The Best Car Maintenance Tips: First, Find a Reputable Mechanic

When it comes to car maintenance tips, the one that tops the list is this: Find a reputable mechanic.

After all, considering how technologically complex cars have become, even proud DIYers need professional help every now and then. But how do you find experts you can trust to keep your vehicle moving — but who won’t take you for a ride? Here are some suggestions for finding the right mechanic.

Seek the Wisdom of Others

While local family and friends can be great sources for mechanic referrals, you can go a step further by seeking recommendations from drivers who have your vehicle’s same make and model. That’s because shops that have experience working on your kind of car may be able to diagnose and fix problems more quickly and accurately, saving you time and money. If you don’t know any driving doppelgängers, look for them on online forums where local car enthusiasts swap advice.

Online reviews of garages can also be useful, so read through some on sites like Car Talk’s Mechanics Files, Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Look for Seals of Approval

The BBB, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) recognize businesses that meet certain high standards. Look for shops that are accredited by the BBB, qualify for ASE’s Blue Seal of Excellence recognition program or belong to the AAA Approved Auto Repair program.

Working with recognized or certified professionals not only helps ensure you’re in good hands, but could also save you the hassle and cost of repeat visits to solve the same problem.

Have a Conversation

It’s best to work with service providers who can clearly explain the repair they want to perform, especially if you don’t know much about cars. It may be a red flag if a mechanic or dealer’s service adviser isn’t willing to take the time to help you understand what problem is happening under the hood.

Mechanics should also be receptive to key questions about a repair job and have good answers. Among these questions: What kind of warranty does the shop offer on repairs, and what’s covered? Is it possible to get a breakdown of the costs and provide authorization before any work is performed? Online auto repair estimators like RepairPal can help you get a sense of how much a fix should cost.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that dealers can’t deny your warranty coverage just because you take your car to a non-dealer shop for routine maintenance or repairs. If a dealer’s service advisor says that you must do non-covered work with the dealer, you should walk out — although the manufacturer or dealer can require you to use designated shops for warranty work you’ll get free, according to the FTC.

Test Out a Garage

Get to know a repair shop by bringing your vehicle there for routine maintenance like an oil change or tire rotation. This will help you start to build rapport, which could make future conversations easier. In addition, you can get a feel for how employees interact with customers. For example, if they find a problem while doing the maintenance work, how do they speak with you about it? Do they push for an immediate repair that creates an unexpected expense, or do they take a more measured approach to explain your options?

Ultimately, there are many considerations to make when seeking a reputable mechanic. Doing your homework before a repair can help you drive into a shop confident that you’ll get good service at a fair price.

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