Running in to your local auto repair shop for a quick oil change is easy. Yet what happens when your oil change turns into something more? Instead of being surprised the next time you are told about a major auto repair from a shop you aren’t familiar with, go in prepared. Instead of saying “yes” to whatever surprises they throw at you, have your own set of responses to make sure you are getting the kind of service you deserve.
1. Start by looking at the condition of the auto repair shop. A good mechanic will make sure his equipment and the area he works in organized, clean and in good working condition. You won’t find old parts stacked in the corner, and trash strewn across the floor. This is his business and he should be showcasing a professional look for his customers.
2. Estimates should be a fact of life. When you drop off your car for one reason, the written estimate should cover work realted to that service alone. If additional problems are discovered, make sure you will be contacted with a quote before any work is done. This should include parts and labor. Never accept surprises.
3. Get a second opinion if you are unsure. In some cases you may be quoted for repair work you aren’t sure you need. If you have any doubts, don’t be afraid to tell the mechanic you’ll think about and find a trusted source for a second opinion. Never share the cost or diagnosis with the second shop – let them determine the condition on their own.
4. Be wary of the upsell. Adding a new filter on to your bill for a few dollars is one thing. Adding on a separate maintenance item for hundreds of dollars is another. Ask questions and make sure you understand the necessity of the situation before you move forward with new repairs.
5. Look for a quality auto repair shop instead of relying on coupons or flashy advertising. Just because a coupon arrives in your mail doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you. Do a little research first. Do family/friends use someone they can recommend? Can you find references online?
6. Talk with the mechanic. Mechanics work on a lot of cars each week and can usually peg a problem fairly quickly. For example, if they notice metal shavings in your transmission fluid, it might not always be a bad thing. Get their opinion and ask questions. Is this something that needs immediate attention or can you wait?
7. Ask about reduced labor fees for two repairs at once. Some maintenance items become more difficult because of the amount of labor hours involved. If you are having a timing belt replaced, it may be easier to get to and check and replace the water pump since the belts will be removed anyway.