Fool me once... It seems like such a crap shoot taking your car to a mechanic. These days we are all really watching our wallets and the last thing we need is taking our car in only to faint from the estimate, pay the bill and feel ripped off! Seems I fell hook line and sinker last week taking my car in for some work. Not only was the estimate high but I ended up having them do the work, painfully paying the bill only to get the car home and discover that it wasn't fixed properly.
See my old trusty mechanic that I used the past couple years moved his shop out of the area and I was stuck with taking my ride into a new shop. I should have known right away when I saw the posters hanging on the dingy shop walls. Seems they been having that "Big Sale" for so long that the posters have all begun to fade. The shop was cluttered with rags, scattered tools and debris. The mechanics all were wearing grubby clothes from home. The bathroom was… well… Fixing cars is a messy business, that's a fact, but there are differences between professional grime and laziness. A clean shop is not a promise of competence; it is merely a first line indicator. But there are other things that you can do to make yourself more comfortable once you find a tidy place.
Here are some things to look for courtesy of Consumer Reports:
Find a shop for your brand of car
Many garages specialize in certain makes. Those that focus on your type are more likely to have the latest training and equipment to fix your vehicle.
Ask your family and friends
Especially seek recommendations from those who have a vehicle similar to yours.
Search the Internet
Look for information about local mechanics on Angie's List (www.angieslist.com), RepairPal (www.repairpal.com), and the Mechanics Files at Cartalk.com. RepairPal and Cartalk.com provide those services free; Angie's List requires a subscription.
Check for certification
Your mechanic and shop should be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE.
Check the Better Business Bureau
Auto repair shops rank 12th on the bureau's list of common complaints. Go to www.bbb.org; the information you find might help you figure out which shops you should avoid.
Give the shop a tryout
Before your car needs a big repair, you might want to try out some local shops with smaller repairs or maintenance items, such as oil and filter changes.
Ask about warranties
What kind of guarantees does the shop give on repair work? Warranties can vary greatly among shops, so ask about them ahead of time. Use a common repair, such as brake work, as your guide.
Make sure the shop is convenient
Even the best shop might not be worth the effort if its hours conflict with your schedule or you have few transportation options after you drop off the car.
I have since have found a new shop through a friend and hope to take the car in next week. I'll let you know how it went. -- Sean
photo credit: rainy city