A visit to the auto repair shop can often be an intimidating experience for most of us. Why? Because usually you are in a position where you know that the mechanics know [a lot] more than you do. You feel it can be easy for them to dupe you so they can add a few extra items and drive up the bill.
If you own a car, chances are that sooner or later you’re going to visit an auto repair shop. What can you do to bridge the knowledge gap then? Easy, just try to do your homework a little and be well prepared. Ask a few questions in advance, in order to avoid finding yourself in unpleasant situations, such as a huge repair costs or an unexpected delay.
Here’s a round up a few pieces of information you’d be better off knowing beforehand. Call it the magnificent seven if you like. They will help you a great deal.
Top 7 questions for the auto repair shop
How much will the diagnosis cost?
Yes, this may sound simple but you will be surprised how many people forget this one. Especially if you know that you have to fix the car immediately and are in a hurry. It’s really important to know in advance, especially when there’s no actual malfunction and you’re just visiting an auto repair shop for your car’s annual test (or for the first time). They’ll probably only offer you an estimate, but at least you’ll get a rough idea.
Can you show me the problem?
Of course, you’re not an expert. And you probably have no idea about car repairs. However, we suggest that you ask this question, in order to indicate your intention to examine every aspect of your vehicle’s maintenance, before you pay up. It will change the mindset of the mechanic or representative you are dealing with in your favor.
What certifications do you hold?
Well, let’s be realistic. Frauds exist. And there are plenty of them out there. You might have heard stories from your friends. Caution is warranted. Make it clear that you just want to know for your peace of mind, not that your are accusing the repair shop of perhaps not being properly certified.
Furthermore, even if they are not frauds, you should keep in mind that technology changes really fast. Some service tasks may be, or prove to be, quite demanding. So you’ll need to make sure that they are qualified for all aspects, before they take over repairing your vehicle.
Do your technicians specialize in my car’s make and model?
This one goes hand in hand with the previous one. Even if the repair shop is certified, this doesn’t mean that your vehicle will be treated by a specialized technician. Or they may even be certified for different makes and models than your own. Try to clarify this one.
What kind of warranties do you offer?
Their response to that question will give you an insight on how reliable they are. Even if they don’t actually show you related papers in advance, they should at least be eager to explain the details of the whole procedure. This will take you one step further in making sure your vehicle is in good hands.
What happens if I don't fix this?
It’s a common tactic for some auto repair shops to charge customers with extra repair costs. If the extra cost is for a real problem, then they should at least give you a detailed explanation of all the available options, along with their pros and cons.
A trustworthy (or honest) expert may even refuse to take on your car’s repair, in case you don’t approve the whole list of repairs. Before you classify this as whimsical behavior, bear in mind that this may be done on account of rectitude and safety. And safety, you can surely appreciate.
When will the repairs be done?
Try to minimize the time those repairs are going to be taking. Present them with the reason. You may get your vehicle back earlier than you thought.
In some cases, when the repairs unavoidably take too long, auto repair shops may offer you an alternative solution, such as a replacement vehicle or a lift to your destination, if you eventually decide to leave your vehicle with them. Keep in mind, a technician who goes the extra mile to offer you quality service, is almost definitely a great professional.
So go ahead and ask
Don’t hesitate to ask any of these questions, even if some of them might sound odd to you. Your vehicle, either you use it for personal or for professional reasons, is ultimately your property . And it’s going to be in their hands, for awhile. So, you are entitled to any question you may have.
Chances are, you may not get satisfying answers to all of your questions. However, having this conversation with the technician, is the only way you’ll know better whether you should trust your vehicle to this specific auto repair shop, or not. It will also adjust their mindset towards you as they will realize that they are dealing with a serious customer who takes his/her car maintenance seriously.
Finally, when in doubt, always ask for a second opinion. Especially when the suggested cost of repair is really high. Because in the end, you are the one who’s going to pay for it.