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Care & Repair

Finding a Good Mechanic

As much as we might hate to admit it, many of us are slaves to our vehicles. They transport us to and from work, to errands, to events and even on vacation. While the majority of people own cars, there’s a large number of people who don’t know how to fix their car if it were to break. Since service and upkeep is crucial to keeping a car on the road, having someone you can trust to fix or maintain your vehicle is a valued asset. There are automotive repair technicians that can fix cars and 4×4 trucks.

The burning question is: how do you find a mechanic who is qualified and trustworthy? A good place to start is with friends and family. If someone you know has someone that they recommend who is relatively close to you, you should look into this mechanic’s qualifications. You can research him online at various websites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp!, and AAA-Approved Auto Repair Network. Call the shop or even go to the shop to meet the mechanic to learn about the specific expertise he possesses and to scope out the shop itself. You can see if the facilities are clean and if the equipment they use is up to date. Watch the customers in the shop to see how they interact with the mechanic; if the expert takes the time to work with the customer and give thorough answers, you are likely to get the same treatment. Then see if the mechanic has particular certifications or memberships; for instance, if you own a Mercedes and your recommended mechanic specializes in domestic vehicles, it might not be a great match. Or, if you have a newer vehicle and the shop specializes in pre-computerized cars, that may also be an indication that this is not the place to have your car serviced. If the shop meets your inspection and the mechanic has the proper diagnostic equipment to service your car, ask if the mechanic has Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification, which means he completed additional hands-on training to pass the ASE test and be certified. You will also need to know if the mechanic is within your budget; nothing is worse than planning to pay for a repair or a service and then finding out that the mechanic charges more than you anticipated because you did not ask upfront for costs.

To best avoid huge repair bills, it is best to find a mechanic before you need one! Once your car breaks down, you will just have to use the closest open facility, and there’s no guarantee of the quality care you’ll receive. If you find a repair place that you trust before you encounter a problem, you can make sure your vehicle receives the treatment it deserves—at a price you can trust! After finding a repair place by either recommendation, online research or a shop visit, you can always take your car in when you are not experiencing a problem, just to see if the shop “finds” an issue. Or, if you have already had a mechanic determine there is a problem to be addressed, you can take the car to the second mechanic to see if they can find the same issue. Another option is to have the car taken in for a regular maintenance issue, like an oil change, to determine if you are satisfied with the service and cost. This may be a strong indication of what to expect if you ever have a major issue with your car.

Another option to consider: the dealership. While the mechanic services at dealerships tend to be more expensive, the majority of their mechanics have the ASE certification. Also, if your car is still under warranty for parts and labor, it only makes sense to take it to the dealership. You want to make sure you don’t void your warranty by taking the car to a shop other than the dealership.

Make sure to ask questions, even if you really don’t have a working knowledge of your vehicle’s engine and parts. If there is a particular service that your car needs, ask the mechanic how long it will take and get the price for labor in writing. Generally, you won’t know the cost of parts before the car is worked on, but you can make sure the mechanic is not inflating the labor costs. An unscrupulous person may try to charge you for two hours of work when you can easily ascertain that the repair should not take longer than a half an hour. A mechanic who knows you are willing to ask questions and get to the heart of the matter will be more willing to make sure your vehicle is taken care of properly and not take advantage of you.

Once you have found a mechanic that is qualified and whom you can trust, make sure you keep accurate records. Any time you take your car in for servicing, of any kind, provide those records to your mechanic. If your car has been experiencing a repeated problem, having the service records to refer to might help him figure out how to address the issue. These records will also be invaluable to you if you ever decide to sell the car. A prospective buyer will be impressed that you have the car’s maintenance records and that you have had it serviced at the same place each time.

A good mechanic is not only someone who has the necessary skills to detect a problem with a variety of vehicles, and then find a way to fix the issue, but one who communicates well. In addition to having excellent references and proper certifications, the ability to describe, in layman’s terms, exactly what is ailing your car and how it can be fixed will be a huge asset to you. Technical skill and affordable costs are important, but the understanding of how your car works can save you a great deal of time and money in the long run. Having someone you trust and rely on to care for your car can provide you great peace of mind.

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