No driver wants to hear that telltale clunk or rattle that indicates a trip to the shop is in order. Taking a vehicle to a shop is usually an expensive proposition in the best of situations. If you’re unlucky enough to meet up with a dishonest mechanic, the experience will be stressful and even more expensive. Although most mechanics are trustworthy, knowing what to look for will help you avoid the bad apples.
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Find a trustworthy mechanic before you actually need one so that you won’t be pressed into locating one in a hurry if your car suddenly breaks down. Ask friends and family for recommendations, then take your car to the shop for something simple such as an oil change.
Trust your instinct. If you have a feeling or intuition that the mechanic is less than trustworthy, take your vehicle elsewhere. Take your car to a second mechanic for another opinion if the estimate sounds high, or if something just doesn’t seems right. If your car isn’t running, call a tow truck. You aren’t obligated to stay with a mechanic just because he looked at your car and gave you an estimate.
Prevent rip-offs by contacting the Better Business Bureau, AAA (American Automobile Association) and the Consumer Affairs Office in your city or state. Ask if there have been any complaints about the mechanic, and if so, how the problems were resolved.
Look for shops with an ASE symbol on the sign, which indicates the shop met the criteria for Automotive Service Excellence. The symbol should be not only on the sign, but on a certificate on the wall and usually on the mechanic’s uniform. Shops approved by AAA (American Automobile Association) are also a good bet. AAA approval means that the work must be guaranteed for 6,000 miles (9,700 km) or six months.
Be familiar with your vehicle. Read your vehicle’s manual and stay current with recommendations for oil changes and other maintenance schedules. Being familiar with your vehicle will help you prevent auto repair rip-offs.
Ask if the shop has experience dealing with your type of car. For example, if you have a foreign car, be sure the mechanic has the experience and equipment to deal with your vehicle.
Make a checklist of what work your vehicle needs. If you aren’t sure, outline the problems very clearly and find out exactly how the mechanic plans to deal with each problem. Be specific and never give a mechanic free reign to do whatever your car needs without discussing it with you first.
Get an itemized written estimate in advance and be sure the mechanic contacts you before doing any work that exceeds the original estimate. Read estimate carefully and ask questions if something seems odd or isn’t clear. Ask if the parts and work are guaranteed.