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Everyone needs something or the other done on their vehicle at some point – and most people expect minimal problems with the entire experience. Since the very nature of getting your car or truck fixed is so technical that you have to rely on your service department in almost every way, it’s essential that you take an active stance in knowing the ins and outs of your vehicle’s servicing schedule.

Here are five important things to know that will keep everything, and your car, running smoothly:

Knowing what you need done

Going into anything without knowing what exactly the process entails can set the situation up for potential failure. Ideally, before taking your vehicle in for a scheduled or routine maintenance concern, take the time to study the vehicle’s owner’s manual, research the basics of what to expect on the service you will be having performed and prepare any questions you may have in advance. This will help alleviate the risk of being “had” by unscrupulous service advisors who might try to swelling up their commissions by beefing up your bill. If you know what you’re talking about, it will be a good deal harder for someone to take you for a ride; the wrong way, that is.

Gauging what it will cost

If you head into the shop with an idea before hand of what things should cost, then if something comes up where the price just doesn’t look right, or the service list of items is way out of scope, then you can be on top of it. Most dealerships and service departments offer commissions to their technical personnel and as a result there is a lot of upselling done. By going into it knowing what to expect cost and service needs wise, you can combat the potential problem of being served with way too much work, way too high a bill and a fair amount of unnecessary repairs.

Understanding Your Warranty

Routine maintenance and things that entail normal wear and tear on a vehicle are not typically covered under warranty but for vehicles that fall under the criteria of 3 years/36 miles (whichever comes first), the manufacturer’s warranty is still going strong for most makes. It is important to know whether something is a covered expense under warranty. There are several drivetrain components that have a longer manufacturer’s warranty, usually 5 years/50,000 miles (whichever comes first) and separate corrosion warranty limits too, so if you are aware of exactly what is being prescribed, then you have an even greater advantage and less risk that someone will take advantage of you.

Doing Your Homework

Aside from referencing your vehicle’s owner’s manual in advance, you should also take the step to research whether there are any safety recalls by visiting www.nhtsa.gov or Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) by going to your vehicle’s manufacturer’s website. Safety recalls are government mandated and almost always free of cost to the consumer. While all service departments should be aware of them, in case your vehicle has a safety concern, it’s better to mention recalls anyway to be sure nothing important is missed. The TSBs are also issued by the vehicle’s manufacturer but they are not government mandated and not always performed free of cost or even on every vehicle in a certain make, model and class. Rather, only if your vehicle is deemed eligible after a diagnosis is made. By being aware in advance, you will have an edge if you go in prepared, since with so many TSBs floating around, there is a chance your service advisor can miss yours.

Keeping Focus on What Needs Done

Because of the commission status of most service advisors’ salary structure, vehicle owners are often pushed to purchase service packages at a “discount” which ends up in the owner paying for more service but not necessarily service that must be done. Dealers have their own set of guidelines and recommendations, even for basics like oil changes. By playing it smart and knowing exactly what is needed for your vehicle as recommended by the manufacturer, you will avoid excess work and wasted expenses on those services.

By being a proactive and conscientious consumer, you can manage your vehicle’s maintenance and service issues in an effective and efficient way, resulting in a solid relationship with your service advisor and service department, quality workmanship, long running results and ultimately a happier driving experience!

Written by Developer Autoshop