Auto Repair Help

By Carl O’Reilly

The follow information is offered to keep you savvy when it comes to communicating with your mechanic. Also, there is advice on what to do if you should run into a problem or have some sort of dispute with a garage.

Please read and follow these tips in order to protect yourself when taking your vehicle in for service…

Consider paying the bill with a credit card. If there is a problem, you may withhold payment on the disputed portion of your bill until the problem is resolved (by way of the federal Fair Credit Billing Act).

Find shops that adhere to a certain standard of service. For example, AAA approved garages must have ASE certified mechanics, up to date equipment, and must not have any complaints filed about their operations. Additionally, if you do have a problem with the work done, you’ll have some recourse in that you’ll be able to contact the local AAA office and complain in order to get your problem resolved. Along these lines, you may want to check with your local Better Business Bureau to find out if any complaints have been filed against a shop you are considering.

Avoid shops that still charge for automotive diagnostic time even when you authorize them to do the necessary auto repairs. Most shops will charge you for diagnostic time if you decide to take your vehicle elsewhere for auto repairs. This is reasonable. However, if you can find a shop that will do a free diagnostic evaluation, all the better. Otherwise, when first approaching the mechanic, ask him if the diagnostic charge will be applied to the auto repair costs. If he says no, find another garage.

Do all you can to understand the nature of the auto problem before you approach the garage. Gather information about the car problem with, say, someone who is known to be fairly knowledgeable about car repair (e.g. a friend or neighbor). The better you understand what is causing the problem you’re having, the more likely you’ll be able to get a fair repair job.

Always get more than one estimate, especially on big repair items. Never take the first bid for a job since you’ll usually be able to find a better price once you start shopping around.

Always have the mechanic list the symptoms of the problem on the estimate. This way, if the problem is not fixed when you pick your vehicle up, the mechanic won’t be able to dispute what it was you took your vehicle in for to begin with.

Make sure you always tell the mechanic to call you and get your approval if the repair cost will exceed the estimate. This way there will be no surprises when you pick your vehicle up after it has been repaired.

Last but not least, keep your vehicle in top shape so as to minimize your visits to repair facilities. Refer to the Avoiding Breakdowns topic for tips along these lines.

If you have a legitimate dispute with a autmotive garage, there are a few measures you can take (as described below). Please be aware that time is not on your side and therefore you must act quickly if you are going to have the matter resolved.

Step 1. Try to settle the matter with the shop
Speak with the service manager or whoever is in charge. Be calm but firm and clearly explain what the problem is. Make sure you have your repair receipt with you. If the service manager does not resolve your problem and the shop is part of a chain, contact the district manager. Additionally, threaten the service manager or district manager by telling them you’ll report the shop to the local Better Business Bureau if they do not resolve your complaint. This will often help in getting results.

Step 2. Seek third-party help
If the above proved unsuccessful, contact your local Better Business Bureau and ask for the name of a consumer protection agency that handles auto repair complaints. Of course, at the same time, file a complaint about the shop with this Better Business Bureau office. If, however, the shop in question happens to be AAA approved, contact the local AAA office and complain. The AAA office will represent you in the matter until the complaint is resolved.

Step 3. Sue in small-claims court
As a last resort, you can always sue the shop in small-claims court. Contact your local county’s small-claims court office and ask what steps are necessary to file a suit. Inform the shop that you intend to sue. Prepare your case with all applicable receipts and any other documentation and/or witnesses which will support your suit.


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3 Comments on "Mechanic Tips"

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ted wright
1 year 9 months ago

1999 jeep grand heater and ac has no power after changing engine and computer

3 months 19 days ago

Carl, I find the information that you gave on gathering the information about the car problem to be smart. It’s something that my daughter should start to take in consideration. Mainly because she just bought her first car and I’ve been telling her to do research on the car as a whole.

3 months 1 day ago

Hey Carl ! Before I read your artcile last year, I always paid by credit card for my car service and didn’t care about anything.
After reading your advice, I changed my habit and noticed in all problems. The truth is I can save $1000 now.

Thanks for your sharing!