Getting Repairs Done
Getting the best repairs for your dollar
In recent years, automobiles have become high-tech machines with many on-board computers, electronic ignition, numerous engine and transmission sensors, and much more. They are more reliable and fuel-efficient, and they generate less pollution when compared to vehicles of a decade ago, yet when it comes to service and repairs, some things stay the same.
Whatever type of garage you choose - new car dealership, independent garage, franchise facility or service station - good communication and a garage you can trust are vital. The following tips should help you get the best for your repair dollar.
Always get an estimate (written where possible) for the cost of repairs. Also, find out if there will be a charge for the estimate. If you authorize the repair, make sure the estimate charge is waived. You should also stress that if the final cost of repair is going to exceed the estimated cost by more than 10%, the garage must get your specific authorization.
Return of old parts
Always ask for the return of your old parts. In the case of a dispute, a full inspection of the old parts by an independent mechanic is the easiest way to substantiate your complaint.
For certain parts there is a core charge. This charge is usually levied on parts that can be returned for reconditioning (e.g., alternators, starter motors and clutch parts). Be prepared to pay this core charge. Once the complaint is resolved, you can then usually return the part for a refund of the core charge.
Never sign a blank work order. To the garage, a blank work order is like a blank cheque. Not only should all your personal information (name, address, phone number and the vehicle particulars) be in place, but there should also be a description of the work required.
Whenever practical, you should get a copy of the completed work order. In the event the garage finds additional work, instruct them to prepare an estimate and then get your permission to proceed with the new work, based on the estimate.
If the estimate is substantial, always get a second opinion. Remember that certain repairs require a lot of diagnostic work to arrive at the right conclusion. So, be wary of estimates that simply quote the parts and labour for replacing the entire item.
For example if an engine has a loud knock, chances are it needs replacing. However, if the problem is less obvious, it may be better (and probably cheaper) to repair the specific problem.
Always make sure the garage you deal with uses an industry-accepted labour guide to calculate the amount of labour needed to complete a specific repair. There are many horror stories about garages using their own pre-determined schedule.
Industry-accepted guidelines will help anyone taking a car in for repair, but they are most effectively applied at reputable garages. Now, the hard work begins: Finding a reputable garage.
Finding a garage
Word of mouth is the best way to find a reputable garage. Or, use a garage that has been recommended by an independent organization, like those approved by CAA.
Trial and error is the worst way to find a garage. And, the chances of finding the right garage the first time are slim - not to mention expensive if you go wrong.
For specialized repairs, you are generally better off to seek the services of a specialist, rather than going through a general auto body shop. In most cases, these garages will outsource the major repairs - such as engine and transmission repairs - to a third party. This can confuse matters and makes things worse for you if things go wrong. So, if you think you need a specialist, start off with one.