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.
At first blush, Ontario’s no-fault auto insurance system doesn’t live up to its name. The idea is not that no one is at-fault when you are involved in an accident, as the name suggests.
Rather, the system is designed so you deal directly with your insurance company for compensation—not the at-fault driver—when you are injured or your car is damaged.
The same concept applies to passengers in your car at the time of an accident. If they are injured, they seek compensation through their auto insurance policy, not yours. An exception to this rule is when your passengers do not have coverage. In that case, your insurance company may compensate them for their injuries.
Likewise, the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident files a claim with his or her insurance company.
HOW DO NO-FAULT INSURANCE CLAIMS WORK?
Once you file a claim with your insurer, Ontario law requires them to assign a percentage of fault to each driver involved using the Fault Determination Rules. These rules were drafted in 1990 as regulations under the Insurance Act to help auto insurance companies process claims more quickly and cost-effectively. They are completely separate from any traffic charges the police might file against you under the Highway Traffic Act.
Based on these rules, your insurer may find that you are partially, fully, or not at-fault.
HOW EXACTLY IS FAULT DETERMINED?
Let’s say you are driving in icy conditions and are unable to stop your car in time. As a result, you hit the back of another vehicle. The police takes into account the weather condition and let you go without filing charges. To cover damages to your vehicle, you file a claim with your auto insurance and they apply the Fault Determination Rules, which state that a driver that rear-ends another car is automatically at-fault no matter what the road conditions may be (or whether they were charged by police).
The deductible you pay will be determined by the percentage of fault your insurance company assigns to you, and your premiums may increase on your next policy renewal if you are found to be partly or fully at-fault.
WHAT IF I DISAGREE WITH MY INSURER’S FAULT DETERMINATION?
If you disagree with the percentage of fault assigned to you, you may file a consumer complaint with your insurance company’s Ombudsman Liaison Officer. If the complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction, you can contact the Ontario Insurance Ombudsman or take the matter to court.
WHO IS AT-FAULT IS NOT ALWAYS SELF-EVIDENT
For example, you could be stopped behind another vehicle at a red light. The driver in front of you realizes he is interfering with the pedestrian crossing, backs up his vehicle a couple of feet ….. and forgets to switch gears back to ‘drive’. So, when the light turns green, he backs into your vehicle.
Unfortunately, the person may try to shift the blame and reports that YOU rear-ended his vehicle. In cases like this, it is crucial to gather as much information as possible at the scene of the accident, including videos, photos and witnesses.
The side of the road is no place to be stuck during winter’s frigid temperatures. To keep your car humming right along, it is best to schedule a winter tune-up with an auto mechanic you trust.
The checklist below outlines the key areas your mechanic should inspect to detect any problems that might leave you out in the cold.
Slick, icy roads are even more dangerous when your brakes are uneven. Your mechanic should check them to make sure they are equalised and not pulling to one side.
Your cooling system should be flushed every few years with an effective chemical cleaner and filled with new anti-freeze. At this time, your mechanic should also check the system’s belts, hoses, containers, pressure caps and thermostat.
Your car battery is not a fan of cold weather. If you’ve had the same battery for a few winters, have it checked and ensure the connections are tight, clean and corrosion-free.
Having your mechanic perform a pre-winter diagnostic check on your engine is a smart investment that will help ensure your car starts when you want it to. Before winter is also the perfect time to get a tune-up if your maintenance schedule calls for one. Either of these services will detect faulty spark plugs, pressure leaks, wiring issues, or other engine concerns that could be problematic down the road.
Carbon monoxide leaks are even more troublesome in the winter when you keep your car windows closed. Have your mechanic check your muffler and tail pipes for issues.
Heaters, Defrosters and Wipers
A clear view of traffic is essential when the weather is bad. Have your mechanic inspect your wipers, windshield, defrosters and heaters for proper functioning. This is also the perfect time to buy winter wiper blades and cold-weather washer fluid.
Oil and filters
Dirty oil and filters are no way to start the winter season. Get an oil change and replace any worn filters including oil, air, fuel and transmission.
Improve your car’s traction in the snow by installing winter tires on all four wheels. Also remember to check your tire pressure regularly throughout the winter. Whenever the temperature decreases by 5⁰ C, your tire pressure will go down one pound.
WINTERIZE YOUR TRUNK
Be prepared for tricky weather conditions by traveling with the following equipment:
Battery jumper cables
Snow brush and windshield scraper
Wire traction mat or bag of sand
Inflated spare tire
Wheel wrench and jack
Flashlight and flares
Insulated winter boots
Hat and warm clothes
Large box of facial tissues
First aid kit
Small heating cans
BE ON THE DEFENSE
Winter calls for defensive driving. Take extra caution in the following ways:
Remove snow and ice from your car before driving
Give yourself more time to travel
Be ready to respond to icy roads
Look out for unsafe drivers
Allow more space between your car and others
When the temperature drops to -20⁰C (-4⁰F), use a block heater to keep your engine oil and coolant warm. This helps your car start easily and can improve your fuel economy by 10 percent. A timer will help you switch on the block heater two hours before you expect to drive.
When driving a vehicle, road safety is your first responsibility! It is important to focus on driving and reduce driver distractions.
DRIVER DISTRACTION IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF COLLISIONS
Using either a hand-held or hands-free cell phone while driving makes it four times more likely that you will be involved in a collision. In fact, using a cell phone affects what a driver sees, reduces reaction time and changes the way drivers react—especially in heavy traffic.
Driving for work and using a phone? Motor vehicle collisions are the greatest single cause of traumatic workplace deaths in Ontario.
Remember, smart drivers just drive! In three seconds, driving sixty kilometres per hour, you travel fifty metres—that’s the distance across half a football field. A momentary distraction can result in death or serious injury.
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME TIPS TO HELP REDUCE DRIVER DISTRACTION:
Plan for safe locations to stop (for example, rest stops or commuter lots) to make and receive calls.
Before you start driving turn off your cellular phone.
Allow calls to go to voice mail or allow a passenger to make and receive calls.
Consider recording an outgoing voice message that lets callers know you are on the road
Having a cellular phone in your vehicle can be an important safety aid for drivers and passengers—whether for personal safety or for reporting a crime or a collision. If you must use your cell phone in an emergency—a situation that could result in a danger to your safety or the safety of others if it is not corrected without delay—consider the following tips:
Pull over safely if conditions allow.
Keep emergency calls as brief as possible.
Alert the caller that you are on the road.
End conversations immediately if driving conditions or situations become hazardous (for example, inclement weather, roadway construction, high-speed or high-volume traffic).
Remember, focus on the task of driving, with your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Reduce the distractions that may cause you to overreact or respond too slowly to a situation.
MANY CANADIANS ARE HEADING SOUTH TO BUY THEIR NEXT VEHICLE. A STRONG CANADIAN DOLLAR AND LOWER US PRICES MAKE SUCH PURCHASES A TEMPTING PROPOSITION.
Cross-border car buyers often overlook the process to get proper insurance. Many assume it is no different then if they had purchased the vehicle in Ontario.
Unfortunately this is not the case.
To insure a vehicle in Ontario, it must first be registered with the Ministry of Transportation. When you buy a vehicle within the Province, this is usually already done. When you purchase a vehicle in the US, the process is more involved.
Unless you are a professional, you cannot register a vehicle in Ontario until it has been delivered, certified and updated to meet Ontario Standards. This process often involves moving the vehicle between a variety of places. This cannot happen without the vehicle being insured. But remember, without registration, you can’t get insurance.
Even though your automobile policy provides automatic coverage for any newly acquired vehicle for up to 14 days, some terms, conditions and coverage limitations could leave you vulnerable to a loss.
Given all that needs to be done to get a U.S. vehicle on the road in Ontario, 14 days is likely not enough time. Since there is no standard policy extending coverage beyond the 14-day allowance – all carriers deal with this issue differently – this provision should not be used if it can be avoided.
Your best option is to contact us before making a U.S. vehicle purchase. In most cases, we will make sure you are adequately covered before taking delivery of the vehicle. As insurance experts, we’ll take the time to explain your options and ensure the appropriate amendments are made to your policy.