Like any successful marriage…good auto repair service starts with good communication with your technician.
Your favorite car is making a funny noise, losing oil, smoking or all of the above. You schedule an appointment to have it checked and now you have arrived at the service center. Most service center conversations are between service managers and customers, but this problem is serious. Your baby is sick and you want to talk to the technician who will work on it.
Of course, the best time to think about what to say to the mechanic is before you talk to him. Keep notes on what your car is doing or not doing. Does it go “erak-erak-erak,” or “erak-erak-tink?” How long does a sound or smell take to develop after the car starts? Where does it seem to be coming from? How much oil is the car going through? Did something happen to the car that you think might have led to the symptoms you are concerned about?
So, you’ve got your list and now it’s just you and the mechanic…face to face. What do you tell him? Everything…as factually and specifically as possible: what, where, when and how long the symptoms you are concerned about have been occurring. Ask to take a drive with him, if you think the problem is serious enough. Answer whatever questions he might ask, make sure he knows you appreciate his thoroughness and concern, but don’t stay too long in the bay, and, whatever you do, don’t exaggerate the problem. This can misinform (and aggravate) the technician. Here are some more tips:
Your car’s maintenance is your responsibility in the same manner that your health is. It’s always advisable to educate yourself about your car so that you can accurately relay information and describe the symptoms occurring and help in a correct diagnosis.
The Web provides plenty of resources for you to learn about possible problems; one powerful consumer oriented site is CarCare.org. Using various interactive diagnostic tools you may find onliine, you may get a good idea of what your problem is, and even what it may cost to fix it. But there is no substitute for an inspection by a qualified mechanic. Remember, if you can’t fix it, don’t try to tell the mechanic what’s wrong with your car. Your accurate description of the symptoms will be most helpful, but it’s the technician’s job to figure it out.
Get second opinions: If, on the other hand, you have a strong basis of knowledge about the problem and the technician’s diagnosis is too far off from what you believe it to be, first simply talk to the service manager. Just express your concern to the manager and tell him what it is based on. If it’s a good service center with a good manager, he will either be able to reassure you or check with the technician about the diagnosis. If you really believe the service center’s diagnosis is wrong, or an expensive and complicated repair is prescribed, you can always try another service center for a second opinion.
Talk by listening. If you don’t understand the problem once it is diagnosed, ask the mechanic (or service manager) to explain it to you in the simplest terms possible, and within a reasonable amount of time. (Remember service centers charge by the hour.) A good mechanic loves to talk about what he does. You will understand better what is going on with your car and the mechanic will see that you care about your car’s care, which will make him a better mechanic.
Keep talking: Remember: once you have found a good service center and mechanic, it becomes a long-term relationship. Respect and deference to the professionalism and good skills of the mechanic can only make things better. If and when you do have a difference of opinion or the mechanic or service center makes a mistake, you will both be better equipped to get through the problem with the relationship intact.
Talk about your mechanic: Service centers appreciate word-of-mouth. If a service center and technician do a good job, tell people, and tell them to say you sent them when they go to the service center. But an even better way to give your mechanic a thumbs-up? Write an online review…and give your mechanic a good rating. Other people looking for a good service center will appreciate the recommendation – and so will your mechanic.