How to find a me­chanic you can trust

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Tom Kr­isher

DETROIT» It’s the mo­ment ev­ery car owner dreads. The me­chanic comes out of the garage to say your ride needs re­pairs cost­ing hun­dreds of dol­lars.

Then two big ques­tions pop into your brain: Are the fixes re­ally needed? Am I be­ing over­charged?

There might not be a way around get­ting the car fixed, but there are ways to stay in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. But it takes some work and plan­ning be­fore and after the big re­pairs come:

Get to know a me­chanic

Es­tab­lish a re­la­tion­ship and find a re­pair shop you can trust — or risk big prob­lems. Good old wordof-mouth still is prob­a­bly the best way to pick a garage, says Ge­orge Geropou­los, service ad­viser at Ted’s Auto Clinic in north­west Chicago. Ask like-minded friends and neigh­bors where they go. With or without a rec­om­men­da­tion, check on­line and find shops in your area that have me­chan­ics with Au­to­mo­tive Service Ex­cel­lence (ASE) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Also look for AAA cer­ti­fied garages and other train­ing for tech­ni­cians. Check on­line re­views. Shops that rely heav­ily on a par­tic­u­lar neigh­bor­hood for their cus­tomers will take ex­tra care to make sure peo­ple are happy.

When you find a garage, take your car in for an oil change and in­spec­tion. See if the peo­ple seem hon­est and are will­ing to take time to ex­plain a prob­lem. “It’s like a dat­ing re­la­tion­ship,” says Jill Trotta, di­rec­tor of the au­to­mo­tive group at Re­pair­pal.com, an on­line service that pro­vides price es­ti­mates for auto re­pairs. The oil change is like hav­ing cof­fee with some­one. Get­ting a small re­pair done is like go­ing to din­ner. A ma­jor re­pair can es­tab­lish a long-term re­la­tion­ship. “If you do your due dili­gence up front, when some­thing bad goes wrong, you can feel more com­fort­able,” Trotta says.

Get­ting to the truth

Say the me­chanic says that grind­ing noise in your front end sig­nals your brake pads need to be re­placed. How do you know he’s telling the truth? Brake pad re­place­ment is al­most al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by resur­fac­ing or re­plac­ing the ro­tors, the round things that brake pads grab onto. That can drive the price up more. A good me­chanic will take you into the garage, show you wornout parts and ex­plain the prob­lems if you ask. If you’re not there, ask the shop to send you cell­phone pic­tures of the worn pads and other parts. Make note of ex­actly what parts are be­ing re­placed. If it’s an ex­pen­sive re­pair and you’re still a lit­tle skep­ti­cal, tell the me­chanic you need to wait for your next pay­check to get the re­pair done, or you’re just not ready to do it now. Then get a sec­ond opin­ion, even if the next shop charges you for it, says Ron Mon­toya, se­nior con­sumer ad­vice edi­tor for the Ed­munds.com au­to­mo­tive web­site. A sim­ple Google search also will tell you if the prob­lem the garage pointed out is com­mon for your car, Geropou­los says.

The price is right

Once you’ve de­ter­mined that the re­pair is needed, there are ways to make sure the price is right. There are sev­eral web­sites such as Re­pair­pal that have data on what prices you should be charged. Costs can vary widely across the coun­try, so in ad­di­tion to make, model and model year, the sites ask for your ZIP Code. Re­pair­pal even has a mo­bile app for smart­phones, so you could do the price check right in­side the shop. Some sites give you es­ti­mates from sev­eral nearby shops.

Re­pair­pal uses the same data­base garages use to fig­ure out how long a re­pair should take. The site shows you the hourly la­bor rate and part cost data that comes from re­pair garages. It’ll give you a price range for what the re­pair should cost. You also can call an­other shop or two and ask what they’d nor­mally charge for the same re­pair on your model. Trotta, whose service makes money by cer­ti­fy­ing garages and charg­ing them $199 per month to be a rec­om­mended shop on the Re­pair­pal site, says the site cal­cu­lates a fair price for qual­ity re­pairs done with qual­ity parts.

The low­est price may not be the best deal. Trotta says some garages will sell in­fe­rior, less-ex­pen­sive parts that won’t last as long. “The cheap­est thing to do when get­ting your car re­paired is to fix it right the first time,” she says.

G-jun Yam, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Me­chan­ics work on car at Ted's Auto Clinic in Chicago. Word-of-mouth is still the best way to pick a garage.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.