There are some things that most people will simply know nothing about, and vehicle care is one of those things. If you DO happen to be into cars and stuff, you are the exception. So for the rest of us, what are we to do when we take our wheels in for repairs and leave them at the mercy of the service department? Helplessly accept whatever is told to us and silently pray the repairs last longer than two weeks? Unless you’re prepared, chances are you pretty much are helpless. Here are a few solid rules on how to assure quality maintenance and repairs without getting ripped off.
Here are a few solid rules on how to assure quality maintenance and repairs without getting ripped off.
Rule #1: Take a Car Care Course
Ok, maybe not. But the next best thing is to buy yourself a copy of a service and repair manual for your vehicle or at least one of those books for “dummies” so you can get the lowdown on the most common vehicular problems. The simple act of walking into a shop and talking to a mechanic with even the most basic of know-how can change everything.
Rule #2: Background Check The Service Guys (and Gals)
As long as the people working on your vehicle are Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified, you can rest assured they have the academic certification to back up their experience. That’s not to say that there won’t be some bad apples in the mix who would charge you knowingly for stuff that didn’t need done. But at least this way, you have some added assurance.
Rule #3: Choose Reputable Service Shops With Solid Reputations
Just because a dealership or a service department has the credentials, does not mean they necessarily have a solid reputation too. The best way to make sure of that, as much as possible anyway, is to get word-of-mouth references. Better yet, find someone who can actually vouch for the shop; preferably a long-time or loyal customer whose relationship the shop wouldn’t want to upset or jeopardize.
Rule #4: Don’t Take Their Word For It
You don’t have to believe everything that you’re being told. If something just doesn’t jive, running the diagnosis by another mechanic to check and compare opinions is sometimes worth it for larger, more expensive repairs. If the second mechanic says something totally different than the first, then it’s time to rethink the entire repair and take it somewhere else.
Use Common Sense for Common Stuff
If you head into the shop to have your vehicle’s oil changed, only to be handed a mile-long laundry list of items that “need” repairs, then you should definitely do a double-take. Does it make sense that a 2 year-old car used mainly for light city driving would have a rusted oil pan needing to be replaced? Probably not. Could it be possible that the brake pads have worn down next to nothing even though your wife drives her car like her grandmother? Hardly. So if something doesn’t make sense, question it. Ask for proof or evidence of the problem. See Rules #1 and #3 and refer to those references to double check.
Rule #5: Take the List of “Repairs Needed” and Check It Twice
Before signing anything, agreeing to any work being started or even letting on that you might not know what he or she’s talking about, ask the service advisor for a copy of the work order. Look it over carefully and ask for clarification on anything that doesn’t look like you asked for it to be done. For oddball items, ask for even deeper detailed explanations. If someone is trying to scam you, they’re banking on the fact that you won’t know what to ask, so sometimes, asking alone can deter the “getting ripped off” process and save you a whole lot.
It all comes down to this: the more you know, the better off you are. And if you don’t know something, knowing you don’t know but knowing to ask for clarification can make all the difference. Like with anything else that involves complex mechanical systems, there are always times when even the mechanic doesn’t know but as long as they approach your repairs and maintenance with integrity, it’s all good!