Straight Talk With Your Mechanic

Few of us are mechanically inclined enough to understand auto-repair lingo, much less comprehend the basics of internal combustion. The complexities of today's cars makes it even harder for the common car owner to understand a mechanic. Listening carefully and asking intelligent questions can help you avoid being taken for a ride.

Here are six ways to help ensure you won't be bamboozled. 

1. What To Say
When possible, talk directly to the mechanic and describe the problem fully, including symptoms and when they occurred. Don't offer a diagnosis as you could be stuck with repairs made at your suggestion, even if they aren't necessary. Finally, ask for evidence the repair is necessary.

2. Unscheduled Maintenance
Your vehicle's manual provides a detailed guide for scheduled maintenance necessary for smooth running. Some shops "build the ticket." Translated, that means they'll pad your bill by recommending extra and sometimes unneeded services, such as flushing your engine and transmission or changing a timing belt before necessary.

3. Pumped-up Pricing
Good shops may charge more to cover the cost of quality technicians and equipment. Estimates that always come in 20-percent to 30-percent more than the going rate are a sign you're dealing with a disreputable garage. Get estimates from several shops to determine the average price. For complex problems, compare the cost of parts by calling car parts stores or your local dealer's repair shop. 

4. Piled-on Repairs
Misdiagnosis happens, but not every time. If a mechanic fixes your fuel injector then turns around and says you actually need a new fuel pump, they may be a "parts replacer." Such mechanics will literally rebuild your car because they're unable to properly diagnose the problem. If this happens more than twice, it's time to stop replacing parts and replace the repair shop.

5. Frequent Replacements
Disreputable shops will try to convince you specific vehicles require a new starter each year or a new timing belt every 30,000 miles. Call other services and find out what they think or look for online discussion groups regarding your particular vehicle's model and problems.

6. Dealership vs. Private Shop
Dealers naturally would prefer to do your lucrative repair and maintenance work but, in general, having repair work done by your dealer is only necessary for work covered by your warranty or for recalls.

Add a Comment

Your Name:

Your Email:

Comments:



13 Comments

Hugh Jassol said "But it seems to me your prime concern is making money when it should be FIXING MY CAR. Perhaps if you spent more time worrying about the quality of your work, you'd find yourself getting promotions and (as a result) making more money" we know how to fix the cars at the dealership level or we would not be employed there. but someone publicly telling people to only bring their cars in for warranty repairs is ridiculous. and apparently you don't realize how a dealership tech gets paid. we get paid by the training and ASE certifications we have and once you run out of ASE tests to take your pay increases stop as well until you go to another shop willing to start you at more. there are no promotions until you luck into a management position or get too old to swing wrenches anymore. and i agree with what Scott said about whether you question your doctors. because we are, in fact, your automobile's doctors. with all that being said, don't be surprised if a dealership doesn't want to touch your car after an independent shop has already sucked your wallet dry by throwing parts at the car and you don't want to pay for a simple electrical diagnosis and repair.
Posted by a GM Dealer Technician
Paying for a good technician and equipment is a must. Too many under qualified mechanics cost consumers for repeat repairs. Pay a little more for a properly diagnosed and repaired vehicle, or pay two to three times for guess by a poorly trained technician at an equally poorly equipped shop. IMHO.
Posted by joeras
it's post like this that keep us professional ASE certified technicians at the dealerships from making any money. customers just bring their cars in for warranty repairs and warranty pays us only about 71.5% of what actual customer pay book time is. try living off of 70% of your paycheck. thanks for continuing to damage an already crippled business. dealerships charge so much because, for the most part, we actually know what we're doing.
Posted by a GM Dealer Technician
As an ASE Certified Mechanic since 1979, and working on cars since 1972, I will rebut your points. 1) Yes, this helps. However a customer can mis-interpret a symptom. Leave interpretation to the Professional. Evidence will be presented. 2) Most vehicles have been neglected. If there is a transmission related problem, a "flush" won't help. But then, when run over-mileage, some timing belts breaking will destroy a cylinder head. Your choice. 3) Real Mechanics often cut people a break, hoping for local references. The commission mechanic must make ends meet and buy more tools all the time. Competence means having what it takes to accurately diagnose a problem. 4) Tell me the last time YOU drove for two months while hoping that the Check Engine Light on the dash would dissapear. There may be multiple problems, not all fixed with one part! 5) When too many "remanufactured" parts fail, factory NEW parts are suggested as suitable. 6) True, the actual dealership is a Franchise and has the Special software tools to address "reflashing" issues. The yearly cost to keep up-to-date for each brand is usually $1000. So, sometimes an update is sub-letted. And the Header Picture looks like a restoration of a 1958 Ford Fairlane. I owned one once.
Posted by Andrew Grabiec
I agree with most of what you reported except for # 3 Pumped up pricing some of the complex problems take time to diagnose, you will be charged for that time. So if you call several shops for price no one can price out something without checking it. So you could spend more money having the vehicle checked just to find out who can do the best job.
Posted by Mark
i want to comment on tip number 6. i work for a dealership. i see all day people who try to go to side shops to fix their cars and end up coming to us because they use cheap parts or are not qualified to work on it. then you are paying double to get it done. another thing, if you are going to only go to the dealer for warranty repairs, don't expect to get any goodwill from the dealer. that is allotted money and usually only used for a good customer. its called goodwill for a reason.
Posted by annonomys
Good pointers, but some note that a price for a part at a national parts chain may differ from the part you are quoted at a shop. Part of the reason will be due to the fact that the quality of parts in a national chain will not always match that of an OEM part. Yes the shop will make a few bucks on the part, but he is also the first person you will go back to if that part fails, and most shops will fit the expense to replace it within a given time. Also, if a shop recommends a timing belt replacement earlier than scheduled maintenance because he is replacing another part right next to it, he is not ripping you off, he is saving you from having to pay to have the engine opened up again 6 months later when it is due.
Posted by Eric
Firestone!!!
Posted by Doofus McGoofus
im a tech and i have worked at dealerships and independent shops. dealerships will rip every cent out of your pocket when an independent shop will work with the customer and give them a better understanding of what is being done to the vehicle.
Posted by nick
a GM Dealer Technician said: "it's post like this that keep us professional ASE certified technicians at the dealerships from making any money." I don't have any problem with you making a living, Mr. GM Tech. But it seems to me your prime concern is making money when it should be FIXING MY CAR. Perhaps if you spent more time worrying about the quality of your work, you'd find yourself getting promotions and (as a result) making more money. Ahh, never mind...
Posted by Hugh Jassol
good point from my ASE comrades. true story. last week an Audi came into my dealership with misfires on 5 of 6 cylinders only under load(while driving). cust stats independent shop diagnosed faulty coil packs(this same shop replaced coils less than 12 month ago) and that there is an open recall on said coils. i was told to diagnose the vehicle and quote repair. faulty vacuum hoses found within a half hour.cust declined repair and left with coil packs to be installed by independent shop. 2 days later, shop is on the phone asking for my diagnosis and exact location of hoses. i refused to speak with them and replied to the service writer that the shop should look harder. my point? independent shops call the dealer when they're out of darts.lol
Posted by audispecialist
I wonder, do you scrutinize your doctors the same way--you should. Do you ask your doctor about every test he is going to do and why and how much it will cost? And when the test was inconclusive, and he says he needs to do another test which costs twice as much, do you question his ethics? Do you shop for doctors that don't charge as much because they don't have higher education? Or would you rather have the most qualified doctor when it comes to your heart transplant,,,regardless of the cost, after all, it's your life. But then when your brakes fail because you were trying to save a few bucks, that wouldn't put your life and your families life in danger and my families life in danger because you hit me head -on because you chose to save money on car repairs, would it?
Posted by Scott
Thanks for the tips.I will follow the tips hereafter.
Posted by Telugu News