My Story: Finding an Auto Repair Shop
by Kathy M. Atkins
First we need a car to work on. I chose a '87 mazda Rx7 for several reasons. One the weird engine that most mechanics will admit that they know very little about. Next, it's a sports car, and an import. It will make it easier to narrow down the steps.
- Check the phone book ads. We want a shop that works only on Japanese cars. If we can we want to narrow it down to just the Mazda make. There is no way that any mechanic or shop can have enough people to be good at everything.
- .Ask around. You would be surprised at how many people you know that have the same make as your car and that knows someone that has worked on their car. They will be glad to give you their stories. Or try the local tow company.
- Call the local dealer for a referral. Yes they do this. Just ask the parts dept. You really want OEM parts and they know who uses them. Now try another dealer just to see what they say.
- Call the shops your interested in. Do they give good directions? Are they friendly? Do they use OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts? Do they have a factory service manual for your car? Do they stock parts for your year make & model?
- Now you have narrowed down your list to a couple of shops. Make a visit. Ask some good questions. How often do you need an oil change? The general answer should be 3 months or 3,000 miles. Oil is a chemical lubricant that breaks down with age, use, heat, etc. Some manufacturers are saying 5 months or 5000 miles. An oil change is cheaper that an early engine failure. Next ask what a 30,000 or 60,000 mile service includes, and why do you need one....Or why a timing belt at X miles (Mazda's 60,000) A good shop will want to help you. If they educate you now it makes it easier for later. Remember that its best to find a shop on your time & terms rather than an emergency.... Remember that nothing is free, that goes for tows, special discounts to new customers etc. That tow may not be on your bill in writing but it is figured in the cost to do the job....Ask for the parts to be returned before the job is started. Then asked them to show you what was bad. They should be more than willing to show you, but if you don't ask they may assume that you don't care.
How's that? Auto repair is a frightening area. I was recently out of town and had to do the same research. I started with the local mini mart for a good tow truck driver. He then towed me to a good shop, that didn't specialize in my Mazda. I knew the labor guide hours and the parts prices. He was right on track. The labor charge per hour is important but just as important is how much time it will take. Make sure you know if they are going to charge but the book (flat rate) or by the amount of time they are on the car, both has its benefits.
I work in an auto repair shop. I deal with mostly women that have been ripped off, so I review their repair orders to see what has been done, before we start a job. I also hear lots of horror stories. Some times the very people that you turn to (such as the BBB, which is run by businesses and the dues they pay) are not always what it appears. There are a lot of shops that are honest and just want to do a good job.
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