|Recommended Service Intervals:
|Choosing an Auto Repair Shop||Maintenance Tips|
|Finding Honest Repair Shops||Taking the Scare Out of Auto Repair|
|Tips to help you along the way|
Choosing an Auto Repair Shop
No matter what you drive - sports car, family sedan, pick-up, sport utility, mini-van or truck, when you go in for repairs or service, you want the job done right. The following advice should take much of the guesswork out of finding a good repair establishment.
Don't just drop your vehicle off at the nearest establishment and hope for the best. That's not choosing a shop, that's merely gambling.
Read your owner's manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer's suggested service schedule.
Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one; you can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic. Ask friends and associates for their recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word-of-mouth reputation is still valuable.
Check with your local consumer organization regarding the reputation of the shop in question.
If possible, arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a facility solely on the basis of location.
Once you choose a repair shop, start off with a minor job; if you are pleased, trust them with more complicated repairs later
At the Shop:
Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.
Professionally run establishments will have a courteous, helpful staff. The service writer should be willing to answer all of your questions.
Feel free to ask for the names of a few customers. Call them.
All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.
Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize.
Ask if the shop usually does your type of repair, especially if you need major work.
Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area:
Civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards. The backbone of any shop is the competence of the technicians.
Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications - a national standard of technician competence.
Keep good records; keep all paperwork. Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship.
If the service was not all you expected, don't rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.
Finding Honest Repair Shops
Everybody wants to work with a technician they can trust. NAPA, a recognized leader in the automotive repair & service industry since 1925, wants consumers to know that there are some simple measures they can take to find a reputable and highly skilled auto care technician. With 75 years of experience, we know how to make car repair and maintenance easier.
Ten easy steps to find a shop that is right for your needs and budget.
Step 1: Shop around for an auto care facility before you need repairs. More cars are on the road than ever before, and with the average cost of a new vehicle exceeding $20,000, people are driving their cars longer. Basic automobile maintenance is the best way to keep your car running smoothly and avoid costly repairs.
Step 2: Ask the facility for references and follow up with calls to them. Reputable physicians always provide a list of references to prospective new patients, and your "car doctor" should be just as forthcoming. Don't be afraid to ask for references. A few minutes on the phone goes a long way to ensuring you get the quality car repairs you need.
Step 3: Ask family, friends, and co-workers to recommend a reputable shop. Personal recommendations account for 60% of all car buying decisions. This same method should be used to find a quality care center.
Step 4: Ask the Better Business Bureau in your area to check a business' reliability before you have repairs.
Step 5: Don't shop for price alone. It's important to remember that you're not just paying for the cost of the part and the time it takes to install it, but you're also paying for the professionalism and technical expertise of the technician.
Step 6: Insist upon a shop that is backed by a national warranty program such as the NAPA "Peace of Mind" warranty, which warranties both parts and labor for 6 months or 6,000 miles. If you use the NapaCard, the warranty doubles to 12 months or 12,000 miles.
Step 7: Look for signs that the shop has the equipment needed to properly diagnose your car's problems. Nearly all cars built since the early 80's have computer-controlled systems designed to increase engine efficiency, reduce emissions and aid in engine troubleshooting. If a shop doesn't have the proper equipment to diagnose your car, you may be taking a risk by having it repaired there.
Step 8: Seek a repair facility that employs ASE-certified technicians. It is not generally known that automotive technicians must undergo training and testing every five years to maintain their ASE certification. The ASE symbol is prominently displayed by repair facilities that employ these highly skilled auto care professionals.
Step 9: Ask if the repair facility uses brand name parts when repairing your vehicle. Brand name parts are typically engineered to original manufacturer's quality or better and often carry warranties.
Step 10: Choose an auto care center that provides a customer satisfaction policy. Such policies allow you peace of mind, not to mention saving you money. Once you've selected your auto care center, a good rule of thumb is to give your technician time to do a good job for you.
The information above is intended for general informational purposes only. Please consult an automotive professional if you need more specific information.
The following tips should help you along the way:
Today's cars, light trucks, and sport-utility vehicles are high-tech marvels with digital dashboards, oxygen sensors, electronic computers, unibody construction, and more. They run better, longer, and more efficiently than models of years past.
But when it comes to repairs, some things stay the same. Whatever type of repair facility you patronize - dealership, service station, independent garage, specialty shop, or a national franchise - good communications between customer and shop is vital.
Do your homework before taking your vehicle in for repairs or service. Today's technician must understand thousands of pages of technical text. Fortunately, your required reading is much less.
Read the owner's manual to learn about the vehicle's systems and components.
Follow the recommended service schedules.
Keep a log of all repairs and service.
When you think about it, you know your car better than anyone else. You drive it every day and know how it feels and sounds when everything is right. So don't ignore its warning signals. Use all of your senses to inspect your car frequently.
Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings. Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels. Worn tires, belts, hoses. Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations.
Note when the problem occurs.
Is it constant or periodic? When the vehicle is cold or after the engine has warmed up? At all speeds? Only under acceleration? During braking? When shifting? When did the problem first start?
Professionally run repair establishments have always recognized the importance of communications in automotive repairs. Once you are at the repair establishment, communicate your findings. Be prepared to describe the symptoms. (In larger shops you'll probably speak with a service writer/service manager rather than with the technician directly.) Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give to the technician or service manager.
Resist the temptation to suggest a specific course of repair. Just as you would with your physician, tell where it hurts and how long it's been that way, but let the technician diagnose and recommend a remedy.
Stay involved... Ask questions.
Ask as many questions, as you need. Do not be embarrassed to request lay definitions. Don't rush the service writer or technician to make an on-the-spot diagnosis. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins.
Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.
Leave a telephone number where you can be called.
Don't Leave It To Chance!
(Or how to get the most out of your car)
Perhaps the single most important service for your vehicle, Oil changes should be performed every 3-5,000 miles with conventional oils (depending on driving habits) and up to 7,500 miles when using synthetics. Proper oil changes include the replacement of the oil filter and will prevent premature engine wear or damage.
AIR & FUEL FILTERS:
Filters are designed to keep dirt and other particulate matter from entering the engine through the intake or fuel systems. A working filter will eventually become restricted by these materials, and if not serviced regularly will affect engine performance. A clogged filter can also cause premature failure of other related parts and or damage to the engine. Most fuel filters require replacement at 30,000 mile intervals, Air filters at every third or forth oil change (depending on conditions).
Engine coolant protects and lubricates the cooling system components, and removes heat from the engine. The coolant must be maintained at the correct freeze point and ph, if not, damage may occur to the cooling system or any other part coming into contact with it (i.e.:gaskets), Standard coolant typically requires replacement every 3 years or 36,000 miles. Extended service coolants will typically last at least 50,000 miles.
Most manufacturers recommend replacement of transmission fluid and filter (if equipped) every 3 years or 36,000 miles. Transmission fluid, like motor oil will break down with heat and age and loose it's ability to protect the internal parts of the transmission. For most automatic transmissions the fluid also acts as a coolant.
IGNITION SYSTEM (Tune-up)
The ignition system consist of the primary (switching) and secondary (spark firing) ignition systems. The primary side is low voltage and requires little, if any regular maintenance. The secondary side is high voltage, minor differences in resistance, insulation & plug gap will cause problems. Plugs require replacement when tip erosion widens the plug gap or if the insulators become fouled, usually somewhere between 30,000-100,000 miles depending on the type of plug and driving habits. Plug wires can last anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 miles without failing, however their insulation strength and resistance values may be out of spec way before they actually stop conducting the spark to the plug.
Newer cars are advertised with 100,000 mile tune-up intervals and no recommendations for filter and fluid change intervals. Don't be lulled into thinking your vehicle requires no maintenance. The spark plug may last 100,000 miles but a ignition coil or module could fail due to excessive resistance in the secondary ignition system. You may get your car to go 100,000 miles on one fuel filter, or you may end up replacing a $400 fuel pump instead. Your best protection is regular servicing by someone qualified to spot potential problems before they damage the reliability of your vehicle. The local quicky-lube my be able to change your oil, but without a qualified technician they can't offer any real service or even notice if it is needed.
Taking the Scare Out of Auto Repair
Presented by the Federal Trade Commission, the National Association of Attorneys General and the American Automobile Association
The best way to avoid auto repair rip-offs is to be prepared. Knowing how your vehicle works and how to identify common car problems is a good beginning. It's also important to know how to select a good technician, the kinds of questions to ask, and your consumer rights.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the American Automobile Association (AAA), and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), this kind of information about your automobile may help you keep a lid on mechanical mistakes.
HEADING OFF PROBLEMS INDEX:
|How to Choose a Repair Shop||Service Contracts|
|How to Choose a Technician||Looks Like Trouble|
|Repair Charges: Unlocking the Mystery||Smells Like Trouble|
|Preventive Maintenance||Sounds Like Trouble|
|Warranties||Feels Like Trouble|
How to Choose a Repair Shop
What should I look for when choosing a repair shop?
Ask for recommendations from friends, family, and other people you trust. Look for an auto repair shop before you need one to avoid being rushed into a last-minute decision. Shop around by telephone for the best people to speak with, and compare warranty policies on repairs.
Ask to see current licenses if state or local law requires repair shops to be licensed or registered. Also, your state Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency may know whether there's a record of complaints about a particular repair shop.
Make sure the shop will honor your vehicle's extended warranty. Check to see which organizations the shop supports or belongs to such as AAA (American Automobile Association) or ASA (Automotive Service Association).
How to Choose a Technician
Is one technician better than another?
Look for shops that display various certifications - like an Automotive Service Excellence seal. Certification indicates that some or all of the technicians meet basic standards of knowledge and competence in specific technical areas. Make sure the certifications are current, but remember that certification alone is no guarantee of good or honest work. Ask if the technician or shop has experience working on the same make or model vehicle as yours.
Repair Charges: Unlocking the Mystery
Before you arrange to have any work performed, ask how the shop prices its work. Some shops charge a flat rate for labor on auto repairs. This published rate is based on an independent or manufacturer's estimate of the time required to complete repairs. Others charge on the basis of the actual time the technician worked on the repair.
If you need expensive or complicated repairs, or if you have questions about recommended work, consider getting a second opinion. Find out if there will be a diagnostic charge if you decide to have the work performed elsewhere. Many repair shops charge for diagnostic time.
Shops that do only diagnostic work and do not sell parts or repairs may be able to give you an objective opinion about which repairs are necessary.
If you decide to get the work done, ask for a written estimate. What should a written estimate include? It should identify the condition to be repaired, the parts needed, and the anticipated labor charge. Make sure you get a signed copy. It should state that the shop will contact you for approval before they do any work exceeding a specified amount of time or money. State law may require this.
What should I know about the parts to be repaired or replaced?
Parts are classified as:
New - These parts generally are made to original manufacturer's specifications, either by the vehicle manufacturer or an independent company. Your state may require repair shops to tell you if non-original equipment will be used in the repair. Prices and quality of these parts vary.
Remanufactured - When considering a choice of the three types of parts, keep in mind that remanufactured parts are more similar to a new part, and in some cases have been redesigned to exceed the performance of original equipment. This is accomplished by the remanufacturer experiencing pattern failures and redesigning the original product to solve the problem the original equipment prematurely failed from. Remanufactured parts customarily have much better warranties backing them.
Rebuilt and reconditioned - parts only have the components that have failed replaced to restored to a working condition. Many manufacturers offer a warranty covering replacement parts, but not the labor to install them. Many of these types of parts have a shorter, less comprehensive warranty that accompanies them.
Salvage - These are used parts taken from another vehicle without alteration. Salvage parts may be the only source for certain items, though their reliability, and performance is rarely guaranteed if at all.
What do I need after the work is done?
Get a completed repair order describing the work done. It should list each repair, parts supplied, the cost of each part, labor charges, and the vehicle's odometer reading when you brought the vehicle in as well as when the repair order was completed. Ask for all replaced parts. State law may require this.
What are the consequences of postponing maintenance?
Many parts on your vehicle are interrelated. Ignoring maintenance can lead to trouble: specific parts - or an entire system - can fail. Neglecting even simple routine maintenance, such as changing the oil or checking the coolant, can lead to poor fuel economy, unreliability, or costly breakdowns. It also may invalidate your warranty.
What maintenance guidelines should I follow to avoid costly repairs?
Follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule in your owner's manual for your type of driving. Some repair shops create their own maintenance schedules, which call for more frequent servicing than the manufacturer's recommendations. Compare shop maintenance schedules with those recommended in your owner's manual. Ask the repair shop to explain - and make sure you understand - why it recommends service beyond the recommended schedule.
What warranties and service contracts apply to vehicle repairs?
There is no "standard warranty" on repairs. Make sure you understand what is covered under your warranty and get it in writing. Be aware that warranties may be subject to limitations, including time, mileage, deductibles, businesses authorized to perform warranty work or special procedures required to obtain reimbursement.
Check with the Federal Trade Commission or your state or local consumer protection agency for information about your warranty rights.
Many vehicle dealers and others sell optional contracts - service contracts -issued by vehicle manufacturers or independent companies. Not all service contracts are the same; prices vary and usually are negotiable. To help decide whether to purchase a service contract, consider:
The repairs to be covered.
Whether coverage overlaps coverage provided by any other warranty.
Where the repairs are to be performed.
Procedures required to file a claim, such as prior authorization for specific repairs or meeting required vehicle maintenance schedules.
Whether repair costs are paid directly by the company to the repair shop or whether you will have to pay first and get reimbursed.
The reputation of the service contract company. Check it out with your state Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency.
How do I resolve a dispute regarding billing, quality of repairs or warranties?
Document all transactions as well as your experiences with dates, times, expenses, and the names of people you dealt with. Talk to the shop manager or owner first. If that doesn't work, contact your Attorney General or local consumer protection agency for help. These offices may have information on alternative dispute resolution programs in your community. Another option is to file a claim in small claims court. You don't need an attorney to do this.
HEADING OFF PROBLEMS
The more you know about your vehicle, the more likely you'll be able to head off repair problems.You can detect many common vehicle problems by using your senses: eyeballing the area around your vehicle, listening for strange noises, sensing a difference in the way your vehicle handles, or even noticing unusual odors.
Looks Like Trouble
Small stains or an occasional drop of fluid under your vehicle may not mean much. But wet spots deserve attention; check puddles immediately. You can identify fluids by their color and consistency:
Yellowish green, pastel blue or florescent orange colors indicate an overheated engine or an antifreeze leak caused by a bad hose, water pump or leaking radiator.
A dark brown or black oily fluid means the engine is leaking oil. A bad seal or gasket could cause the leak.
A red oily spot indicates a transmission or power-steering fluid leak.
A puddle of clear water usually is no problem. It may be normal condensation from your vehicle's air conditioner.
Smells Like Trouble
Some problems are under your nose. You can detect them by their odor:
The smell of burned toast - a light, sharp odor - often signals an electrical short and burning insulation. To be safe, try not to drive the vehicle until the problem is diagnosed.
The smell of rotten eggs - a continuous burning-sulfur smell - usually indicates a problem in the catalytic converter or other emission control devices. Don't delay diagnosis and repair.
A thick acrid odor usually means burning oil. Look for sign of a leak.
The smell of gasoline vapors after a failed start may mean you have flooded the engine. Wait a few minutes before trying again. If the odor persists, chances are there's a leak in the fuel system - a potentially dangerous problem that needs immediate attention.
Burning resin or an acrid chemical odor may signal overheated brakes or clutch. Check the parking brake. Stop. Allow the brakes to cool after repeated hard braking on mountain roads. Light smoke coming from a wheel indicates a stuck brake. The vehicle should be towed for repair.
A sweet, steamy odor indicates a coolant leak. If the temperature gauge or warning light does not indicate overheating, drive carefully to the nearest service station, keeping an eye on your gauges. If the odor is accompanied by a hot, metallic scent and steam from under the hood, your engine has overheated. Pull over immediately. Continued driving could cause severe engine damage. The vehicle should be towed for repair.
Sounds Like Trouble
Squeaks, squeals, rattles, rumbles, and other sounds provide valuable clues about problems and maintenance needs. Here are some common noises and what they mean:
Squeal - A shrill, sharp noise, usually related to engine speed: Loose or worn power steering, fan or air conditioning belt.
Click - A slight sharp noise, related to either engine speed or vehicle speed: Loose wheel cover. Loose or bent fan blade. Stuck valve lifter or low engine oil.
Screech - A high-pitched, piercing metallic sound; usually occurs while the vehicle is in motion: Caused by brake wear indicators to let you know it's time for maintenance.
Rumble - a low-pitched rhythmic sound. Defective exhaust pipe, converter or muffler. Worn universal joint or other drive-line component.
Ping - A high-pitched metallic tapping sound, related to engine speed: Usually caused by using gas with a lower octane rating than recommended. Check your owner's manual for the proper octane rating. If the problem persists, engine ignition timing could be at fault.
Heavy Knock - A rhythmic pounding sound: Worn crankshaft or connecting rod bearings. Loose transmission torque converter.
Clunk - A random thumping sound: Loose shock absorber or other suspension component. Loose exhaust pipe or muffler.
Feels Like Trouble
Difficult handling, a rough ride, vibration and poor performance are symptoms you can feel. They almost always indicate a problem.
Misaligned front wheels and/or worn steering components, such as the idler or ball joint, can cause wandering or difficulty steering in a straight line. Pulling - the vehicle's tendency to steer to the left or right - can be caused by something as routine as under-inflated tires, or as serious as a damaged or misaligned front end.
Ride and Handling
Worn shock absorbers or other suspension components - or improper tire inflation - can contribute to poor cornering. While there is no hard and fast rule about when to replace shock absorbers or struts, try this test: bounce the vehicle up and down hard at each wheel and then let go. See how many times the vehicle bounces. Weak shocks will allow the vehicle to bounce twice or more. Springs do not normally wear out and do not need replacement unless one corner of the vehicle is lower than the others. Overloading your vehicle can damage the springs. Balance tires properly. An unbalanced or improperly balanced tire causes a vehicle to vibrate and may wear steering and suspension components prematurely.
Brake problems have several symptoms. Schedule diagnosis and repair if: The vehicle pulls to one side when the brakes are applied. The brake pedal sinks to the floor when pressure is maintained. You hear or feel scraping or grinding during braking. The "brake" light on the instrument panel is lit.
The following symptoms indicate engine trouble. Get a diagnosis and schedule the repair. Difficulty starting the engine. The "check engine" light on the instrument panel is lit. Rough idling or stalling. Poor acceleration. Poor fuel economy. Excessive oil use (more than one quart between changes). Engine continues running after the key is removed.
Poor transmission performance may come from actual component failure or a simple disconnected hose or plugged filter. Make sure the technician checks the simple items first; transmission repairs normally are expensive. Some of the most common symptoms of transmission problems are: Abrupt or hard shifts between gears. Delayed or no response when shifting from neutral to drive or reverse. Failure to shift during normal acceleration. Slippage during acceleration. The engine speeds up, but the vehicle does not respond.
Car trouble doesn't always mean major repairs. Here are some common causes of trouble and techniques to help you and your technician find and fix problems:
Alternator - Loose wiring can make your alternator appear defective. Your technician should check for loose connections and perform an output test before replacing the alternator.
Battery - Corroded or loose battery terminals can make the battery appear dead or defective. Your technician should clean the terminals and test battery function before replacing the battery.
Starter - What appears to be a defective starter actually may be a dead battery or poor connection. Ask your technician to check all connections and test the battery before repairing the starter.
Muffler - a loud rumbling noise under your vehicle indicates a need for a new muffler or exhaust pipe.
Tune-up - The old-fashioned "tune-up" may not be relevant to your vehicle. Fewer parts, other than belts, spark plugs, hoses and filters, need to be replaced on newer vehicles. Follow the recommendations in your owner's manual.
At A.M. Enterprises, we believe that the more efficiently we run our shop, the better service we can provide to you, our customer.