(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)
No one likes to see the “check engine light” light up on their dashboard. Sometimes, it is a simple repair that is low cost but it could very well be a sign that something more serious is going on. Either way, that light is telling you that your next stop should be a mechanic. But how do you know which one to go to? Will he or she be reliable? Will they treat you fairly? There’s a few things you should do to make sure you choose the right one for your needs.
1. Word of Mouth Is King – Ask Your Neighbors, Family, and Friends
It’s obvious that a bad experience will usually be mentioned before a good one. But considering there are so many options available when it comes to mechanics, a good experience will often be shared as well. Check with your neighbors, friends, coworkers and other locally based residents to see if they have had personal experiences with a particular shop. Ask important questions regarding price, fairness, how they were treated, etc. People love to share who was satisfactory when they needed help and who wasn’t.
2. Don’t Count Out The Little Guy!
There is a popular theory that the “go-to” for auto repair is always the large, well-known franchise name. While this may be true at times, it is also true that sometimes, you may be better off looking at the family owned or locally owned options. The smaller businesses tend to be exactly that; smaller. Because of this, they work hard to obtain and uphold their good reputation due to the fact that a single negative experience could damage them severely. Larger corporations or franchises tend to have more regulations and stipulations which does not allow its employees to handle a problem on a case by case basis with a personal touch.
3. Look At The Players In The Game
When you pull up to the mechanic shop that is potentially going to be your choice, you can start figuring out if you made the right choice before even getting out of your car. Take a look at the employees that are in the working area of the shop. The age of the mechanics can be a big factor. Depending on your needs, it may be better to choose a shop with older employees .vs. young due to the fact that there is more experience involved. Don’t immediately shame the younger generation however. Younger mechanics could be more in tune with the modern cars of today and therefore may be the better choice. Take that into consideration based on the age of your car and what you are more comfortable with.
4. Check Out The Reviews
There is no question that technology has taken over nearly every aspect of our daily lives. From smartphones to self driving cars, technology is here to stay. Use it to your advantage! Social media sites are great for catching up with family and friends but businesses also use them to market their name and gain customers. When they do this it also opens up the option to previous customers to leave reviews of their experience. Don’t always look for the companies or businesses that only have good reviews either. A few bad reviews does not mean that it is a bad business. Look to see if the manager replied to those that left that negative review. How did they respond? Did they try to resolve the issue of the customer? Sometimes you may find that the business is relatively new and doesn’t have many reviews at all. This is also not an immediate need to walk away. If they are new, the owner tends to work harder to gain valuable and satisfied customers so they can help the business grow its online presence.
5. Take Your Vehicle in for a Minor Service
Before a major problem arises with your vehicle, consider taking it to a potential choice for your trusted mechanic for simple jobs such as an oil change or headlight replacement. While you are there, take note of your surroundings. How clean is the customer area? Are the employees respectful and knowledgeable when speaking to others? How did they handle the service that you brought you car in for? All of these questions are important. It will give you an idea as to what they are like. Once your simple job is completed, pay close attention to how the employee explains your bill or situation to you. Was there a lot of sales tactics used? Were you pressured into buying something you may or may not need? The easy way to tell is to see if the employee is focused more on the short term or the long term. If the information you are given is regarding things that do not need to be done right then and there, that means they are probably trying to not only make the current interaction a good one but also the long standing relationship too. If they seem to focus on the “later” .vs. the “now”, you have someone who wants a return customer and that is a good thing.
6. Don’t Wait For A Breakdown
The last thing anyone wants to do is have a surprise car repair. That is why you should pay attention to that dreaded check engine light and get it diagnosed as soon as it becomes a resident of your dashboard. Don’t wait for your vehicle to need a tow truck before getting something done. The towing operator may attempt to pressure you towards their mechanic shop and their shop may not be the best for your situation. Do the legwork before you have no choice and have a mechanic shop in mind for the day that you may be stuck on the side of the road.
7. Don’t Bow To Pressure
Another reason to plan ahead is to avoid the unnecessary pressure you will most likely receive during a car breakdown situation. Having your mode of transportation go out of commission is never fun but getting a laundry list of unexpected repairs is even worse. Don’t go with the first shop you get to. You are not obligated to have them do the work. Just like a medical doctor, you are more than free to get a second opinion before you decide to get the work done.
8. Look For Certifications
It’s not uncommon to see nearly every mechanic shop, large or small, to have that “ASE Certified” sticker in the window or on the employee uniforms. While it is not a requirement for a good mechanic, it does show how serious a business is about their work and reputation. Being certified means that another organization or company has helped you in your search and has deemed that shop as legitimate. Consider it as a stamp of approval!
9. Don’t Shop By Price Alone
While shopping for a mechanic you can trust, price is always going to be a huge factor to consider. It should definitely be considered but not the only consideration. Your money not only pays for the repair to be done on your vehicle but also the professionalism and knowledge the employees have. Just because the cost is large doesn’t mean the satisfaction always will be. But tread lightly, because a bargain is not always what it seems either.
10. Make Sure The Shop Has The Latest Equipment
Modern day vehicles are loaded with various electronics that are designed to monitor, regulate, and change how each component of your car works. Because of these intricate vehicle systems, a good mechanic shop for your modern car should be well equipped with the latest and greatest technology that is designed to work alongside these systems. Do not hesitate to ask for an explanation of how the machine works. If you get pushback when you ask to hear about or see a tool, leave.
11. Check for Community Involvement
No business wants their name to be bashed or criticized. Another way to see how much a business cares about its reputation and customers is to see if they get involved with the community. Many shops who are planning on sticking around usually get involved with community events. Even a small table at a local parade means they plan to build long lasting relationships with the community and that is never a bad sign.
It may not be the easiest task in the world but finding a mechanic is not as hard as it seems. The goal is to make sure that not only your car is taken care of but that you are too. Make sure you are comfortable with every aspect of the shop of your choosing before you decide to say yes. Don’t let the grease monkey give you the slip!