How Do I Find A Good Repair Facility?

First, ask your friends and neighbors who they use. Call the BBB and ask them to provide you with a list of members in good standing near your work or near your home. Drive by the shops. Ask yourself, is the shop clean? Does the shop look busy? Are there cars all over the parking lot with cob webs hanging off the underside? Do you see lots of equipment? Are there cars just like yours in their parking lot or in the bays?

Are the technicians clean? Are they ASE certified? Does the way they look and talk show pride? How did they greet you? Did they listen to your complaint? Did they ask you questions about the problem? Was their estimate clear and understandable? Did they go on a shopping spree and give you a mile long list of what would fall off your car in the next 24 hours when all you wanted was an oil change?

Was the price for the repair more than the advertised special? Did you feel any pressure to make a decision? Was the final invoice amount a surprise to you? Did they keep you informed of your cars progress? Was it ready when promised? Did they address each one of your concerns? Can you honestly say they had your best interests at heart? Did they offer you other options? Did they use any scare tactics?

There are five types of repair facilities you're likely to deal with. There are benefits to dealing with all of them.

  1. The corner service station with repair bays. Normally run by one person, typically the same person has owned and operated the service station for years. They are generally open longer hours. They usually can provide quick repair service to those in need of a belt, hose or battery. They are almost always able to provide bumper to bumper vehicle maintenance service. It's best to use your branded credit card when paying for services in the event you need the major oil company to mediate a dispute. Corner service stations with repair bays are, in my opinion, a dying breed.
  2. Independent garages. They are usually owned and operated by a single person and usually not affiliated with anyone else. Generally, you will get the same kind of personalized service from this type of repair facility as you would a service station. The owner either runs the front counter or works on your car. His wife and/or kids usually work there. It's easy to develop that relationship we all desire, the one where everyone calls one another by their first name and asks about each others kids. Dealing with an independent eliminates the long climb up the ladder of authority when you have a problem. The downside is that most independents are closed on Saturday and Sunday and have few ways to offer any kind of warranty outside their present demographic area.
  3. The chain repair facilities. These repair shops are best used for their coupons and specials. They generally provide basic maintenance services and don't provide major services like engine or transmission overhauls. A 99 cent tire rotation or a $19.95 alignment is a hard special to pass up if you need it but beware of those who use these loss leaders to attempt to sell you other, more expensive repairs. Generally there is a lot of movement in personnel in these type of repair shops. You're not likely to see the same faces year to year. However, when dealing with chain stores like Firestone or Pep Boys, any work they do is usually warranted at any other store nationwide.
  4. The specialty shops. These shops specialize in brake repair, muffler or exhaust repair or oil, lube and filters. Certainly there's a place in the repair industry for these shops. Often times they serve a segment of the motoring public that no one else wants to, i.e. a muffler shop. In the event of a dispute, don't count on help from the home office. Usually you will hear that each office is independently owned and operated. And don't ask them to step outside of their area of expertise, you'll be sorry if you do.

    Also, watch for cross overs, where transmission shops begin to perform air conditioning repairs. That should be a sign to run away.
  5. Dealership repair facilities. Certainly one stop, bumper to bumper repair shops. They are the only place who can provide your new car warranty service. They have the most up to date equipment and the most up to date knowledge on the proper way to repair your car. However, they usually are the most difficult place to develop a one on one relationship because your only contact is the service writer. You may never meet the person who repairs your car or anyone else who handled your car for that matter. The biggest problem seems to be getting what you told the service writer through and over the desks of 5 other people before it gets to the person who is supposed to fix your car.

Sometimes you will see a group of independent repair shops band together with a particular brand of tire and advertise as one big happy family. Often times there is a major auto parts chain or tire supplier who is the management company in charge of collecting the money and advertising them as a group. Beware of this type of activity.

You see, many times there is very little, if any, concern about the background, history and honesty of these groups of shops or their ability to properly repair your car. Binding arbitration is not mandatory nor can or will the management company get involved in your complaint. If they do, rarely do they have the ability to force the shop to make a refund or make additional repairs.

Many shops who do good work and have plenty of it won't band with others. Usually a shop that has, for whatever reason, not developed a clientele, will become a part of this group. Simply said, there is no guarantee that shops that band together offer anymore security than those that don’t.

If I were a consumer today, I would consider using all types of shops to accommodate my car needs. I would develop a relationship at the corner gas station by buying my gas there so they would know me when I needed their services.

I would use an independent to provide me the general services not provided by the specialty shops and chain stores. I would also use the chain stores for their coupon specials. I would patronize the specialty shops when I needed a muffler. I would use the dealership when my car's horn began to honk whenever I turned on the wipers. You see, you could almost be sure the guy who works on Fords, day in & day out, has seen that problem before. Why take your horn problem to someone who may take five hours to find and fix a problem they've never seen before, when you could take it to the dealership who probably has seen this same problem more than once and can fix it without all that "on the job" training.

Next FAQ

Back to FAQs Index

Copyright ©1997- , Mark Salem, Salem Boys Auto, All Rights Reserved