How to get what you want from a mechanic
These tips are mostly for customers who go to other auto shops. At Art’s we’re lucky enough to have some of the best customers any mechanic could ask for, and most them already know all of this stuff.
1. Be friendly.
You’ll catch more flies with sugar than vinegar. There are some who seem to think the best way to get good service is to come in with an attitude — “You can’t rip me off. I’m on to you and your kind and I’ll be watching you closely” The truth is, if a mechanic wants to rip you off, he’ll figure out a way. The best policy is to be nice, get a second opinion and/or second estimate, and then begin to trust the mechanic when the mechanic earns your trust.
2. Describe problems you’re having with your car in layman’s terms.
Even if you can speak mechanic jargon or even if you are an auto expert, it’s a lot easier for us if you describe the symptom rather than the possible cause.
3. Allow enough time for the repairs.
Don’t apply time pressure unless there is really a need. Sometimes you need your car fast, and that’s OK. Make sure the service writer knows when it’s important. But if you just need routine maintenance, schedule a time where you can leave the car all day. Having enough time to complete the job will increase the quality of the job. If you are one of the many who rely on your car to do you work, consider renting a car for the day rather than trying to wait for the car.
4. Ask us to find out what service your car is due for.
Don’t assume that everything your car needs is being done just because you bring it in regularly for oil changes. You have to ask — what’s my car need? We’ll be happy to pull your file and make recommendations. Or, if you have records from another shop, we’ll be happy to dig through your file or call your old shop for information on your service history.
5. Don’t bring the car in with a laundry list of problems you’ve been saving up for the last year and a half.
It’s best to bring the car in for regular service and have things fixed as they break. The more concerns there are to address on the same visit, the less likely they will all be fixed or even addressed satisfactorily on the day you bring the car in. If you don’t need your car back any time soon, this is less of a problem.
6. If possible, find out how to duplicate the problem your car is having before bringing it in.
This can be hard, but savings can be big. Most mechanics charge by the hour for time they spend driving and diagnosing the car. Anything you can do to help them find the problem quickly translates into money in your pocket. If the mechanic knows the problem only happens on the freeway at 60 MPH, then he’ll head straight to the freeway for a 60 MPH test drive. If the mechanic knows the problem only happens when the car is cold, he won’t waste hours testing a warm car.
7. Bring the car in with at least a quarter tank of fuel.
No point in paying a mechanic by the hour to fill the tank so he can work on the car.
8. Be sure to leave your alarm remote, mag lock key, master key (not a valet key), and secret kill switch locations with us when you drop the car off.
If we can’t remove the wheels or start the car easily, it will stop us or at least slow us down. We’ll need to get into the trunk to change your brake light bulbs. Most Toyota ECUs are behind the glove box, so if the glove box is locked, and we only have the valet key, we’ll have a problem dianosing your check engine light. Trust me. We’re like ER doctors, we’ve seen just about everything that might be found in a trunk or glovebox 🙂 But if you’re worried about it, just leave it a home when you bring your car in for service.
9. Don’t bring the car in stuffed with stuff.
How important this is depends on what type of work your car needs. But I’ve had times where I would have liked to pop a new brake light bulb in, but the trunk in so full there no way to pull the access covers off. Or times I would have checked the air pressure in the spare tire if I were able to get to it.
10. If you think your mechanic screwed your car up last visit, hold off on the yelling, screaming and insulting. If you really feel you must, at least wait until you know what’s really wrong with your car.
Do mechanics sometimes blow it? Absolutely! We make mistakes all the time, well not *ALL* the time, you know what I mean 🙂 So if you car develops a new problem sometime shortly after it’s serviced it’s entirely possible that the problem was caused by the mechanic. Sometimes surgeons saw off the wrong leg. Sometimes the folks at NASA blow it. Surely the people in these occupations are smarter & better educated than those of us the high school guidance counselor steered into vocational programs. So please, cut us dimwitted mechanics some slack. If we broke it, we will fix it. We’ll apologize. And we’ll try to make it right. Yelling at us won’t scare us into doing the right thing. “Tearing me a new one” in front of an office full of other customers will not improve our future relationship, and may not have the effect you were hoping for. And then there is always the possibility that we didn’t screw your car up.