call that “when we were testing your car, we noticed that your gear box was on the verge of breaking. We need to fix it. That will be another 7000 shekalim. You can pick your car up in a week”. That was the last time that I brought my car to M’s shop. I have no evidence that they were falsifying repairs, but things just didn’t seem right to me with the overall situation.
So we came into Yerushalayim during last Winter’s snow storm. As we were starting to head back, the car wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t even shift into first gear. And the gear shifter was coming out in our hands (Yikes). So instead of going to M or a different officially-licensed but sketchy mechanic, I went to the Ford Israel website, and looked up official Ford shops in the Jerusalem area. This returned three places in Talpiyot. I had the tow truck take the car to one of them. This was no longer a sketchy establishment. Much cleaner, more room, seemed more professional. And since it was an approved Ford shop, it had access to the entire service history of my car (for service that had been done in Ford shops). They diagnosed and fixed by problem – and the price didn’t seem high or over-inflated. And better yet – not surprise, multi-thousand shekel emergency problems. Today I went to a different Ford shop in Talpiyot to get a headlight replaced and to have my brakes fixed (they had been squeaky ever since they had been touched by some guy in M’s shop half a year ago). Avner, the foreman at the Birah garage looked at the brakes, came over to me, and asked (with a knowing look on his face): “have you ever had service done on these brakes by some mechanic who was not on the Ford-approved list?”. To which I tried to give a non-commital answer (thereby admitting my guilt). They replaced the brakes (no more squeaking) the bill was reasonable, the place was clean and professional (they even had a guy in the garage whose whole job was to drive around a small zamboni-like vehicle that washed and waxed the floor) and no surprise repairs. And we have learned our lesson about who we will let touch our car when it comes to anything above a minor repair (battery-replacements not included).