Q: My family owns an older auto that is starting to require service and maintenance parts replacement. What advice does BBB provide in selecting auto repair businesses and how to avoid auto repair fraud?
A: What do you do when your windshield wipers stop working, your left taillight burns out or your brakes give out? Some may opt to fix the problem themselves, but many turn to the services of auto repair shops.
While most auto repairmen are honest and forthcoming, consumers need to be on the lookout for those that are trying to make a quick dollar. Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to do their research before turning their car over to an auto repair service.
When your vehicle needs repairs, you do not need a crash course in auto mechanics, but you should know how to find a reliable shop and mechanic. It is important for consumers to be on the lookout for scams like overcharging on repairs, charging for labor that was never performed, and performing shoddy work.
In 2010, BBB received 12,682 complaints nationwide against auto repair mechanics. This year BBB has received nearly 11,000 complaints.
BBB recommends the following:
• Get a least three referrals. If you are looking for a qualified mechanic, ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations. Be sure to check the business with www.Chattanooga.bbb.org to see if there have been any unresolved complaints filed against the business. Look for shops that display certification and BBB accreditation certificates and plaques.
• Ask as many questions as you need. Do not be embarrassed to request technical definitions. Do not rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called and appraised of the problem, course of action, and cost of work before any work begins.
• Get everything in writing. Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached and before you leave, be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees and methods of payment.
• Do a walk-through with your mechanic. When you pick up your vehicle, get an explanation of all work completed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you. Your repair bill should be itemized.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.