Here is a list of 15 tips you should pay attention to when you take your vehicle in for repair or maintenance. Learn the signs of a dishonest auto repair shop and avoid unscrupulous auto mechanics.
1. Scare Tactics
Don’t buy into scare tactics. Statements like “I wouldn’t drive this car another mile” may be a red flag. If you were able to drive the vehicle to the shop, it most likely will make it at least as far as another mechanic shop for a second opinion.
Ask a lot of questions. Find out how long the mechanic has been in business and ask for alternate recommendations. Professional mechanics are happy to answer your questions and give you an idea of the mechanic industry in your area.
3. Up-To-Date Equipment
Find out what type of equipment they use and look for shops using modern equipment. Avoid mechanics that don’t use computerized diagnostic equipment; you want an accurate, provable diagnosis of your problem if at all possible.
4. Mechanic Certification
Look for proof of mechanic training and certification. Reputable shops are happy to display their ASE, National Institute for Automotive Excellence or American Automobile Association certification.
5. Signed Work Order
NEVER EVER sign a blank authorization form. This may seem obvious, but sometimes when it comes to your car it’s easy to succumb to pressure tactics. Always make sure to get a signed work order with a specific estimate for the work that is to be done and any warranties that will apply.
6. Synthetic Motor Oil Lasts Longer
Stay away from mechanics who don’t recommend synthetic motor oil. It may cost a bit more but it lasts longer (and prevents unnecessary labor fees in the future.)
7. Get a Second Opinion
Get a second – or third – estimate. And when you go for your follow-up estimates, don’t reveal the quote given you by the first (and second) mechanic.
8. Lube Shop Scams
Beware of gimmicky recommendations at quick lube shops. A common scam is to try to get you to succumb to coolant and power steering flushes when many cars don’t need them until 100,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual to make sure what your manufacturer recommends. Also, watch out for cleaning fuel injectors; buy-it-yourself additives do a fine job.
9. High-Quality Brake Jobs are Worth it
Cheap brake jobs usually mean low-quality brake pads which could mean a brake failure. It’s worth it to pay for original quality brake pads (or equivalent.)
10. Make Sure Your Tire Re-Treads are Weather-Worthy
Sometimes tire shops will try to sell old re-treads that are not going to be safe in bad weather. Make sure the initial build on the tires was no more than 2 years ago. And before investing in new tires make sure yours really need replacing. Find out what your state’s tread specifications are and ask the mechanic to measure the old tread before buying new tires.
11. Don’t Pay Extra for “Lifetime Mufflers”
Mufflers won’t last a lifetime. And even if the shop agrees to replace your muffler for free in the future, they’ll charge you for expensive pipe repairs.
12. You May be Entitled to a Free Replacement of Catalytic Converters and Emission Parts
Don’t pay a mechanic to work on your catalytic converter or emission parts without checking with your dealer or manufacturer. Some of these items carry a long warranty and free replacement is often required by law.
13. Ask for Your Old Parts Back
Make sure your old parts were really in need of replacement – and were indeed replaced – by asking and inspecting the old part.
14. Don’t Take No for an Answer
No, your engine light shouldn’t be on all the time. And it isn’t “probably a loose gas cap.” If something seems fishy, it probably is. If the check engine light is on there is most likely a reason and you should find out what that reason is.
15. Buy Parts Made in the U.S.A.
The market is being flooded with cheap parts from overseas. Ask for name-brand parts and ask to see the box. Your life and those of your family may depend on having quality replacement parts.