Are You Using the Right Mechanic?
Here's a questionnaire to determine the competency of your auto technician.
For most Americans, a working vehicle is essential. Think about it: We use our cars to get to work, to transport groceries for the week and to pick up and drop off the kids at school, basketball practice, whatever. Consequently, finding the right mechanic, one who can be trusted to keep your ride on the road without taking you for a ride in the process, is as important as choosing a doctor for yourself or a day care provider for your children.
But how can you tell a good mechanic from a bad one without a lot of trial and error?
To find out, we turned to Tony Molla, a spokesman for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and a certified automotive technician who has been "turning wrenches" for more than 40 years, and to Ray Cox, another certified technician who serves as a consultant for AutoMD, a consumer service website that helps people diagnose car problems and find qualified mechanics.
Based on what both experts had to say, we came up with seven questions to help you evaluate a mechanic. Simply ask potential candidates each of the following questions, and compare the responses to the right and wrong answers we provide. At the end of the questionnaire, tally the points for each answer to see whether your mechanic is a good bet or a nightmare waiting to happen.
Can you show me around your shop?
Don't expect a garage full of mechanics to drop everything in the middle of a busy morning and give you a grand tour. However, a shop that's proud of its work, employees and equipment should not hesitate to make an appointment for you to come in during a slow period and give you a quick look around. Don't be afraid to ask questions about anything you see. Trust your gut instincts. Does it look clean and well-maintained? "If a shop looks like a salvage yard, then I wouldn't do business with them," Molla says. He also advises that you pay attention to the people. Are they friendly and attentive? Do they sound competent? "If you get one-word answers and you basically feel like you're communicating with a dolphin because all you hear are grunts, clicks and whistles, then you generally want to move on," Molla says.
Right answer: "Sure, come by at 10 a.m. and I'd be happy to show you around."
Wrong answer: "Look pal, we don't have time to tour every client around. You pay us to work on your car, not to chitchat."
Can I see the certification credentials of the mechanic who will work on my vehicle?
"Would you have your taxes done by an 'uncertified' public accountant?" Molla asks. Of course not. You definitely want an ASE-certified technician working on your vehicle. While Molla might be biased, he's not wrong. You also want to make sure that those credentials are up-to-date and relevant to your vehicle's repair. "Every five years you need to get recertified," Cox says. And just because the technician is certified to work on brakes doesn't mean he's qualified to work on transmissions. "There are eight different disciplines that ASE certifies," Molla says. A technician certified in all eight is called a master technician.
Also look for documentation such as membership in the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau, as well as any other training certificates from organizations such as AC Delco or NAPA. "The best shops will go out of their way to post as many of these things as they can, because they want their customers to know just how much they are devoted to doing a good job," Molla says.
Right answer: "Everybody in our shop is ASE-certified. We have specialists in multiple disciplines, and their credentials are posted on the wall."
Wrong answer: "Credentials don't mean anything anyway. You learn by doing, not by taking some fancy classes."
How many years have you been in business?
"There's no substitute for experience," Cox says. "Shops that have been in business for many years are proud to say it." The combination of certification and experience should guarantee that the mechanic who works on your vehicle has a deep history with the repair work you need and up-to-date knowledge. The question also shows that the shop has roots in the community. No one wants to upset the neighbors.
Right answer: "Our shop has been in business in this town for over a decade. We have plenty of seasoned pros here, and the new guys work under them until they know the ropes."
Wrong answer: "Look. Those old-timers are old, slow and don't know how to work on a modern car. We're a young shop that will get the job done."
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Must-See on MSN
a man brakes down way out it the country, far from everything.
lucky he finds a town after walking 20 miles.
and he is in luck, this town has a repair shop....
so during getting the car towed the paint gets scratched, the bumper is a bit crooked
but the car is now getting closer to gettting the man on to his meeting..
looking at the shop, the man sees trash, spills, tools everywhere. no rhyme or reason.
looking in the lot he sees a few fords, 1980's, a couple of tractors, and two kids bikes..
the owner of the shop askes the man what kind of car he has....
worried, the customer replies"it is a 2010 bmw".
so just out of caution the customer askes "is your mechanic qualified to work on my type of car?"
to where the owner replies "aye es he (ASE) is."
and that is where ase came from, hahahaha
i have been a tech for 15 years, made that joke up years ago and finally got to tell it..haha
Hey Sam. You need to knock a few points off of your score for this one.
This is nonnegotiable. Nobody should put a wrench to your car before giving you an estimate. And once the repair is under way, any work above and beyond that estimate should be cleared with you before it's done.
Here in the real world it's impossible to always give estimates in a fashion that would meet the outline you have suggested here. In fact the best anyone could do and appear to meet your assertion would be to try and guess on the fly and that is sure to end badly most of the time. Our solution is to quote a price for the diagnostic phase for a vehicle issue. No repairs get performed until the problem is positively identified (diagnosed) and then only after the estimate is written and approved. But you failed to explain that for the readers, you appear to still believe that we know every possible parts price and the labor time off the top of our heads, not to mention the false perception that just because a car has a given symptom, or trouble code that it immediately corresponds to one possible component or circuit failure.
If you don't like the first estimate you get, feel free to shop around. "If a mechanics is confident and knows what he's doing, he should feel totally comfortable with that," Cox says. Just because a shop looks under your hood, you are under no obligation to give them your business.
Exactly what are Mr. Cox's qualification and experience levels today? How much is he investing in tooling and training each and every year to work on today's cars? Maybe you don't realize it but that advice encourages vehicle owners to walk away from shops who are committed to being the best that they can be an towards someone who is really in trouble with the complexity to today's automobiles. Today top shops spend a fortune re-investing in continual training for their technicians. They also spend tens of thousands of dollars each and every year to have the same scan tools and software that the dealerships use so that they are prepared to handle any problem that their customers vehicles may experience. I'll use my shop as an example, this additional expense is supported by the efforts of just one technician, myself. It's easy for anyone who isn't going to schools, and isn't buying the tools that are required to do the whole job to under cut my pricing. Now remember, they limit themselves to only doing the easier work as there are many things today that just cannot be done without the O.E scan tools. Any consumer who rewards the other shop with their business based on price alone is rewarding them for holding onto an obsolete business model, while using their actions to also say that we should never have tried to be the business that we have built.
You have failed to consider the impact that technology is having in the trade and the changes that have to be made by a shop to try and keep up with it.
I'll send Tony an e-mail, he should have been helping you get this part more accurate.
BTW, I am an ASE CMAT with L1 and A9 with 36 years experience.