Visiting the Mechanic to some people is right up there with a visit to the dentist when it comes to things you dread doing, but it doesn’t have to be. To make things even more stressful, many people know little about how their car works, so they just see their trip to the mechanic as a baffling and costly experience, with little understanding of what you’re really paying for. These 10 Tips for Visiting the Mechanic will make things easier for you the next time you stop by a garage.
Tip 1: Plan Your Visit to the Mechanic Ahead of Time.
Finding a mechanic when your car is in desperate need of repair just adds more stress to the equation. Instead, shop around before you really need any work done. Visit the mechanics near you to get a quote for something basic – let’s say an oil change, tire rotation, air filter, and cabin filter.
If possible, pay your visit mid-day during the week. When you get there, take a look around the parking lot. Are there other cars around? Does the shop look busy? Are the vehicles there comparable to your own? If you can answer yes to at least some of these, it’s a good sign you’re in the right place. When you walk in, take a look around the lobby. Is it fairly clean? Are there awards or certifications on the walls? Is there a reasonably sized waiting area? Again, if you can answer yes to these questions, you’ve likely found a good shop. Talk to the service personnel that are there, and get your quote. If the people you’ve talked to have left a positive impression upon you, and the things you’ve observed check out, add the shop to your list of possibilities and continue to the next one.
Tip 2: Do some research.
Do what you can to learn about your car, how to check your own oil, transmission fluid, air filter, cabin air filter, brake fluid, power steering fluid, brake pads, etc. These items are common up-sells (Services that the garage will often recommend when you stop in for an oil change, for example) and knowing the condition of each ahead of time will help you feel more confident that you and your wallet aren’t being taken for a ride.
Tip 3: Ask to see what they’re talking about.
When your mechanic of choice tells you that a part or fluid needs to be replaced, ask to see what they mean. Most shops will happily walk with you over to where your car is being worked on and explain the problem to you at length. If they are not willing to do this, it is a sign you may want to find another mechanic. If it is a fluid flush that they are recommending, ask them to show you a sample from your car vs a new sample. You can often see the difference quite easily. Brake fluid i s a great example of this, new brake fluid is typically clear or champagne colored. Old, bad brake fluid can range from honey-colored to black. Check out the picture below to see what I mean.
Tip 4: Tip your mechanic.
Once you’ve chosen to go ahead with any repairs, If possible, ask to speak with the mechanic working on your vehicle directly. When you do, give them a small tip. Even just enough to buy a soda or something will help. Mechanics have a tendency to feel overworked and underpaid (look up how a mechanic gets paid to see what I mean), and due to the nature of the job, some of them tend to see each job as another task to complete rather than a real person’s car. Speaking directly with the mechanic will remind them that you are, in fact, a real person, and the tip will give them added incentive to treat your car accordingly.
Tip 5: Ask to see your the parts.
When you have parts replaced, ask to see the old ones when you pick up your car. This will help to verify that the work was actually done, and the part was actually bad. Also ask to see the box or packaging from the new parts if possible. This will tell you if you’re getting good, brand name parts, or cheaper chinese parts with no real brand. If you were quoted for a name brand but actually received a cheaper part, you’ll want to try and get that worked out before you pay your bill.
Tip 6: Double-check your car before you leave.
After the bill is paid, give your car a once over before you drive off. When you get an oil change, look under your car to verify that the technician cleaned up any oil spills and tightened the drain plug / oil filter appropriately. If you get brakes or tires, make sure that your wheels have all the lug nuts attached, the center caps or hub caps are in place. Always verify that there aren’t any fluid leaks present. Open the hood and make sure that all caps, covers, etc. are in place. If something doesn’t check out, politely ask someone at the front desk to take a look at it with you. A good shop should make things right if or when a mistake happens.