Whether you go to the mechanic for routine maintenance or to see about a repair, it is important to find one you can trust. One of the best ways to find a trustworthy mechanic is by knowing what questions to ask when and even before you arrive. A good mechanic will answer your questions without hesitation. He or she will not keep information secret or perform repairs without talking to you about them and providing you with a price estimate first. Asking the right questions also proves to a new mechanic that you are serious about receiving good service and that you are not just going blindly into the transaction.
What Are Your Credentials?
Never hesitate to ask a mechanic about his credentials, professional affiliations and experience. Many professionals will place certificates and diplomas on the wall in their reception areas, but if you cannot find what you want to know, just ask. A professionally trained mechanic, who keeps up with all modern aspects of the auto industry and provides upstanding service, will gladly provide you with this information. He will also willingly offer references.
Do You Have a Specialty?
Before you take your car to any workshop, make sure it actually performs the type of work you need. Most places can handle routine maintenance, but some specialise in services like repairing and replacing tyres or brake repair. Others may not have the right equipment on hand to perform certain tasks. Also, some shops work on all makes and models, while some focus on luxury cars or specific brands, so make sure your specific type of car is going to a shop with mechanics who are familiar with its parts.
Motor Industry Workshop Association
Consider asking your mechanic if he or she is a member of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), South Africa's "largest trade association under the Retail Motor Industry Organisation." The MIWA represents over 2 500 unique workshops throughout South Africa, and it helps mechanics stay on top of the latest trends and advances in the repair industry.
Do You Offer Written Estimates?
A good mechanic will never do any work on your vehicle without providing an estimate, so it is important to find out the final price before you agree to any repairs. However, a really good mechanic will provide the estimate in writing, so he or she cannot make changes to the price after the work is finished. Make sure the estimate includes all aspects of the repair work or maintenance, including parts, labour and taxes. Once you receive a written estimate, ask again about the price to make sure there are no hidden fees, such as tyre or oil disposal, that will pop up on your final bill.
What Is Wrong with My Car?
It may seem obvious, but make sure the mechanic tells you exactly what is wrong with your car before performing repairs. Much like going to the doctor, provide as many detailed 'symptoms' as possible when you bring it into the workshop, and have the mechanic walk you through the problem and how to repair it once he or she has taken a look.
Do Your Parts and Labour Have a Warranty?
Many workshops provide a warranty on any work it does up to a certain amount of time or a certain number of kilometres driven. No warranty or a very short one is a bad sign that your mechanic may not be trustworthy. A good technician may insure that the parts and labour will last up to a year or more. You should also ask if the mechanic uses new or used parts or some combination of the two. Unfortunately, some experts will put a used part in your car to save money but let you assume that it is new.
How Long Will It Take?
Once the mechanic diagnoses the problem, and you are ready to agree to the necessary repairs or maintenance, find out how long it will take to perform the work. If replacement parts are needed, will they have to be ordered? Without checking first, you could end up without a car for many weeks.
What Should I Look for in the Future?
Not all repairs are easy to diagnose and fix, even to the most trained and experienced professional. Something could go wrong a day or week after you bring your vehicle home. Ask the mechanic if there is anything unusual that you should be on the lookout for when driving in the future. Also, ask if you should bring the car back in the future for a recheck or when you will need to come back for maintenance.
Many people dread taking their cars in for repairs and maintenance, because they feel intimidated or may feel like the mechanic will not be honest with them. However, asking the right questions shows the mechanic that you know what you are doing and creates a mutual respect between the two of you. It also prevents you from spending too much money on repairs or electing to have unnecessary work completed on your vehicle. Remember, if you ever feel uncomfortable or you run into a mechanic who will not answer your questions, take your car elsewhere.