Finding a Car Mechanic
Below is a "starter" list of questions to consider when looking for a mechanic. Be sure to talk with your insurance company, who may have a preferred list.
Read your owner's manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer's suggested service schedule.
Look for a mechanic before you need repairs.
Make a list of mechanics and repair shops in your area (look in a phone book or online). You may want to choose a facility close to a public transportation line, your home or work. Imagine what you would need to get around if you didn't have your car.
Consider what type of business you would prefer: dealership, retail chain stores or an independently-owned business.
Ask friends and associates for recommendations before choosing a facility. Ask about:
- the mechanic's competence, reliability and honesty.
- the quality of the work.
- the cost of the repairs and service, including standard hourly rate.
Check with the Better Business Bureau and your local consumer organizations about the reputation of the mechanic/business. Ask about past complaints and how they were resolved.
Is the auto repair shop "ASE certified?" ASE stands for The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which is a professional certification testing organization for mechanics. ASE-certified mechanics must undergo training and testing every five years to keep their certification. Click here to find ASE-approved repairs shops in your area.
Once you've narrowed down your list, check out a few shops. It is important, if possible, to get estimates from a few different mechanics.
At the Mechanic's Shop
Take some time to look around the shop. The shop should be clean, professional and organized.
Look for local community service awards, Better Business Bureau membership, American Automobile Association (AAA) awards, trade school diplomas and certificates.
Questions to Ask
- Are you and your staff ASE certified?
- Do you attend any other classes? (Mechanics may take ongoing training.)
- Do you normally work on my type of car (mention the make and model)? Do you specialize in certain types of cars (European, Japanese, domestic, etc.)?
- What brand(s) of replacement parts does your shop use?
- What is your labor rate?
WHN Tip: Average Labor Rates
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), labor rates range nationally from $30 to $100 per hour.
- What are your policies on estimates and repairs?
- What is your preferred method of payment?
- Do you offer a year-long or certain amount of miles guarantee on your work?
WHN Tip: Warranties
The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends looking for at least a 12-month or 12,000-mile warranty.
- Will you honor my car's existing warranty?
- Do you have loaner cars available?
- Do you work with any towing companies or body shops for collision repairs?
- Do you have a list of references of current customers?
WHN Tip: Ask for references of people who have had different repairs, cars and at different times of the year. This will give you a good range.
After the Visit
Call the list of references the mechanic provided and ask about problems they might have had and how they were resolved.
Evaluate your visit.
- Was the staff helpful and courteous?
- Did the staff make you feel at ease?
- Did they answer your questions?
- Did they take the time to explain areas that you didn't understand?
- Did the mechanic ask questions about my car?
- Was the shop clean and organized?
When Your Car Needs Serviced
WHN Tip: The Smallest Detail
Help the mechanic by describing when the problem started, what noises or smells you noticed and where they seem to be coming from. Also tell the mechanic the last time you had your car serviced and past problems.
Tell him what isn't working or needs repaired.
If he suggests service, make sure he explains the reason and shows you the problem.
WHN Tip: Estimates
Get all estimates in writing. Make sure all your estimates lay out the problem being repaired and all the costs for labor, parts, services, etc. as well as the expected completion time frame. Understand that labor costs may be hard to estimate in advance.
Remember to keep all receipts, repair orders and paperwork.
Once you have chosen a mechanic, test out the place with routine maintenance like rotating tires or an oil change. Continue to evaluate their performance and work. If you are unhappy with a service, discuss the problem with the manager. If the service isn't satisfactory, consider looking for a different mechanic.
General6 Winter Car Care Tips