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Six things you need to know before your next car repair.

Guest Contributor June 02, 2017
Mechanic looking under a car hood.
There’s no disputing that in the last several years, automobiles have become much more technologically advanced than most of us would have ever thought possible. High-tech media systems, on-board computers, electronic ignitions and countless sensors are included in even the base models of many modern vehicles. Cars today are more reliable, fuel-efficient and eco-friendly than they were a decade ago, but when it comes to service and car repairs, some things never change.

Wherever you decide to take your vehicle – dealership, independent garage, franchise facility or service station – ensure the business is reputable and make sure to communicate your issues and needs clearly. The following tips will help you get the most of your repair dollar.

1. Get the estimate in writing.

When your mechanic provides an estimate, make sure to get it on paper. In order to ensure your actual repair costs don’t far exceed your quote, tell them that if the final cost of repair is going to exceed the estimate by more than 10%, they must get your specific authorization to continue. Additionally, if you authorize the repair, confirm that the estimated charge will be waived from the final bill. 

2. Return of old parts.

In the case that one of your vehicle’s parts fail and you require a complete replacement, always ask for the return of the old part. In the case of a dispute, (e.g. if you think your mechanic did extra and unnecessary work) a full inspection of the old parts by an independent mechanic is the easiest way to substantiate your complaint. When keeping one of your old parts, you should be aware that you’ll have to pay a “core charge.” This is because a lot of parts such as brake calipers, engines and distributors have valuable internals that can be re-used, encouraging you to recycle much like a bottle deposit. Once your complaint is resolved, you can usually return the part for a refund of the core charge.

3. Make sure work orders are complete.

Above all else, never sign a blank work order. Many garages will consider this a blank cheque of sorts, allowing them to charge you for any work they themselves deem appropriate. Your work order should have all of your personal information (name, address, phone number and the vehicle details) in place, but there should also be a description of the work required. Whenever practical, request a copy of the completed work order. In the event the garage finds additional work that needs to be done, ask them to prepare another estimate and receive your permission before proceeding with the new work.

4. Get a second opinion.

If the estimate exceeds what you were either willing to, or expected to pay, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion. Keep in mind that certain repairs require substantial diagnostic work to find out the heart of your car’s issue, so look out for estimates that just quote the parts and labour for replacing the item entirely. But if the problem is less obvious, it may be better (and likely more cost effective) to repair the specific problem.

5. Check the labour rate.

Be sure to find out if the garage you deal with uses an industry-accepted labour guide to determine the amount of work needed to complete your repair. Industry-accepted guidelines exist to help vehicle owners who need to take their cars in for repair, but they are most effectively applied at reputable garages. And therein lies the challenge: finding a reputable garage.

6. Find the right garage.

Like any recommendation, word-of-mouth from a trustworthy source is the best way to find a good garage and mechanic. If you don’t know anyone with a good recommendation, use a garage that has been suggested by an independent organization like CAA. If you think you can just pop into different service centres for trial-and-error, think again – the chances of finding the right garage the first time are slim, and not to mention expensive if things go wrong. For specialized repairs, you’re generally better off to go through a specialist instead of a general auto body shop. Most of the time, these garages will outsource your major repairs – such as engine and transmission – to a third party anyway. So if you think you require a specialist, it’s easiest to just start off with one.

Looking for a garage? We can help with our CAA-Approved Auto Repair Facilities. CAA Certified dealers and facilities meet stringent requirements to deliver top-notch service for your vehicle for all your automotive needs. So get service you can trust today.

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