Wednesday, 14 October 2009

10 Things to Think About at the Repair Shop

You want to be ready for your auto repair experience. We all want to repair our own cars, but if we need to take it to the repair shop for a professional job, we need to be prepared. Most shops are honest and are there to help you save money by keeping your car in top shape. But just in case, here are 10 things you should be thinking about when you walk through the door of a repair shop. Avoid any scams, upsells, overcharging, or incompetence by keeping your eye on the ball. We could fill a barrel with auto repair advice, both good and bad, but this list is an excellent start.

10 Things To Know About You And Your Mechanic

  1. Second opinions are great, but be sure to make it an anonymous trip. It's fine to tell the second mechanic that you're there for a second opinion, but don't share the diagnosis or the cost estimate. That's sure to muddy the waters.
  2. Never authorize work to be done on your car or truck without a written estimate that states you'll be contacted before any work not on the original estimate is performed. The estimate should be specific and include both parts and labor charges. Many states require this by law, so check to see where you stand on that.
  3. Beware the upsell. Automotive upsells are tough. On one hand we don't want to pay for work that our car doesn't need. On the other hand, preventive maintenance is the best insurance against future repairs. Your best defense is time. Don't be pressured into an upsell on the spot. If you're not sure, tell your mechanic you may want to do that, but to give you a couple of hours to decide. Do some research, ask around, and decide for yourself when things are quiet and the pressure's off.
  4. When buying tires, ask for details on differences in tire quality and guarantees.Our tire information guide will tell you what all of the markings on the tires mean, but there's often more to the story. Ask the salesperson to explain any warrantees to you. For instance, you might see a sign next to a tire display that says "60,000 Mile Warranty," and you think that they will guarantee you get 60,000 miles out of the tire. Wrong. The warranty covers the tire against manufacturer defect only. They should cover that anyway, right?
  5. Find a mechanic who is ASE certified. ASE stands for Automotive Service Excellence, and they take their certification seriously. If your mechanic opted to skip the ASE, this might reflect on their dedication to keeping you happy as a customer. There are lots of good mechanics out there who aren't certified by ASE, or even AAA, but why take the chance?
  6. If your check engine light has been haunting you, don't allow your mechanic to "reset it and let's see what happens." Your car's OBD (On Board Diagnostics) system will give specific codes relating to your check engine light problem. If your mechanic doesn't have the ability or knowledge to read these codes, or doesn't feel like it, you're wasting time and money at that shop.
  7. Take a good look at the shop's work areas. A good mechanic will refuse to work in a pig sty. They will keep a clean organized work area, and clean their tools and equipment on a regular basis, usually daily. The floor will be swept (oil stains are a fact of life) and free of old parts, peanut shells and soda cans. Don't worry about what the mechanic looks like, car repair is not a beauty contest.
  8. Follow personal recommendations, not coupons or flashy advertising. This applies to mechanics, dentists and real estate agents. There is no substitute for a thumbs-up from a good friend of family member. Good shops know this, and their customer service reflects it.
  9. If your mechanic shows you "tell-tale signs" of upcoming problems like metal shavings in your transmission fluid, don't assume the worst. This isn't always the sign of a problem, so be sure to ask more questions. If something's really wrong, you'll know it.
  10. Check to see if labor charges can be combined to get two repairs done at the same time. There are lots of jobs that, when done at the same time, can save a lot of money on labor. For instance if you are having your timing belt replaced, it's often a good time to take a look at your water pump since all of the belts will be removed anyway.
Remember, always stay on top of the situation and you won't be taken advantage of or miscommunicate with your mechanic. The more you know about your car and how it works, the more empowered you'll be at the repair shop.


1 comment:

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