for any car owner, taking your car to a mechanic can be intimidating, especially if you don't know much about car maintenance. it is hard to know who you can trust, and it's better if you can find a mechanic you can rely on before you desperately need one.
"most vehicle repairs are unplanned," tony molla, vice president of the automotive service association, told .
though you can't always plan for vehicle repairs, you can still be prepared for them. with a little bit of time and research, you can find a mechanic who will save you both headaches and wasted money in the long run, with the added potential bonus of developing a relationship with a business you can trust.
finding a mechanic
"word of mouth is still one of the most powerful ways to find a business that others have used and are happy with," molla said.
talk to friends, family and neighbors first to see if they have any recommendations on mechanics. if you're new to a place and don't really know anybody, molla says to look for a shop that has been established in the community for a long time or if it is involved in the community, like sponsoring a little league baseball team.
you can also use a service locator to find shops in your area. read reviews of shops and even go in person to check it out and see if it's the right fit. for example, molla said that if you drive a chevrolet but only see foreign cars in the lot, that shop might specialize in imports. you may be better off finding someone who works on cars similar to yours. also find out if shops are members of well-known associations that have a code of ethics to follow, a better business bureau membership or other certifications that would hint at how reliable they are.
"use your basic first impressions to see if this is a place you'd want to do business with," molla said.
before you go
not sure what a fair price would be for the repair of your car? there are websites where you can find repair estimates, but beware that many websites offer a range of costs for a service. molla said you might want to consider the quality of service you might receive at the lowest price available.
"there's nothing wrong with getting a couple of estimates if you're getting something big done," molla said, but the lowest price is not always the best deal.
you can also take a mechanic for a "test drive" by going in for a routine service like an oil change. prices are often fixed for services like these and it can be a good opportunity to get to know the shop and the people who work there.
at the shop
one of the most important things you can do as a car owner is to ask questions of the mechanic. if a mechanic recommends an additional repair or service and you don't understand why, ask.
"they should be able to explain to you in simple terms why this is a good idea," molla said.
when you bring in a vehicle for any kind of service, molla said, most shops will do a walk-around of your car and look for things such as worn tires or brakes. they'll give you a list of what they noticed, what you should do now and what you should do down the road. there's nothing wrong with taking time to think about the suggestions or asking the opinion of other shops.
you should also ask your mechanic what your car's manufacturer recommends when it comes to maintenance services. when in doubt, take a look at your owner's manual and see if it matches what you're being told.
"an informed consumer cannot be taken advantage of," molla said.
it is also important to give your mechanic as much information as possible about what's wrong your vehicle, like a strange noise or smell. molla said you should never drop your car off at a mechanic with a note that just says, "car died." the less a mechanic knows, the longer it'll take to diagnosis a problem — and the longer it will take to fix it, costing you more. help your mechanic help you.
molla said that, though today's vehicles are marvels of modern used engine ering, they still need regular maintenance if you want them to last. if you take care of your car, he said, there is no reason you can't keep a vehicle for well past 12 years.
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