Every car owner should get to know a technician they can trust. And yes, they are out there. These are the people who know that trust is a vital component of the automotive maintenance and repair business. Trust, along with quality, timely and affordable work is vital to building repeat business for their service center.
So how do you find a good technician?
Ask around. Ask your dad and ask your friends if they know a good mechanic. Ask your hairdresser if they know someone in the neighborhood they trust. Check out the Internet and call the Better Business Bureau. Find a local consumer protection agency and ask them for reputable mechanics in the area. Call your local dealership and ask someone in the service department if they know any local service centers that perform quality work. A good mechanic knows where to find other good mechanics.
But don’t stop there. You shouldn’t be satisfied until you visit the service center in person and speak to the mechanic personally.
So what do you ask them?
The kind of technician you want working on your car will have no problem taking the time to answer all your questions. So don’t be shy.
*Are you affiliated with the Automotive Service Association (ASA)?
A service center needs to have a consistent record of excellent service to become affiliated with the ASA. You should see their sticker or seal in the mechanic’s office. If you don’t see one, ask where it is. If they don’t have one, move on.*
Before you do any work, can I get all of the costs in writing?
It’s very important that you get everything in writing.
*Does your service center specialize in any particular type of work?
Also, ask them if they specialize in a particular type of car if it’s not posted on a sign outside the garage. You don’t want to get a tune-up at a place that specializes in radiators or transmissions. Nor would you want to bring a Ford F-150 truck to a garage specializing in foreign autos. The key is making sure you know what their strengths and weaknesses are.*
Do you charge a fee for estimates?
Free estimates are the norm. If a garage wants to charge you for a diagnosis, you may want to take your vehicle elsewhere.
*Do I have the option of choosing new or used parts?
Some service centers have affiliations with scrap yards and other used-parts outlets that could save you money. It depends on the situation, but sometimes a used part will work just fine. Ask the mechanic for his recommendation but you’ll want to get a second and even a third opinion when choosing a used part. Just remember, new or used, make sure you get a guarantee on the parts in writing.
*Will you get an itemized invoice and an explanation of what was done to your car?
Before the technician works on your car, get a breakdown on your invoice of the repairs done. Ask him if he can actually show you what part of the car he is going to work on. Ask to see the old part that was changed. And once again, get everything in writing.
*Will a courtesy car be supplied?
Many private service centers will give you a free ride home or to work. But if your repairs will take longer than a few days, some places offer a free rental or a rental at a discounted rate. Many insurance policies also include a free rental car. So give your agent a call, too.
*What payment policies and guarantees do you offer?
Every service center has different labor rates, warranties and payment options. Make sure you clearly understand the mechanic’s policies. And most important, make sure you get everything in writing and keep the receipts and other documentation!
So now I have a technician I can trust. What do I do if something is wrong with my vehicle?
Get out a pen and paper and write down these specific things that can help your mechanic pinpoint your problem.
- When the problem started.
- When the problem occurs (when braking, or when you turn, etc).
- If there were previous repairs done to correct the problem.
- If the car is making a strange noise, try to record the noise, and jot down when the noise occurs.
- If there is fluid under the car. If so what color and where under the car?
- Are any of the light gauges flashing or on?
- Any other details can help. So write everything down.
Then talk to the mechanic that will be fixing your vehicle. Ask his opinion and come to an agreement.
And then get everything in writing:
- Work orders
- Parts prices
- Labor rates
- Warranty information