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Do Your Research before Driving into an Auto Repair Scam

9/1/2011

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What do you do when your windshield wipers stop working, your left taillight burns out, and your brakes give out? Some may opt to fix the problem themselves, but many turn to the services and handiwork of auto repairmen. While most auto repairmen are honest and forthcoming, consumers need to be on the lookout for those that are trying to make a quick buck. Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to do their research before turning their car over to an auto repair service.

When your vehicle needs repairs, you don't need a crash course in auto mechanics, but you should know how to find a reliable shop and mechanic. It’s important for consumers to be on the lookout for scams like overcharging on repairs, charging for labor that was never performed, and performing shoddy work. In 2010, BBB received a whopping 12,682 complaints against auto repair mechanics. In this year alone, BBB has already received nearly 11,000 complaints.

“Many times consumers realize that they have been scammed, but they don’t have any way of proving it,” said Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “It’s extremely important to get all estimates for parts and labor in writing first before authorizing anything.”

BBB recommends the following tips to consider before turning over your car to an auto repair service:

Get a least three referrals. If you are looking for a qualified mechanic, ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations. Be sure to check the business with www.bbb.org to see if there have been any complaints filed against the business. Look for shops that display certification. For major work, such as brakes, transmission or engine repair, you need to find a shop employing a specialist.

Ask as many questions as you need. Don't be embarrassed to request technical definitions. Don't rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action, and cost of work before any work begins.

Get everything in writing. Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached and before you leave, be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.

Do a walk through with your mechanic. When you pick up your vehicle, 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. Your repair bill should be itemized so if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org/us/bbb-news

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