What's your advice for interviewing auto mechanics? I've been burned a couple of times assuming they know more than they really do! — Dave Driver
Dear Mr. Driver: Congratulations on your questions about interviewing these folks. Too many consumers just walk in blindly and end up owing a passel of money for next to nothing. Women's Day interviewed mechanics, who offer the following list they want you to know:
• Regular checkups are a must. Preventive maintenance can save you thousands of dollars down the road. Utilize the suggested intervals, such as an oil change every 3,000 miles or a brake inspection when your auto is in the shop for any reason. A really great piece of advice is to spend five minutes monthly and check tire pressure, fluid levels and for signs of rotting/cracking hoses or belts.
• Be familiar with your warranty. Be sure to ask the mechanic about his guarantee/warranty on parts and labor. If the garage belongs to an auto club like AAA, the warranty will be honored by other owners in the network.
• Carefully check out the shop; get recommendations from friends and associates; check them out on the Better Business Bureau website (www.bbb.org). Also, check to see if the garage has Auto Service Excellence (ASE) certifications.
• An upfront written estimate is imperative. If we simply drop off the car and don't anticipate the payment, then we're more smarty pants than smart. (Most states allow you off the hook for payment if you didn't authorize the work, but be careful of his [oral] word against yours.)
• If you go mid-week in the morning, more than likely you'll receive the speediest service. The earlier you arrive, the quicker the look-see and/or repair.
• Demand good replacement parts. Manufacturer's parts, while usually more expensive, are far better quality for your vehicle, with the exception of minor parts, such as windshield wipers.
• Ask for your old parts to be returned. This shows you're a smarter cookie than the store owner probably anticipated.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.