First things first...
At Stewart's Donnybrook Automotive, in Tyler, we understand that most people have limited auto repair and maintenance knowledge. We also understand that it can be overwhelming and frustrating to take your car in for a routine oil change and suddenly find yourself paying an $800 bill for various other repairs and maintenance work.
Of course, you want your car to be in tip-top shape to ensure safe and dependable traveling, but you may also wonder how many of these repairs were actually necessary at this particular point in time. With a limited amount of knowledge concerning auto maintenance and repairs, popping the hood of your car, truck, or SUV will only reveal a concoction of hoses, wires, belts, and fluid reservoirs that most people can't begin to decipher.
One of the best pro-active things we can recommend is to learn the lingo of basic terms so that you can better understand the recommended services or repairs. The more you know about how your vehicle works, the easier it will be to differentiate between necessary repairs that will maintain your vehicle’s reliability, and what an auto shop is trying to sell you just to pad their bottom line.
If you suspect your car might be having mechanical issues, take it to a reputable auto repair facility and have them run diagnostics on your vehicle to determine what needs to be repaired. Tell them that you want an estimate before any repairs are made. And always ask for a detailed explanation of what is wrong and what it will take to repair the concern.
Have your mechanic give you an itemized list of things that need attention. Keep in mind that every shop is different. Some shops use only top quality parts, materials, and fluids... while some just use the cheapest they can find to maximize their profits. Ask what kind of parts and supplies the shop you have chosen uses.
Obviously, the shop that uses top quality parts and supplies will be more expensive than one of the smaller "wham bam thank you mam" shops. Be cautious when comparing prices from one shop to another.
Just remember one very important rule of thumb... you do NOT want the cheapest shop in town working on your vehicle.
Simply comparing prices from one shop to another will not tell you what you need to know. Remember, knowledge is power, so make sure you are comparing apples to apples!
Reputation and Reviews
In the past, word of mouth was one of the best ways to learn of an auto shop's reputation and customer satisfaction. While that's not untrue today, we now live in an internet-based world, making a good vehicle mechanic only a couple of mouse clicks or touchscreen taps away. Meaning you no longer have to base your mechanic choices solely on your friend Karen's testimony that her mechanic is "the best" despite her never having tried any other mechanics. Thanks, but no thanks, Karen. Nowadays, we have the world wide web, where people are unafraid to share their customer experiences ranging from visceral criticism to high praise.
While there are several review sites, probably one of the most well-known business review sites, Yelp, is self-described as the site that "connects people with great businesses." Whether a whoppin' new restaurant, a pet groomer, or an auto repair shop, Yelp will give a collection of reviews of customer experiences. Outside of price range, Yelp reviews commonly mention the level of customer service of different businesses, which is an important factor in finding a reputable car or truck mechanic.
You'll want a mechanic who treats you with patience and respect, and you’ll want to avoid those that try to talk over your head or try to make you feel stupid for asking questions. As a paying customer, the last thing you need is to get indifference or sass from a local car mechanic.
It should go without saying, but you should always consider your mechanic's credentials before letting them make any repairs to your vehicle. While Bubba, who lives down the street, may assure you that he can fix up your truck for $20, you'll always be taking a serious gamble getting work done by a non-professional.
There are a few different ways to vet your mechanic's credibility. When visiting your auto shop, keep an eye out to see if they're certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE. This essential certification shows the extensive and comprehensive training which a professional mechanic must go through. Make sure you ask whether he or she possess the knowledge it will take to adequately repair your vehicle. Ask about their background. The guy who just went into business fixing cars 2 years ago is probably not going to be the best choice. Find a place that has been in the car garage and repair business for a while. Check their reviews. The best ones will be easy to spot.
While much of the process to finding the right auto shop stems from vetting your mechanic and reading reviews, you should also be conscious of the type of material, supplies, and equipment being used to service your vehicle. Brand name parts and supplies are of course always the safest bet when making repairs or doing maintenance work, as off-brand products can be faulty and unreliable in regards to quality. Sure, you might get lucky and do okay with off-brand products occasionally, and you might save some money upfront, but to ensure the best quality of work you will want reliable and durable parts and supplies. Cheap aftermarket parts will cost you more in the long run... you can bet on it.
The shop that uses top of the line diagnostic and service equipment will most assuredly be the one you want. And take a look at their shop. Is it clean and organized? Is their equipment clean and well maintained? These things are all very important.
And A Few Final Tips For Choosing A Great Car Mechanic:
Finding auto repair shops that offer access to your technician and roadside assistance as well as evening and weekend assistance are huge perks when scouting out an auto repair shop. Think of the auto repair shop as your car's hospital and the mechanic as your car's doctor. You likely wouldn't want a quack of a doctor performing surgery on you as it could lead to serious health complications later on. In the same way, you shouldn't want a mediocre mechanic working on your car only to have it later quit on you while you're driving.
In the auto repair business, the old saying still rings true ..."You get what you pay for"... and when you’re dealing with the second most expensive investment you might ever make... substitutes for excellence are a dangerous gamble.