For any number of reasons you might not be able to make it into inMOTION for a car repair or maintenance. Maybe you’re on a road trip; maybe your child’s car is acting funny and they’re at school out of state; whatever the reason we’d like to share a few things we’ve learned over the years. Below is a list of things to look for that are a good sign of a reputable shop, as well as some warning signs to avoid a particular shop.
8 Good Signs To Look For
- Look for Certifications
ASE certification, or seals of certification from ASA, AAA and other auto industry groups should be prominently displayed in a reputable shop. These seals tell you that the shop owner takes his reputation seriously. If you don’t see these kinds of certifications on display, ask why.
- Check the Shop’s Appearance
Once you go to a shop, there’s a lot to judge just on its appearance. So take a quick look; a clean working environment keeps all of the nastiness you pay for filters for out of sensitive areas. Tools should be neatly kept and organized. The shop as a structure should be well lit and well maintained.
Look for a clean well-kept shop with a clean parking lot. Reputable shops take pride in their appearance. Guess at how long cars are sitting in the lot. If it appears they have a dozen dead machines, know that there is a problem. The problem could be the customer base or it may have to do with their billing practices. A shop is a business and a smartly run shop will not let heaps of junk rust in the lot.
- Meet the Mechanics or Service Advisors
It’s important to have a person working on your car who you can talk to easily and who you can trust. Talk to the mechanics at the shop, and see if they’re good people. It’s a business there’s no reason for someone to be rude.
- Find Out What Parts They Use
Most car part brands sell both high- and low-end parts, so it’s hard to judge their quality at a glance. You can do a quick search to find out the average cost of parts and a repair.
- Look For Good Business/High Turnover
Again, check the mechanic’s lot. Good signs are a large number of cars in healthy condition that regularly change. If you see half-repaired cars out front for weeks, go elsewhere.
- Start With A Small Job First
If you’ve moved to a new area you can always “test” a shop with a small job to make sure it won’t rip you off. Doing a good job at a fair price for something small is a good indication of how a shop does business.
- Find A Specialist
For most people general shops would be fine, but if you have something strange/unique/vintage that requires special tools or knowledge, it’s a better bet to take your vehicle to a shop that specializes in your make of car.
- Go On Word-Of-Mouth
Talking to people is still the tried and true way of getting auto shop recommendations. Find out if someone has had the same mechanic for years, what people were disappointed by, what kind of repairs went well, and how the service is.
Just remember to take everything in context. If you have a 6-year-old Tahoe, a friend with a similar vehicle may be able to give you more relevant advice than your buddy with the ‘72 Nova or the ’87 Volvo.
And now for the things to look out for…
6 Things To Watch Out For
- The Scare Factor
When a mechanic says things like “I wouldn’t drive this car another mile” or employs other scare tactics to discourage you from leaving the lot, it’s probably a good idea to do just that. After all, the car got you there; it’ll likely make it down the street to another garage.
- Blank authorization forms
Never sign a blank work authorization form. Always get a written estimate before you put a mechanic to work. And don’t forget to ask about warranties. Any decent mechanic should guarantee the work.
- They won’t show you your old parts
Ask for your old parts, at the very least you need to see them. Getting back your old parts will ensure that they were actually replaced, and in need of replacement in the first place.
- They are charging double labor
Make sure that you’re not being charge double for two separate jobs that can essentially be handled at the same time if you’re having more than one thing done; ask for an estimate of the total time.
- They aren’t fixing the issue
Make sure that problems are addressed. No, your check engine light shouldn’t be on all the time. And it isn’t “probably a loose gas cap.” Any mechanic who shrugs off an indicator like this isn’t someone worth giving your hard-earned money to. If the check engine light is on, there’s a reason.
- They’re always selling the “Flush”
This is a common tactic at quick-lube places, they love to sell coolant flushes and power steering flushes as necessary repairs. Check your owner’s manual: Chances are your fluid was designed to go 100,000+ miles without needing a flush.
We hope this makes finding a reputable shop a little easier for you. With something as complicated and expensive as a vehicle, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good shop will answer them. If you don’t feel comfortable, shop around, get a second opinion and do a little research. A good shop will make your automotive life a lot easier and give you the peace of mind knowing that everything will be taken care of in an honest manner.