Eight steps to take when you need emergency car care
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints lodged against the repair shop you are considering.
- Ask about certification and experience. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certifies mechanics in eight different specialties, including electrical systems, steering and suspension, engines, brakes, and heating and air conditioning. A repair facility can advertise the ASE certification if only one mechanic is certified in just one specialty. A master technician is certified in all areas.
- Don’t hand an emergency mechanic a blank check. Ask in advance for a recommendation of service or repair and an estimate. Ask the mechanic to prioritize the recommended work and to explain what the benefit of the work would be. It’s possible that some of the work can be delayed.
- Keep your owner’s manual with your car. In an emergency situation, let the manual be your service bible. If the manual doesn’t say you need it, don’t authorize it. If it’s not a safety issue, and if it’s routine maintenance, ask if the work can wait until your regular service interval.
- Keep your service and repair bills with your owner’s manual. If your air filter was just replaced last year, you don’t need a new one this year; likewise, if your tires are nearly worn out, don’t authorize a rebalance and rotation.
- If a mechanic tells you a part needs to be replaced, ask the mechanic to show you the part in the car and to explain its condition. Furthermore, while you’re checking the part, mark it in some way (or have the mechanic do it), so you can identify the part later. Finally, inform the mechanic that you will expect the old part to be returned to you.
- Even the best mechanic can make an honest mistake. Be sure that the diagnosis you receive matches up with the symptoms you’ve noticed.
- Ask questions. A reputable mechanic will be eager to answer your questions until you are sure you understand what needs to be done and why.