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Before You Visit A Mechanic: Tips For Women

by Sam Dillinger

There is a very widely held perception among women that they’re going to be treated unfairly at their local mechanic. I’m sad to report that the auto repair industry has, by and large, earned this reputation, and not received it in error. Whether it’s being over charged for needed repairs, being charged for repairs that aren’t needed at all, or even being charged for repairs that were never done, most everyone has heard stories of a woman they know being taken advantage of at the repair shop. Ladies, I’d like to formally go on record as saying that we’re not all like that. There are some of us that take pride in taking good care of all of our customers, regardless of gender. There are technicians around that are more than happy to make sure you receive honest treatment when it’s time to have your vehicle worked on. Here are a few tips, from a professional technician, to help you find one of us that won’t take advantage of you.

1- Do Your Homework On Repair Centers Before You Need One

This might seem like pretty basic advice, but it’s very important nonetheless. When your vehicle is running smoothly, you won’t want to deal with the hassle that the repair shop represents. That’s exactly when you should be dealing with it though! Get references from any friends you may have in the area. Check the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and even the local Chamber of Commerce. Once you’ve identified a few places that come with good recommendations, it’ll be time to file that information away for when you’ll really need it. You may not have the luxury of doing all of this leg work when your car breaks down, and you’ll thank yourself when you do get to that point.

2- Have Your Most Recent Service/Repair Records

This will save you a lot of time and potential hassle. If you go to the mechanic for a brake squeak, they’re going to inspect all of the other systems of your vehicle to find a maintenance item, or an actual repair, to potentially sell you. It’s the nature of the industry, and this inspection should be done every time your vehicle goes to the shop for safety reasons. This inspection is how we determine if there are any issues that need to be addressed immediately, if something is in the process of becoming unsafe, or is wearing out to the point that it might damage additional parts, we can find that too. That doesn’t mean that you need to have your brake fluid flushed every time, or that you need to have the transmission serviced every 10,000 miles. By having your most recent service records with you, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you may or may not need. Which leads me to…

3- Read Your Owners Manual Thoroughly

The information contained in your owners manual is very informative for all of the different systems of your vehicle. It has quite a lot of information that deals with much more than the maintenance your vehicle needs, but for the purpose of this conversation, that’s the part we’re focusing on. It will tell you how often any maintenance should be done to your vehicle, and what kind of maintenance is needed. A cabin air filter is a very important piece to get replaced on time (it filters the air you breathe inside the cab of your vehicle) but not all vehicles have a cabin air filter. Your owners manual will tell you if you do, and how often it should be replaced. These recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt though. If you live on a dirt road, your cabin air filter will need to be replaced sooner than the manual suggests. So when you get an estimate from your mechanic for several maintenance items, make sure to check in the owners manual to make sure thats a service your vehicle actually needs to have done, that it hasn’t been done in the recent past, and if it falls reasonably close to the mileage/time guidelines presented in the manual
4- Trust Your Instincts When You Talk To The Mechanic

This is a key factor when dealing with your mechanic. Ask plenty of questions and pay attention to the way the person answers them. If they treat you in a condescending fashion, attempt to re-direct your question to another topic, or try to talk over your head with a lot of highly technical terms, then it’s time to take your business elsewhere. An honest mechanic will be more than happy to spend some time educating you about your vehicle and the needs it has currently, as well as in the future. Even more that that though, your first instinct is usually right. If this person gives you the feeling that they’re being shady, or deceitful, it’s time to move on to another facility from your list of prospects. Keep in mind one thing: this industry is full of a lot of highly technical information, that people not in the industry won’t understand. So there may be times that your mechanic will seem to be getting overly technical when speaking to you, and in reality, that’s just the way it has to be explained. Again, a good, honest mechanic will take the time to break down this technical information into something that makes more sense to you.

5- Test Your Mechanic

There are several ways to do this pretty easily, and it will help you determine if you’ve got one of the honest mechanics, or one of the variety that gives the rest of us a bad name. One easy scenario to for you to try: If your check engine light is on then the first thing you can do is to have your vehicle scanned for free at a major parts store in your area. If there are any codes in the engine computer of your vehicle (this is called a PCM or ECM) then write down how many and what the name is. A note here about having the vehicle scanned at the parts store: once they’ve read the codes from your engine computer, they will try to sell you some parts. You’re not obligated to buy anything at all, so politely decline and carry on with taking your vehicle to the mechanic for a proper diagnosis. Once you’ve got any codes that may be present, you can visit mycheckenginelight.net to get the definition of your codes, go to the mechanic as you normally would, and don’t let them know that the vehicle has been scanned. Make sure you note the amount of codes you’re being told are present, and what the P Code designation is for each. The actual wording of the code can vary from scanner to scanner, but the P Code designation will be the same no matter what. One final note about this: make sure you visit the mechanic very shortly after having the vehicle scanned. If you wait for several days, or longer, new codes could show up on their own.

These are just a few tips to help you ensure you’re not being taken advantage of when you visit the mechanic. There are some very dedicated professionals out there that want to earn your business honestly, and not just earn a paycheck at your expense. When you’ve found the right mechanic to service your vehicle, you’ll be able to have a little more peace of mind when your vehicle starts giving you trouble.

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