How to Evaluate a Good Car Mechanic
Your car plays an important role in life, and it is probably one of your biggest expenses. We all know keeping your vehicle properly maintained is important, but finding someone trustworthy to service it can be a daunting task. It’s a common scenario, and one bound to happen to most drivers. After a visit to the quick lube, you’re left with a laundry list of problems. Your seemingly trusty steed now looks like it needs to be put down. You’re left in a daze after hours of scouring hundreds of reviews, and you’re less confident than you were before you started. You’ve been sequestered several hours in small waiting rooms, each resulting in a different list of problems with astronomical prices. “What did I do to deserve this”, you say to yourself, clinging one nerve away from a mental breakdown. Relax. Auto repair doesn’t have to be this tragic. The following will help demonstrate how to prepare and what to expect when you visit the auto shop.
Choose a shop. Word of mouth recommendations are probably the best place to start. Your best bet is an independent garage that specializes in your type of vehicle. Go and scope out a few shops before settling on one. Talk to the staff and explain that you are a loyal customer looking for a shop to do good business with. Find out if you will be able to speak with the mechanic. Will they take you out in the shop and show you what is wrong with the vehicle? Many shops will not let you go into the shop, let alone talk to the mechanic. It’s best to stay away from any shop that will not show you what is wrong with your car. The goal here is to find a mechanic who will treat your vehicle as their own, and be happy to service it for years to come.
Give them a chance. Have them perform a basic inspection before anything else. A good mechanic will prioritize any necessary repairs. Safety concerns should come before anything else. You don’t want to spend money on an engine tune up if your wheel is about to fall off. If the vehicle is in need of more repairs than it’s worth, a good mechanic will tell you to get rid of it rather than milking you for some easy money. After a basic inspection, you can evaluate the way you and your vehicle are treated. Were you treated with respect? Did they identify the problems in a professional manner? How thorough was the inspection? Did they demonstrate why the repairs needed to be performed? Was the estimate presented to you in a clear and concise manner? Did they return your vehicle without any greasy paw prints all over it? After answering these questions, you’ll feel more comfortable with your mechanic, and most likely, your mechanic will be grateful you’re this interested in your car’s repair.
Be familiar with the nature of the repair. So you’ve had your vehicle checked out, and you’re aware that you're in need a repair. Say there’s an issue with the brakes. A basic understanding of how the brakes work can go a long way. If you have no idea what brakes are, do a bit of research. There are plenty of sources online that provide basic information on how things work. It can help you communicate with your mechanic better, and it will help you to determine whether or not you are being sold something unnecessary.
Know what you’re paying for. Repairs are usually billed out using a flat rate system. This system provides the average time to complete the job properly, and an indication of the skill required. Say the job takes 2 hours, if the mechanic takes three hours to do the job, they only get paid for two. On the other side of the coin, if it takes them 1 hour to do the job, they still get paid for two. If the job comes back due to an issue with the workmanship, they won’t get paid the second time around. The flat rate system helps keep mechanics honest. They want to do the job quickly and efficiently, but they certainly don’t want the job coming back. Double check the labor times, rates, and skill levels to make sure you aren’t being over billed, and that a competent mechanic is assigned to the job. Most shops get their parts at a discounted rate based on the volume of parts they purchase. In turn, they mark the price of the parts up. This money usually goes toward the shop’s overhead costs and ability to warranty the parts. If you supply your own part, the shop most likely will not warranty the part, and you will have to pay for the labor twice if there is an issue with the part.
Know what kind of mechanic you have. After the job is done, look over the mechanics workmanship. A good mechanic pays attention to detail and leaves the car better than the way they found it. Even if you don’t know much about how a job is done, you can still spot visual cues to tell if it was done properly. For example, if engine work is to be performed, have a look under the hood before and after the job is complete. Is all the wiring secured and routed correctly? If oil was leaking all over the place before, did they clean it up? Do you see any missing bolts or clips? Are any covers missing? A good mechanic will take care of your car like a professional.
Be a good customer. It’s hard to find a good mechanic if you’re a not a good customer. It’s good to have high expectations, and as a paying customer, you deserve top notch service. Just keep in mind that cars are very complicated, and sometimes, things can be unpredictable. If something isn’t right with the repair, give the mechanic a chance to make it right. This is where you will find the best mechanics: the ones who are honest when they’ve messed up something, and are willing to do whatever it takes to make things right.
You can achieve a great customer and mechanic relationship if you not only gain an understanding of your mechanic and garage, but if you gain knowledge of your car and its problems. Even with very little understanding of how your car works, if you just do a little research on the part and the shop, you can sleep easier with the confidence that your car is being well taken care of.