How to communicate with your mechanic and save money

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A smiling female auto mechanic on the phone with a customer. Apparently this customer could teach you a thing or two about how to communicate with your mechanic.

Knowing how to communicate with your mechanic makes auto repair more efficient and more cost-effective in the long run. (Photo: ThinkStock)

In learning how to communicate with your mechanic, the first thing that’s helpful to remember is that your goal is to achieve clarity. Think about it. When you talk to your doctor, you try to be as detailed as you can and ask questions, right? That’s the only way to receive the best possible care. Similarly, auto repair customers who can describe the symptoms of their vehicle’s trouble in the greatest possible detail to a mechanic are much more likely to receive the most efficient vehicle care. Knowing how your car works and what questions to ask a mechanic go a long way toward speeding along the process of maintenance and repair. Over the life of a car, it can also mean decreased maintenance and repair costs.

How to communicate with your mechanic? That is the question

Learning how to most efficiently communicate with your mechanic isn’t all that difficult, suggest the Federal Citizen Information Center. The center suggests these top 10 ways in which you can improve your communication with your auto mechanic.

  1. Do your homework. If you have done some basic legwork via online search or even by browsing your vehicle’s user manual, you will be able to describe what’s going on to the mechanic much more succinctly.
  2. Read the owner’s manual anyway. Even if you do find information online, check out the owner’s manual regardless. It’s the official text for understanding your car for a reason. If you don’t have the printed manual, many automobile owner manuals are available online. Google your car’s year, make and model and “owner’s manual.”
  3. Follow maintenance schedules. Manufacturers suggest certain maintenance processes be performed after so many miles. This is intended to keep your car running optimally. If you keep up with the little things, your mechanic won’t have to spend as much time on the big things. As a result, you will save money.
  4. Write down what’s done to your car. It helps to remember previous work that’s been done on your car, particularly if you have to use a mechanic other than your usual person. Written documentation will help jog your memory and help your mechanic get on track with the evaluation.
  5. Use your senses, all of them. Beware of sights of leaks, smoke, failing lights and warning lights; smells of burning antifreeze or fried electrical systems; sounds of a car engine struggling to turn over; and the feel of uncommon vibrations or operating difficulty. Know how you car normally runs and trust your instincts.
  6. When do problems occur? Pay attention to this so that you can pass the info on to your mechanic.
  7. When did trouble begin? Was it after a certain part failed or was replaced? At a certain mile mark on the odometer? This kind of info will make your mechanic’s search much easier. Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give to the technician or service manager.
  8. Don’t play doctor. After giving your mechanic the facts, let them do their work.
  9. Ask questions. Like you would with your physician, ask what’s being done and how it will help your car. Also, ask about all costs and shop policies before you sign anything.
  10. Don’t rush a diagnosis. Give your mechanic time to work. An unhurried analysis will produce a more accurate result and likely save you time and money.

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