I. Pre-Listening Exercises [Top]

What are some common car problems that require special maintenance or repair?

HELPFUL TIP: Not all mechanics are the same, so shop around for a reputable company that can repair your car. Asking friends about the places they take their cars can be a good place to start.

II. Listening Exercises [Top]

Listen to the conversation by pressing the “Play Audio” button and answer the questions. Press the “Final Score” button to check your quiz.

1. What one possible problem was NOT mentioned about the man’s car?

A. a stopped-up fuel line

B. a grimy carburetor

C. a bad accelerator

2. Why can’t the car’s problem be diagnosed very easily?

A. The mechanic is not available to assess the problem.

B. The car is an older model that the mechanic hasn’t seen before.

C. The mechanic doesn’t have the proper tools to check the problem.

3. Today, how much would labor be per hour for the car owner in this conversation?

A. $50

B. $75

C. $125

4. Why will it be so expensive for the man to get his car fixed?

A. His car will require extensive repairs that will take a lot of time.

B. Special custom-made parts must be ordered from out of town.

C. He must pay higher fees because he isn’t a resident of that area.

5. What day is it in the conversation?

A. Friday

B. Saturday

C. Sunday

Score =
Correct answers:

Mechanic: What can we do for you today?
Car Owner: Uh, hi. Yes, I’m having a problem with my car, and it doesn’t seem to run right. I mean every time I start it up, the engine runs for a minute or so, sputters like it isn’t getting enough gas, and then dies.

Mechanic: Hmmm. Okay. Let’s open the hood, and let’s take a look . . . Okay, start her up.

[Engine starting . . .]

Okay, Okay. Shut her off. Hmmm. [So . . .] Let me look at the book here . . . [It] sounds like a possible clogged fuel line, a dirty carburetor, bad alternator, or even a weak battery.

Car Owner: So, which one is it?

Mechanic: Uhh. Difficult to say. Let me try this . . . Uh, alright . . . You need to talk to the mechanic.

Car Owner: The mechanic! So, who are you?

Mechanic: Well, I’m the assistant, and I’ve only been here on the job for two days.

Car Owner: So, why didn’t you tell me that in the first place? I mean, I wouldn’t have wasted all this time!

Mechanic: You didn’t ask.

Car Owner: Okay, so how much is it going to cost?

Mechanic: Ah. Difficult to say. [That’s what you said about the last thing!] Are you a local or from out of town?

Car Owner: I’m just passing through, and this is the only place for miles. [Yeah, that’s right.] Man, can’t you see my license plate? [Sure did!]

Mechanic: Okay. The out-of-town rate. Let’s see. Okay, here we go. If it’s a fuel line, that’ll be $100 . . . No, no, That’s the local rate. Here, $200 for the pre-screening check, $150 for parts, plus or minus $100, and $75 an hour for labor. Oh, oh yeah. Today’s a holiday, so labor is actually $50 more per hour.

Car Owner: Huh? Those prices are outrageous, and what holiday is it today?

Mechanic: Oh, it’s the local pumpkin festival.

Car Owner: Ah, come on. I can’t believe this. Of all my luck, my car breaks down in an out-of-the-way town [That’s right.], and it’ll cost an arm and a leg to get my car fixed.

Mechanic: Ah, we’ll take care of you. Just bring the car back on Tuesday so Mike, our mechanic, can take a look at your car.

Car Owner: Why not today? It’s only 11:00 a.m.!

Mechanic: Ahh, we close at 11:30 a.m. on holidays, and we’re closed tomorrow and Sunday, and we’re closed the following day as well.

Car Owner: I can’t wait that long! I need my car repaired now.

Mechanic: Well, next week is the best we can do, but you can talk to Mike at the Pumpkin Festival.This town will grow on you. [Ah, man!].

Key Vocabulary [Top]
  • sputter (verb): make consecutive explosive noises
    – My car tends to sputter a lot in cold weather when I start it up.
  • be clogged (verb): be stopped up
    – The car’s air filter is probably so clogged with dirt that it doesn’t run right.
  • carburetor (noun): part of the engine that mixes air with gasoline vapor before combustion
    – The carburetor needs to be fixed or replaced.
  • alternator (noun): a generator that produces electrical current
    – There must be a problem with the alternator in my old truck.
  • outrageous (adjective): very expensive
    – The cost of repairing the old car would have been outrageous, so that I decided to buy a new one instead.
  • out-of-the-way (adjective): remote or far from populated areas
    – We took a trip to an out-of-the-way ghost town during our vacation.
  • cost an arm and a leg (idiom): be very expensive, outrageous
    – It cost me an arm and a leg to fix the damage to my sports car.