When your car needs repairs, you don't need a crash course in auto mechanics, but you should know how to find a reliable shop and mechanic. If you have a problem with your car while it is still under warranty, follow the manufacturer's instructions which may require that repairs be made at an authorized dealership.
If you are looking for a qualified independent shop, ask friends for recommendations. Check with the B B B about the shop's reliability. Look for shops that display certification. For major work, such as brake, transmission or engine repairs, you need to find a shop employing a specialist.
According to BBB of Automotive Repair, with complex auto designs and the use of computers in diagnosis, make sure the repair facility has the equipment to detect problems and repair them. If you are in doubt about what the problem is, let the shop diagnose the problem. You may cost yourself money by requesting specific repairs that may not solve the problem. Be as specific and accurate as possible in describing the problem. Consider writing a list of the symptoms that you can leave at the shop. Ask as many questions as you need. Do not be embarrassed to request lay definitions. Don't rush the service writer or technician to make an on-the-spot diagnosis. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins.
Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. If you want the old parts back, you must ask for them before any work is started. The shop is required by law to return the parts to you only if you have requested them before the work is done. Ensure notification about additional costs, by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached. Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.
When you pick up your car, get an explanation of all work completed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you, if possible. Your repair bill should be itemized so if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.
If you should have any problems, file a complaint through your BBB, or contact The BBB of Auto Repair at 8 0 0 - 9 5 2 - 5 2 1 0, or reach them on their website atw w w. s m o g c h e c k. c a. g o v . Updated 07/19/05