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Monday, October 09, 2023

A Good Auto Mechanic Is Worth Searching For

One of my favorite jokes is, “What do you call a doctor who graduated last in his class from medical school?” The answer: a doctor. Your doctor is probably a very nice person with lots of empathy and a great smile. But do you know from which medical school he graduated and how he ranked in his graduating class?

We still refer to people who fix our cars as “mechanics”, a term used over a century ago when they were working on Model A and T Fords. Today, the word “car” is a misnomer, and those qualified to repair them are closer to computer scientists than the old-fashioned mechanic or “grease-monkey”. Today's cars are computers on wheels, no longer just mechanical devices.

The Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) society was formed 53 years ago. It’s a non-profit organization and has been the “Gold Standard” for rating auto technicians. All reputable independent auto repair facilities, both independent and car dealership-affiliated, employ only ASE members.

ASE members never stop attending training schools as auto technology is evolving steadily at an accelerating pace. A car manufactured ten years ago is virtually obsolete in terms of safety, security, and convenience technologies. There are fifty-eight certification tests covering every imaginable aspect of auto repair and service. When you choose an auto tech, be sure he’s wearing an ASE patch on his sleeve and that he has certification in the area your car is having a problem with, such as air-conditioning or transmission.

Another question you must have answered before you allow someone to repair your car is their experience—how many years have they been repairing cars? Virtually all auto technicians begin by performing oil changes, lubrications, and rotating and balancing your tires and wheels. There’s “supposed” to be a seasoned ASE technician overseeing these new apprentices’ work. Even though changing oil and rotating wheels and tires are relatively simple tasks, botching these easy tasks can be the most dangerous mistake made in auto repair. Lug nuts (which hold the tire onto the wheel) that aren’t tightened enough can cause your wheel and tire to come off on I-95! Over-tightened lug nuts can be impossible to remove when you need to change a tire. I’d recommend that you allow only ASE certified techs with at least 2 years’ experience to work on your car.

Just because you choose an experienced ASE certified technician to work on your car, that doesn’t mean you’ll be charged a fair price. Always shop around and compare repair prices before you commit to having the repair done. A recent survey by Mayo Clinic showed that two-thirds of the diagnoses were not completely correct and 21% resulted in a completely different diagnosis. Most insurance companies require a second opinion before surgery.

Always ask that the problem with your car be clearly spelled out in the Repair Order (R.O) with an estimate of the total cost. Most repair facilities charge for the diagnosis, which is waived if you have the work done with them. You should always try to negotiate down the diagnostic charge, and many repair facilities will reduce or even waive it—especially if they fear you will take your car elsewhere.

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