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.
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