*Second opinions are great, but be sure to make it an anonymous trip. Its fine to tell the second mechanic that you’re there for a second opinion, but don’t share the diagnosis or the cost estimate.
*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 labour charges.
*Beware the up sell. Automotive up sells 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 up sell 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 researches, ask around, and decide when things are quiet and the pressures off.
*When buying tires, ask for details on differences in tire quality and guarantees. Ask the salesperson to explain any warranties 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.
*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?
*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.
*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.
*Follow personal recommendations, not coupons or flashy advertising. This applies to mechanics, dentists and real estate agents.
*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.
*Check to see if labour 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 labour. 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.