Q: My vehicle is at a repair shop and the technicians are recommending work they say must be done to get it back into proper running condition. The repairs add up to a lot of money, so I called a friend who is a mechanic in another state and asked his opinion. He tells me that he thinks I am being overcharged and that the repair shop is trying to sell me the most expensive fix. Now I am confused. I don’t want to be taken advantage of, but how do I know who is right?
A: It’s questionable how someone can tell you that you are being overcharged without having all the pertinent information or without having looked at your car to give a professional second opinion.
Unfortunately, many friends, co-workers and family members want to help, and their intentions are well-meaning. But in many cases, they end up doing more harm than good. Vehicles today are much more complex electronically than in the past (they are truly mobile computer data centers), and it takes someone with ongoing training and expensive test equipment to determine the correct cause of most vehicle problems.
The seemingly “magic” error codes that can be obtained by connecting the vehicle to a scanner are only the starting point. Each code can be caused by any number of problems. This is where ongoing education and expensive test equipment come in. No one can diagnose a vehicle over the phone just by being told the error code that was stored. The way technology has been evolving over the past few years, if an auto tech has not been keeping up with the changes, he or she will be using totally out-of-date information.
The co-worker who worked on cars as a hobby when he was a child is at a disadvantage with today’s vehicles. The well-meaning relative technician living in another state who has not been to an automotive class in years is out of touch.
So, how do you find a knowledgeable professional? I recommend asking the following questions to determine how your shop stacks up before having your vehicle repaired.
• Are the shop’s technicians National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified and are their certificates current?
• Does the shop have ongoing training programs for its technicians and service advisers?
• Does the shop have experienced diagnosticians using the latest equipment?
• Does the shop provide at least a 12,000-mile/12-month warranty on parts and labor?
• Is the shop properly insured to cover possible vehicle damage while your car is being worked on?
• Is the shop certified/approved by AAA? (Note: If so, you will receive “yes” answers to the previous five questions, plus be assured that it has a satisfied customer base. AAA monitors customer responses, both positive and negative.)
• Does the shop offer secure early drop-off and late pickup for your vehicle?
• Does the shop provide free shuttle service within a reasonable distance?
• Does the shop keep you informed regarding your vehicle’s future maintenance needs?
• Does the shop assist with rental car service if needed?
• Are the service advisers friendly, helpful, respectful and grateful for your business?
If you have doubts and questions, it is best to first address those concerns with the shop. If your vehicle is at a qualified repair shop, trust the employees, let them handle the repairs and try to keep outside advice in the right perspective.