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Domestic Car Repair: 5 Ways to Make Sure You Don't Get Screwed

Feb 29, 2008
Today's cars are becoming increasingly more complex, meaning that domestic car repair requires advanced expertise now more often than not. Unfortunately, this also means that as the general public is less likely to have the knowledge necessary to fix their own cars, some domestic car repair shops are more likely to take advantage of their customers' ignorance.

As it turns out, not knowing much about domestic car repair can end up costing you quite a bit if your mechanic recommends unnecessary repairs. The Internet abounds with complaints and lawsuits alleging that auto repair shops charged their customers for unnecessary repairs. Here are 5 ways to protect oneself from being a victim in a similar case.

1: Research every domestic car repair shop you are considering. Thorough research is your number one best weapon against devious mechanics. This means checking out a repair shop through ever means available to you: word-of-mouth, the Internet, and resources such as the Better Business Bureau.

Ask around to see if anyone you know has used the repair shops you are considering, and whether their experiences were good or bad. You can also search for each repair shop's name on the Internet, as there are many forums online where people can post complaints, or praise, about their mechanics. Resources such as the Better Business Bureau can be found online and offline, and offer a way to check a business's standing and whether there are any unresolved complaints against them.

2: Ask for recommendations. This isn't quite the same as independently researching domestic car repair shops. If you don't even know where to start, or you would rather go to a shop with which someone you know has had personal experience, you can ask around for recommendations. Rank recommendation according to how long your friend has been taking their car there for example, if they have been using the same mechanic for fifteen years, their recommendation means more than someone's who has just used that mechanic once.

3: Ask lots of questions. It's perfectly fine to ask lots of questions before making a final decision to take your car there. For instance, you might want to ask about their prices, their guarantees or warrantees, how much experience their mechanics have, whether they have won any awards, and how they handle customer complaints.

Another thing to ask about is the repair work you need done. Asking many thorough, intelligent questions about the repairs that will need to be done, and any related systems, indicates that you are interested in knowing more about your car. It also indicates that you are not an easy person to take advantage of. Finally, a repair shop that is unwilling to answer your questions should indicate that you are better off taking your car elsewhere.

4: Show an interest in your car. When you take your car in for repairs, it is best not to leave it alone while you go to work or shop. Waiting for your car makes it harder for the repair shop to get away with unnecessary repairs. The shop needs to ask for approval before performing any work other than what you originally requested, and if you are right there waiting it will be easier to request a detailed explanation of the repair and why your car needs it.

On the other hand, in cases where the repair shop calls to request permission, the customer usually requests less information before approving the repair and repair shops know this. Leaving is a sign that you are too busy to care about keeping tabs on your car's repairs.

5: Request to see the problem. You often have a legal right to see the damaged part. This ensures two things: One, that the repair shop actually did replace the part, and didn't just clean the original part up and charge you for a replacement they never installed, and two, that the part did in fact need to be replaced.

When asking to see a damaged part, always request that they show you the problem, that is, why the part needed to be replaced in the first place. Also ask to see the new part if they have it on hand, on the grounds that you would like to see the difference or see what an undamaged part looks like. If you are waiting for your car when they ask your permission, ask to see the problem before approving the repair work.

The reason why domestic car repair shops get away with making unnecessary repairs is usually because the customer is too lazy to verify the need for the repair. You may have heard that a thief or rapist is more likely to choose a victim whose body language indicates that she is an easy target. The same goes with domestic car repair. The more interest and intelligence you show when dealing with an auto repair shop, the less likely a dishonest mechanic is to try to push unnecessary repairs on you. Your best method of protecting yourself is therefore to be as informed, and as involved, as possible.
About the Author
Andy West is a freelance writer for DAE, which offers valuable domestic car repair and domestic automotive maintenance in the Houston area.
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