Q: The dealership maintenance program that came with my new car a few years back is running out, and I would rather not continue going to the dealer for service or repairs. If I take my car to an independent shop, how can I be sure that my “baby” is serviced correctly and will stay healthy for years to come? And what about the manufacturer’s warranties? Will they stay intact?
A: I will answer your last question first. Yes, as long as the minimum requirements stated by the manufacturer are met, no matter where you have your vehicle serviced or repaired (even if you do it yourself), the warranty will stay intact. There is a law (the Magnuson-Moss Act of 1975) to support this.
As for your car’s life span, it is more likely that your vehicle will last longer and cost less to repair and service over its lifetime if you take it to a qualified repair facility other than the dealership.
The manufacturer’s dealership network is there first and foremost to sell new vehicles and to get them through the warranty period with as little cost to the manufacturer as possible. The hope is that once the warranty runs out, you will purchase a new vehicle. This does not help the vehicle owner who wants to get 15-20 years of reliable service from the vehicle.
Manufacturers require minimum service items to be performed to keep the vehicle under warranty. The key word here is “minimum.” What we see is manufacturers deleting certain service items from their schedules.
A repair facility focused solely on servicing and repairing your vehicle has a vested interest in keeping your car reliable and healthy for many years.
Also know that a repair facility serious about providing high-quality care for your car has invested in accessing technical information available online to all automotive professionals. These resources help the professional technician stay current on which areas of any vehicle are or can be troublesome and what can be done to help them last longer. Because of the cost to access this information, many repair facilities choose not to pay for it; this is among the biggest factors that set facilities apart.
A qualified repair facility will have:
• ASE-certified techs (this is a voluntary certification)
• Access to information to correctly service and repair your vehicle
• Correct and current equipment
• Ongoing training for its techs
• Insurance that covers your vehicle while it is in their possession
• Warranty for parts and labor (the longer term, the better)
• A clean, neat and well-organized facility
Another point to keep in mind is that any repair facility approved by the American Automobile Association is a good place to start. The area AAA representative inspects each facility quarterly to ensure that it has all the previously stated qualities. In addition, AAA checks that the majority of the facility’s customers are satisfied.
Another way to identify a good repair facility is to ask friends who may own a similar year, make and model vehicle. Is their repair facility keeping their car reliable? Is it serviced or repaired correctly the first time, without having to take it back for multiple appointments? If their main reason for using their facility is that the prices seem low, it may not be the best choice. This usually means that the shop does not have the financial resources to pay for insurance, equipment, training, information or qualified technicians.
Search the Internet for information about repair facilities through their websites, testimonials, etc. Not all testimonials are positive, as no business can satisfy every customer, but when the majority of them are, that is typically a good sign.
There are many good repair facilities out there, and each one has its own personality. Find one that fits you and your vehicle, and you should both be happy for years to come.