A mechanic shares his tips for finding an affordable, trustworthy mechanic

Insider Report: Finding An Honest Auto Mechanic

by Art Gale

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Looking for a good mechanic? As a mechanic myself, I have a few tips:

  1. The job is dirty, a greasy mechanic is not necessarily a bad thing.. A greasy waiting area on the other hand does not bode well.
  2. No mechanic these days can work without service information. Ask to see their manuals. Computerised manual system they are proud to show you (with a dirty keyboard of course) is good sign!
  3. No mechanic can work without tools. Do they have a good assortment and are they in good shape? Hard for the layman to tell, but if the fancy tools are covered in dust and dirty coveralls, this is not a good sign. Every inch of shop space is clean and all tools you see look like they can be used in an instant are good signs.
  4. Are the mechanics happy? There's nothing better than a happy worker and nothing worse than a malcontent looking to sabotage a business.
  5. Don't underestimate dealer training. If the diagnosis is uncertain at the corner garage, and the estimate is scary, try the dealer. They know the car inside out.
  6. How are you treated? Do the staff seem genuinely interested in serving you? This one is tricky because the counter person doesn't do the fixing, but a poor hire on the counter is one sign of poor management.

The part about getting a written estimate is valid, but just as doctors must sometimes do exploratory surgery, mechanics must go step by step. The possibilities are endless and a reasonable response to some queries on price are "We can't be certain on the total cost but here are the steps we will take and this is how much each step will take. We will call for authorization over x amount..and we expect, but can not promise that the bill will be under x amount."

Not an auto club member? Compare roadside assistance plans.

As well, decisions must be made and the mechanic, while the technical expert, is not you the customer.. One example is a flat tire.

How much will it cost to fix the flat?

  • $7 if it is a simple puncture that can be plugged
  • $10 if the tire is removed from the rim and patched
  • $18 if the leak is irrepairable and a tube has to be installed
  • $100 if the tire is structurally damaged and has to be replaced
  • $200 if the best solution is replacing the pair and using the inflated old tire as spare.

Something as simple as a flat and an "accurate" estimate is impossible. As a customer, I want choices. Educate me in simple terms, so I can make an informed decision about how to best fill my needs and wants in either the short or long term and I am a happy camper.

Art Gale is a professional mechanic with a shop on Little Cayman island.

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