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How to Find a Quality Mechanic

Finding an Auto Tech Who Cares About Your Car As You Do

by Christopher Burdick,

So how long ago did you last have your car in for service? That long, huh? Well, if you are procrastinating because you don't know how to find a good mechanic, have no fear, we can give you some tips on how to find one. Regular maintenance is vital to an automobile's reliability and resale value. Don't just drop your car off at the corner gas station, do some research first.

What to do before you need service:

  • Get familiar with your car's maintenance schedule. Even if you don't get your car serviced at a dealership, following the service schedule will prevent hassles if you need warranty work. You can find the manufacturer's recommended service schedule in your owner's manual.

  • You should get your oil changed every 3,000 miles (unless your owner's manual says that your car can go longer between changes).

  • Find a place to get your service done before you need it. If you are in a jam, you're more likely to take your car to the nearest shop, rather than the best in the area.

  • Find out where people you know in the area take their cars. A satisfied customer's referral isn't a guarantee that a shop is perfect, but it is better than just blindly selecting a mechanic in the yellow pages.

  • Do some background research on the mechanic you find through referrals — your local Better Business Bureau is a great place to start.

  • Once you find a shop, have them do an oil change, and if that goes smoothly, then take your car in for a major tune-up.

What to look for when you get to the mechanic's shop:

  • Is the garage and surrounding area neat? Some clutter and parts lying around is not a reason to find a different mechanic. Has the place been cleaned recently? Take a look at the cars that are in for service. If you see cars that are in good shape, then their owners take care of them, and therefore would choose a reputable mechanic.

  • Whoever takes down your information and talks to you about what you want done should be courteous and helpful. If you have a question, ask. Don't feel dumb if you think it's a stupid question, they have heard everything at least once before, and they won't laugh at you.

  • Ask for a few references. Call those references and ask them the following: Are you happy with the shop's service? Do you think they do good work for the money? Are they helpful if problems arise? How long does it take to get a service appointment?

  • The shop's policies regarding payment, hourly rates, storage charges and guarantees should be prominently displayed. If they are not, make sure you ask about those three topics.

  • Make sure that the shop regularly services your make of vehicle. If they specialize in American cars, your European sports car will be better off somewhere else.

  • Does the shop proudly display the mechanics training certificates (ASE), Better Business Bureau membership certificate and AAA certification?

  • Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards.

  • Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications — a national standard of technician competence.

  • Most importantly, keep records of all the service that is performed on your vehicle, and make sure that all services performed are itemized on those bills.

Additional tips to keep in mind

  • Repeat business will earn you perks, such as getting bumped to the front of the line when you need emergency service. If you find a good shop, reward them by referring them to your friends.

  • If you are unsatisfied with the service you receive, speak to the manager of the garage and try to come to a resolution. A reputable garage will try to fix the problem and keep you as a satisfied customer.

  • Keep good records; keep all paperwork. This is vital to assessing the car's value when trading it in or selling it privately.

  • Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship.

  • If the service was not all you expected, don't rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.

  • Treat your mechanic well. Send him something for the holidays. Some people get a box of doughnuts or cookies and leave them on the passenger seat of their cars for the mechanic and his crew. This will practically guarantee good service and timely repairs.

As the founder and President of AutoHeroes, Christopher Burdick is personally involved in all aspects of customer relations and dealer negotiations. A self-described "car-nut", Chris got the idea for AutoHeroes after informally helping friends and family members buy their cars with great results. Chris has combined his professional sales and customer service experience with a passion for cars to turn AutoHeroes into a full-fledged consumer service.

Chris earned his BFA in Theater from Occidental College in Los Angeles and currently resides in Newton, Massachusetts.

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