You may feel well-acquainted with your car–its supple leather seats, the familiar roar of the engine, and the bug deflector you installed on your own–but do you really understand what’s going on beneath the hood? Do the words “sump gasket,” “rocker arm,” and “throttle valve” sound like a foreign language? The truth is that when our beloved automobile breaks down, most of us are at the mercy of a repair shop. And if they practice in rip-offs and deception, you may find yourself paying a padded bill for fixes that you didn’t even need.
The good news is that you can protect yourself from car repair cons by acquiring a powerful arsenal of knowledge.
Find the right garage
Right after bringing your four-wheeled baby home, begin looking for a competent and trust-worthy mechanic. Don’t wait until you find yourself stranded in a parking lot with a dead car as this will leave you prey to unsavory and untested garages.
Ask for referrals from your family members and friends.
Test out a garage first by scheduling routine maintenance like an oil change or tire rotation.
Look for signs that state that the garage is AAA approved or ASE certified. The AAA (American Automobile Association) inspects and monitors its members regularly and, when a shop is AAA approved, it also means that the work must come with a six month or 6,000 mile warranty. The ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) symbol indicates that the repair shop has met certain requirements which include a level of training and ethical behaviors.
Also, ensure that the repair shop has been in business for a minimum of two years.
If your car has special features like a diesel or rotary engine or is a rare import, you should make sure that your mechanic possesses the skills to work on it.
And when you tell your mechanic that your car was damaged at the zoo when animals attacked cars in the parking lot, don’t take insult. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy sense of humor.
Get it in writing
Estimate: While an estimate is merely that–an “estimate”–this does not mean that your mechanic should not possess a rough idea about what a job will cost. And, if they are above-board, they should be willing to put it in writing. This written estimate should include the parts that will be required, including the prices, plus the labour costs. Also, make sure that the garage agrees to call you if any further repairs–and expenses–are required before proceeding. Get this in writing too.
Warranties: When purchasing parts, make sure that they are covered under a warranty for at least one year–and get it in writing.
Receipt: After your car is fixed, make sure that you receive a comprehensive, itemized list of all the repairs that were done, the parts that were used including their costs, and a breakdown of the labour costs. Rather than paying in cash, it is advised to pay with a credit card or cheque. This way you will have a written record, plus you have the opportunity to stop payment if you discover that you’ve been duped.
Request your old parts
Before your mechanic sets to work on your car, ask them for your old parts. This should not pose a problem. After all, you do own the parts that are being replaced. By requesting this “proof,” the mechanic will be forced to do the actual work and replace only what needs to be replaced.
And once you’ve forged a relationship with an honest mechanic, stick with them. They are worth their weight in liquid gold, otherwise known as gasoline.
What is your worst car repair story?
Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and car freak. She has been the proud owner of an RX7 that only drove backwards and a Mustang that accelerated on its own. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.
Image courtesy of photos.com.
Kimberley Laws is a regular contributor to HowDoYou.com and the author of two blogs, The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss. A "Jill of all trades," she is a High School English Teacher and Certified Career Counselor with a background in makeup artistry, retail banking, and graphic design. She is also a scrapbooking, PEZ-collecting, car enthusiast who loves travelling and New York City.
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