Mechanics, like contractors, have a reputation of baffling customer with jargon and double-talk. Even if you are pretty knowledgeable yourself, it can be tricky to weed out the truth from the sales pitch. But there are a few simple questions that, when asked up front, will give you a much clearer idea of whether you are dealing with a fix-it guy or a flim-flam man.
Shopping for an honest mechanic
Finding a reputable mechanic can begin with word of mouth. If more than one of your friends recommends a certain shop, that is a good place to start. It never hurts to check the garage’s rating with the Better Business Bureau, either.
But even after doing those things, don’t forget to ask these questions:
Are you approved by ASA, ASE or AAA?
All of these organizations are good watchdogs for the automotive service industry. If the garage you are checking out is approved by any — or better yet, all three — you are probably assured an honest, quality job. If it is approved by none, it is definitely time to keep shopping.
The Automobile Service Association, or ASA, regularly inspects service garages and rates them on quality of work and service. The same is true of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE, certification. If an ASE certificate is not posted in the garage someplace, ask to see one.
The Automobile Association of America, AAA, keeps a list of shops nationwide that pass their high standards. AAA also conducts regular inspections and checks employee credentials.
Do you give free, written estimates?
Not all shops do, and you don’t want to be surprised by extra charges when you receive your final bill. Also, make sure they will call you for authorization if the costs go over the estimate. Get it in writing in case there are any questions later.
What is your used parts policy?
Some garages will put in used parts and say they are new ones in order to jack up the price. If the mechanic claims a part is new, ask to see the box or documentation of that. You should also ask about any warranties on new parts. And sometimes you may want to have used parts installed to save money. Make sure to ask the garage’s policy on used parts before any work begins.
What is your warranty on labor?
AAA demands a 12-month-or-12,000-mile warranty on all work before giving a garage its stamp of approval. Hold your shop to the same standard. If it doesn’t stand by its work, there is probably a reason for that — a reason you don’t want to discover after expensive repair bills have been paid.
Do you give a written explanation of all work done?
Most reputable mechanics will do this anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure up front. A written summary of the work is great documentation for future repair work and keeps your mechanic accountable. These documents also come in very handy when you decide to sell the vehicle.