Warped Rim and Rip-Off Mechanics (Long Read)

I just wanted to share with you all my story of almost being ripped off.

The rip-off mechanic (the second mechanic mentioned in the story) is under the SYM brand and is located on Xiulang Rd. Sec. 2. in Yonghe.

The scooter junkyard where I got the used rim and brake disk is located in Banciao, on Wan’an Rd. just down from Guangfu Bridge.

So there I am a couple months ago… riding down the street when I hear a “clack” followed by another clack. It keeps going on like this for about a week… sometimes the clacks go away, sometimes they come back. But one day, they got intensely loud and so I decided that it would probably be unsafe to ride The Shark. Anyway, my wife took the scooter into our regular mechanic and the middle-aged dude and his son examine the scooter. The conclusion that they come to is that I need a new scooter. They say that Suzuki is a brand that is much more expensive to fix than Kymco or SYM (two local Taiwanese manufacturers) - which is true - and that this scooter will just keep eating my money. Sure, I believed them…

They said the problem was that the right-front shock was leaking oil and that if I wanted, I should replace the shocks as a pair (for even wear… although we all know that in countries that drive on the right side of the road, the right-side shock will be under much more stress and will definitely wear out faster), otherwise it wouldn’t be really safe. That would cost about $3,000 NTD ($100 USD). Sure, that doesn’t seem like a huge amount, but when you consider that the average Taiwanese earns around $40,000 NTD a month - that’s a big deal! Also, $3,000 could feed a person for a month!

Anyway, so I opted not to fix the shocks for now and instead started borrowing my wife’s scooter and taking public transit. But then one day, the government sends over a letter stating that I need to renew the scooter’s “ownership,” (weird, eh?) whose fee includes licensing and environmental fees… or something. Anyway, so that was a month ago and prompted me to consider whether I should repair The Shark, or get a new scooter. Or maybe, just stick to public transit. So, a couple days ago I examined the scooter more carefully and discovered that the clacking sound had nothing to do with the shocks as I thought and as other people said (including the father-son mechanic duo). Actually, the disk brake caliper metal piece that allows it to attach to the shock was rubbing the screws that held the disk rotor on. So that’s what was happening. But why?

I took it to a DIFFERENT mechanic… a guy nearby. Here in Taiwan, you’ve got to know that at every corner there is a convenience store, a scooter mechanic, and some street food. There are also stray dogs, but that’s another story. The nearby guy examines it and then discovers that actually, my rim is bent. He tells me that a new rim will cost $1000 and a new brake disk will cost $800 (I later checked Yahoo! Auctions prices and found that a new disk brake really only costs $250). I pay him $50 for his “examination services” and the spraying of the brake caliper with imitation WD-40 and tell him I’ll think about it. Then, I get a brilliant idea - why not buy used parts?! So… I search on the Web and find out where I can get used parts. I purchase a great aluminum-alloy rim AND disk for only $500 and I take it back to nearby guy to have it put on. I ask him how much it would cost to change a tire, and he tells me $300… although other people only charge $200 (first sign of craftiness). He tells me that maybe the new rim won’t fit, so he’ll first try it out, but will still have to charge me some labor charges. Fine.

He takes off the old rim and the first thing he does after that is remove the good tire (the used rim had a crappy tire on it). I see that as a sign of craftiness - he wants to remove the tire first, so that if the replacement rim doesn’t fit, he’ll have to charge me to re-mount the original setup. But, the replacement rim fits perfectly and everything seems to be good. BUT THEN, the nearby guy “discovers” a new problem! Oh no… what could it be? The brake caliper is BROKEN. Holy jeez… broken! A new one will cost me $1800 + his $800 labor charge, because brake fluid is messy. $2600, eh? Well, that’s more than you make in a day, nearby guy, so I’ll go home and think about it (and I checked Yahoo! Auctions again and found that a dual-piston brake caliper, as opposed to my single-piston one, only costs $500). So, before I leave, he charges me $250 for the “advice” he game me and for taking the tire off my old rim and sticking the replacement rim on and “finding out” that my caliper is busted.

He also says that sure, I could use the scooter as it is, but it’ll lead to re-warping of the brake rotor AND the rim. WTF?! A rim can be bent by a little old brake caliper?!

Anyway, luckily I ain’t fooled that easily and I’ve learned to think about things before I make a decision. OR is it that I’m cheap and want to think of the cheapest way to resolve the situation? Well, either way, my tendencies prevented me from giving any more money to this nearby rip-off mechanic.

The situation was that for SOME WEIRD REASON, the one-piston caliper was, instead of pushing the near brake pad against the disk, it was PULLING the far brake pad against the disk. And the near brake pad was nowhere to be seen when looking at the brake setup so that the disk is just a thin line (from the front). I thought that this was really weird, because, how the heck can a one-piston brake caliper do anything other than push the near brake pad against the disk? How can it be pulling if there is only a piston? Then, I took it to the father-son duo to ask for his advice. The guy didn’t even bend over to look at the brakes… he just pulled the lever and said, “Yeah, yeah, it’s working.” Then, he lectured me about not purchasing a new scooter from him. WTF! I’m not your son, and I don’t want your damn new scooter. I want my SHARK. So, I think he’s also a tricky dog… wanting me to purchase a new scooter from him. His son even once told me that the NEWEST model of scooter is least likely to be stolen, because not many people have them and so the parts are worth less. Yes, that’s true, actually, but what about next year when everyone has one?! AND what the F*@% about getting a used scooter that is so ugly nobody wants to steal it? What about that option?

I left that nagging old man and won’t be going back there again. At least his wife asked him where his patience was and smiled at me. (But still, WTF… how can a customer be lectured into buying a new vehicle?)

I then examined other scooters’ brake setups and noticed that on all scooters, both sides of the brake pads were ALWAYS TOUCHING the disk. Curious! How come on my scooter, only one brake pad could be seen? Where was the other one and why was there a gap where it was supposed to be?

Since the father-son duo didn’t answer my logic question about how the caliper could be pulling, I thought for myself. Eureka! I figured that the piston must be actually pushing against something that was stuck, in order for the opposite, fixed side to be pulling. Ah-ha. I took it off myself, and then I saw that the near-side brake pad (the one the piston pushes against) was out of its hole and was thus just stuck there. The piston was pushing against the jammed-in brake pad and causing the opposite side to pull. I slipped that brake pad into its proper position and voila the whole thing worked great. I rode The Shark to work that very night.

My conclusion here is that the nearby a-hole mechanic didn’t put the pad in properly and was trying to rip me off. After I didn’t buy the new and overpriced rim and disk brake setup from him, he decided to try to milk me for more money by “breaking” my caliper. It’s obvious that any mechanic would have seen that there was a big gaping hole where the other brake pad should be. Any mechanic would know that both sides of the brake pads should be touching the disk brake at all times. Therefore, he did it on purpose - he even bent down and pointed it out for me to see. What a jackass.

There you go, now you know something new! Never trust dirty mechanics, unless they’re your friend, or you really know that he or she is treating you fairly. Most of all, doing a little research on the web about your apparent problem and thinking it over (and asking advice) before giving the go-ahead on the work can save you from being ripped-off.

A good advice for any country in the world. That is why in most countries in the world the doctors who make diagnosis are not allowed to sale the you the medicine.
Its called conflict of interest.

Lucky me I have a great mechanic for my car and my scooter.

My car is 8 years old and the only people I don’t trust with it is Ford. (My car is a ford) although this car is the one I owned that broke the less in 8 years ( I owned an Audi A6, volkwagon golf GTI and more.) I will not trust them because every time go to see them they tell me that my car is dying and I should change it. They have been telling me that for the past 3 years and the only thing that broke was the speedometer cable.

Here is the Rule. Get a diagnosis and then get a second one. That is what I do with doctors and I feel that my car deserves the same. Ha ha ha (doesn’t cost more so…)