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Bp Driver’s Guide
If your mechanics have credentials, they'll want to show them off. Look closely at the walls behind the counter. At the very least, you should see a state license, but ideally you'll also see a variety of awards and certifications from respected institutions such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and AAA. If all you see are pictures of scantily clad people in uncomfortable positions, you might want to take your business elsewhere.
So, how's the place look? If the floor is covered in oilcans, worn tires, fast-food wrappers and other trash, you're right to view this as a warning sign. If the mechanics don't care enough to look professional, how likely are they to be professional?
Before undergoing surgery, you'd first want the doctor to explain what was going to happen. You should expect a similar explanation when bringing your vehicle to a car surgeon. Be sure to get a detailed work order with a specific estimate for each job, and never sign a blank authorization form. In addition, don't hesitate to ask for a guarantee. Good mechanics stand behind their work.
It pays to do your homework. Before visiting a mechanic, avail yourself of the easily accessible automotive information across the Internet. Don't know your manufacturer's recommendations? Learn them, and then demonstrate competence by asking smart questions. Those who are most likely to get ripped off are those who are least informed.
You've likely heard that it's a good call to ask to keep your old parts after a mechanic replaces them, but consider going a step further. Ask to see where the parts had been. This amicable request to simply learn how your car works is a clever way to communicate that you're paying attention.
The worst time to take your car to the mechanic? Friday afternoon. If you try to see things from your mechanic's perspective, this makes sense. When a huge job arrives just as you're trying to go home for the weekend, how likely are you to give it your best effort? Help make sure your car gets the love it deserves by scheduling your appointment early in the week.
Good mechanics don't pressure you into specific repairs. If they don't offer you choices, create some options yourself by visiting other mechanics. (And when you get your second opinion, strategically neglect to mention your first diagnosis and price.)
After you describe the funny sound your car is making, a good mechanic will want to hear it firsthand by taking your car for a drive. This might mean the difference between simply needing brake pads and having a complete rotor replacement, which in turn could mean the difference between a memorable accident and a near miss that's quickly forgotten.
Found a shop you like? Stick with it. If you build up trust on minor repairs and services, like tire rotations and oil changes, you'll feel more comfortable going there for large repairs. Conversely, mechanics value their regular customers and might go above and beyond to keep you satisfied.
In case you've forgotten this from kindergarten, the Golden Rule is a maxim of reciprocity stipulating “Those who address their mechanics with the requisite courtesy that demarcates basic human civility are most likely, in turn, to receive the best possible service while possibly also saving a heaping pile of filthy cash money.” In other words, be kind. And be kind strictly for the sake of being kind. But you might also find that, every once in a while, kindness pays off.