When your car is experiencing mechanical mayhem, there’s nothing worse than wondering whether the mechanic’s shop actually performed the car repairs it said it did. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help make sure that your ride gets the TLC it needs when you go in for service.
If you’re worried about getting charged for parts that were never installed, and labor that was never performed, asking for your old parts back should offer some peace of mind. Simply tell the shop to put the part they replaced in the box that the new part came in. That way, you’ll be able to see that the correct replacement part was ordered and installed.
In some cases, you might want to go a step further than just having the shop replace the parts, especially if it’s difficult to tell if the old component is actually broken or worn. Squealing brakes, for example, don’t necessarily mean that your brake pads need to be replaced; sometimes worn rotors or springs can be the culprit. So, you may want to ask to see the brake pads for yourself — while they’re still on your car — to make sure they’re actually worn before you get them replaced. It can also be difficult to notice wear on some components, such as front-end steering and suspension parts, so ask your mechanic to show you why they need replaced.
Making sure scheduled maintenance is done may be as simple as using a marker or chalk. Marking your old oil or air filter with a permanent marker will make it easy to see if it was replaced. You can also mark each of your tires with a piece of chalk, so that you can easily tell if the shop performed that tire rotation you asked for.
Shops that offer speedy routine maintenance can be a lot more convenient than heading to the dealership, but if they start recommending additional services, it might be wise to watch what they’re doing to your car, instead of reading that outdated magazine in the waiting room. Watch to see if the dirty air filter they show you actually came out of your car (see the marker tip above), and be aware of when your owner’s manual calls for scheduled maintenance so that you don’t end up having extra work performed before it’s necessary.
Your car won’t be going anywhere if it has a dead battery, and if a technician tells you that it’s time for a replacement, poke your head under the hood after the service was performed. Look specifically at the battery terminals to make sure that they’re clean. If you see rust or corrosion on the battery’s metal posts, there’s a good chance that you got charged for a battery that was never installed.
If you’ve just handed over some hard-earned cash for a wheel alignment, you should hit the highway as soon as possible to check that your car is driving like it should. If your car pulls to one side, or if the steering wheel shakes in your hands at highway speeds, you may want to head back to the shop so they can correct the issue.
If high repair costs seem unreasonable, you can always go to another shop to get a second estimate before the work is performed. Check out reviews of competing mechanics online, and call different shops to see what the repair will cost. That way, you’ll be sure that the repairs your car needs are being performed at a fair price, as well.
When it comes to mechanical repairs, it’s also important to make sure that the people working on your car are qualified. One way to help ensure this is to check whether the repair shop employs mechanics certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). You can find more information about this on the ASE website.