Whatever kind of vehicle you drive, sooner or later you will need to take it to a technician for repairs or service. Choosing the right repair shop does not have to be merely a roll of the dice. Preparing yourself beforehand can save you headaches, time and money.
“Our listeners most frequently ask us how to find a good mechanic,” says Dan Pietras, co-host of The C.A.R. (Consumer Automotive Repair) Show, produced in cooperation with Car Care Council. The syndicated radio program invites listeners to call in with automotive-related questions. National sponsors include: ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence), I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair), Dana, NAPA/Echlin, Prolong Super Lubricants, Raybestos, and Naperville Car Detailing (NCD).
Pietras and his co-hosts Roger Kwapich and Steve Stewart offer several recommendations to take the guesswork out of finding a good repair shop:
Shop for a repair facility before you need one.
- Ask for recommendations from friends, family, and other people you trust.
- Check with your local consumer organization about the shop in question.
- If possible, Pietras recommends you visit the facility and make the following observations:
- Is the shop clean and well organized?
- Is the staff courteous and helpful? They should be willing to take the time to explain their procedures with you.
- Look at the cars they are servicing. Are they comparable to your own?
- Visit with the shop manager. He should be willing to answer all of your questions.
- Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic and community service citations, membership in the Better Business Bureau, or customer service awards.
- All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.
- Look for evidence of qualified technicians such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications – a national standard of technician competence.
- Make sure the shop will honor your vehicle’s warranty.
- Insist upon a written estimate before any work is done. This should identify the exact problem with the car, the parts needed, and the estimated labor charge. It should state that the shop would contact you for approval before the work is done or if they exceed the estimated charges.
- Find out if there is a diagnostic charge if you decide to have repairs done elsewhere.
- “Once you’ve begun patronizing a repair shop, stay with them and build a good relationship,” suggests Pietras. “Your technician can be like a family doctor for your vehicle. Then when a problem arises, the shop will have a repair history on your car.”
- After you have had your car repaired or serviced, it’s a good idea to keep good records and save all paperwork.
If you are satisfied with the work on your car, reward the shop with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship.
- If the service was not all you expected, don’t rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.
- A concluding recommendation from the Car Care Council: familiarize yourself with your vehicle by reading your owner’s manual and following your manufacturer’s service schedule.