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Choosing the Right Repair Shop

No matter what you drive: sports car, family sedan, pick-up, or mini-van, when you go in for repairs or service, you want the job done right. The following advice should take much of the guesswork out of finding a good repair establishment. Don't just drop your vehicle off at the nearest establishment and hope for the best. That's not choosing a shop, that's merely gambling.

I. Preliminaries

  • Read your owner's manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer's suggested service schedule.

  • Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one; you can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic.

  • Ask friends and associates for their recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word-of-mouth reputation is still valuable.

  • Check with your local consumer organization regarding the reputation of the shop in question.

  • If possible, arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a facility solely on the basis of location.

  • Once you choose a repair shop, start off with a minor job; if you are pleased, trust them with more complicated repairs later.
II. At the Shop
  • Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.

  • Professionally run establishments will have a courteous, helpful staff. The service writer should be willing to answer all of your questions.

  • Feel free to ask for the names of a few customers. Call them.

  • All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.

  • Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize.

  • Ask if the shop usually does your type of repair, especially if you need major work.

  • Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards.

  • Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications - a national standard of technician competence.

  • The backbone of any shop is the competence of its technicians.
III. Follow-Up
  • Keep good records; keep all paperwork.

  • Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship.

  • If the service was not all you expected, don't rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.