Unless you have a good working knowledge of how your car works, talking with an auto mechanic is an experience that can sometimes make you feel like you are at the mercy of your technician.

There are a few things you can do, however, to make the interaction go more smoothly and to help you feel empowered every time you visit the auto repair shop.

BE PREPARED TO DESCRIBE THE PROBLEM

No one knows better than you the issues you are having with your vehicle. Be prepared to tell your mechanic as precisely as possible about any noise, leak or other problems you have noticed.

Specific details go a long way in helping your technician identify the issue. In particular, you should be ready to provide information about where the noise is coming from, when your car makes the noise, or the colour of the fluid that is leaking.

The following list of terms will help you better describe some of the problems your car may be having:

  • Brake fade: When you pump your brakes and the car travels more distance than usual before stopping.
  • Bucking: Engine delays when you accelerate or change gears causing the car to jerk.
  • Hesitation: Car takes a pause before moving after you push the accelerator.
  • Shimmy: This side-to-side motion is usually felt in the steering wheel or tires. Be prepared to tell your mechanic whether the shimmying occurs when you reach a certain speed or on a particular road surface.
  • Dieseling: When an engine continues to run and burn fuel after the car has been turned off. An engine that is dieseling will typically sputter when off.
  • Hard steering: Car is difficult to steer especially when turning or parking.

REQUEST AN ITEMIZED ESTIMATE

If your car requires multiple repairs, it is best to ask your mechanic for an itemized estimate that breaks down the cost of parts and labor for each service. You can also request that your mechanic prioritize which repairs need to happen first. With a written estimate in hand you can also compare prices with other mechanics by phone because you have a detailed description of the service you need.

ASK FOR MORE INFORMATION

If you are not sure you understand your mechanic’s explanation of what your car needs, you have a responsibility to ask questions.

A good technician will take the time to make sure you understand what is going on with your car and will likely even physically show you the problem if you ask.

A few smart questions you may want to ask include:

  • How long will the service take?
  • Do you offer any warranties on the work you are performing?
  • What is your policy on used parts?
  • Will you provide a detailed report of the work performed for my maintenance records?

MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE AFTER DROP OFF

Once your mechanic starts working on your vehicle, they may need to reach you to discuss additional repairs or issues they discover. If you do not plan to stay in the waiting room while the repairs are made, leave a good contact number and be sure to keep your phone nearby so you can answer when they call.

Following these tips will go a long way in improving your communication with your auto mechanic and ensuring that your car gets the care and attention it deserves. Also keep in mind that your insurance broker is an invaluable resource and is available to answer your questions and offer advice to help the interaction with your auto repair shop go more smoothly.

Insurance and Risk Management Advisor at Toronto-based Marhen Insurance Brokers, a firm that specializes in providing insurance coverage and risk management advice to business owners, professionals and active families/individuals who have more complex insurance needs.
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