I heard a crazy story when I was listening to the radio the other day; a South Carolina man who took his fancy sports car to be serviced at the dealership got a surprise he wasn’t counting on. Prior to dropping it off, he hid a voice recorder in the glove box. Admittedly this was a little unconventional, but he was right to be worried.
What happened next is pretty horrifying. Upon picking up his car, the man listened to the voice recording. It contained clear evidence that the mechanics took his car for a joy ride. If that wasn’t bad enough, it caught them discussing how to make the owner pay for a replacement clutch after one of the mechanics damaged it. The dealership’s customer service refused to resolve the issue, so the man took to the Internet to share his auto repair horror story.
Stories like this one can make it really hard to trust auto mechanics. That’s not to say every mechanic is crooked; there are tons of perfectly reputable and honest workers out there. So how can you find the best mechanic for your car? If your car is important to you, here are some tips for finding a great mechanic – and most importantly, one that you can trust!
Ask for the mechanic’s certifications. One fairly reliable certification is by ASE, the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. To become ASE certified, mechanics have to go through knowledge and skills testing, and also have at least two years of relevant experience.
ASE isn’t the only certification that matters. Some mechanics are certified by manufacturers to work on specific types of cars. If a mechanic has a manufacturer certification, it means they have passed tests and are proficient in making repairs to cars within their brand.
Bear in mind that individual mechanics are certified by ASE and manufacturers rather than the auto shops. You’ll want to find out who will be working on your car, and if possible, meet the mechanic.
Check the company’s reputation. The Internet makes it pretty hard for crooked businesses to get away with it for long. One reliable review website you might try is Angie’s List, a members-only website which offers reviews on home maintenance-type services. It also has reviews on every auto service from body repair to car washes to engine repair. Since companies can’t pay to be on Angie’s list, and the site monitors for fake reviews, you can get an honest opinion of the servicers that are listed on that website. You can also check out Yelp, my personal go-to site for reviews on just about anything.
Look for the shop’s affiliations. Does the shop display a AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) sign? According to American Auto Insurance, AAA pre-screens shops for quality service. Shops that are affiliated with AAR must sign agreements to provide reliable and high-quality service performed exclusively by certified mechanics. AAR repair shops are guaranteed to be closely monitored for performance and customer satisfaction.
Look for a mechanic that is willing to show you the problem. Here’s my bad auto repair story. Last year, I took my car to a national chain mechanic to have all four tires replaced, but shortly after dropping off my car, I was informed that it would need several additional repairs. Being the cheapskate that I am, I wanted proof. I returned to the shop and asked them to show me the parts that needed replacing. The man at the desk refused because, according to him, it would have required putting the car back up on the hoist, and that would have been too inconvenient. I refused the repairs, and took my car elsewhere for a second opinion. I’ll never return to that particular shop because I need a mechanic who respects me when I ask for information.
You should always ask for proof before you allow someone to make repairs to your car. Car repairs are expensive, so even if you’re not car-savvy, ask them to show you what is wrong. It could save you hundreds of dollars.
A trustworthy mechanic is always willing to explain the problem to you and show you the proof. If the mechanic is comfortable working while you watch, you can trust him. If the mechanic is apprehensive about letting you take a look, you’ll never know if he is being honest.
Go with your gut. Does something about the shop or the mechanics put you off? Don’t leave your car there and then kick yourself later when something goes wrong. Use your intuition; it can save you a lot of grief.
The majority of mechanics are good people, but everyone’s heard a story or two that can make leaving your car with an auto mechanic a scary ordeal. Do your research before you take your car in for work, and if all else fails, try a tape recorder!