Finding a good mechanic is as difficult as finding a good doctor, and in both cases, it can be a relationship that could last for many years. It’s an important choice, and there are a number of ways to locate an honest mechanic and a few tips and tricks that will help you avoid poor ones.
The first tip, particularly if you have just moved to a new place or need a new mechanic, is to do your homework ahead of time. Don’t wait until your car won’t start on the Friday of a three-day weekend to begin looking for a place to fix it.
A great way to find an honest shop is to ask friends, families and co-workers, or even friends on social networks where they take their cars and how happy they are with the service. Even better is to ask cabbies, couriers, limo drivers or other professional drivers where they take their vehicles for repair.
The names of expensive shops and poor mechanics travel quickly through that grapevine, as do the names of good garages. If you go to a shop recommended by several drivers and find a parking lot full of cars that people rely on to make their living, that’s great indicator of a trustworthy business. Anyone can open a repair shop; garages have to EARN word of mouth.
When you are choosing a garage, go there in person. Is it clean? It’s not going to be as spic-and-span as a doctor’s office, but there should be an organized office area and a customer’s lounge that is not grubby or filled with broken furniture. Professional certifications should be on display and the shop area should be tidy and well-equipped.
Talk to the owner or service manager – they should be available, professional and knowledgeable about your vehicle and be open about their guarantees, estimates and whether they will return used parts to you at the end of the job. If you insure multiple vehicles, now would be the time to ask if there is a fleet discount on regular maintenance.
You can also do a quick honesty test. Just before driving onto the lot loosen a battery terminal wire or unscrew your gas cap slightly. The battery wire will cause intermittent starting problems and the loose gas cap will turn on the ‘Check Engine’ light. Any mechanic will spot the problem in seconds and good ones will fix it at no charge. If they start talking about major repairs, you cannot get out of there quickly enough.
And good or bad, make sure to tell your friends – word of mouth works both ways.