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5 tips for talking to your auto mechanic

Check. But when something seriously goes wrong, do you know how to talk to your mechanic – or does it feel like you’re speaking a different language? Follow these 5 tips for “talking shop” with your auto mechanic and get the most for your repair dollars.

Tip #1: Find a mechanic you can trust 

Start with word of mouth. Reach out to friends, family and coworkers and ask for their opinion on reputable local service shops they would recommend. Do your research online and read the reviews. Check out reputable car sites and message boards to find out what customers are saying about that business. You might even consider visiting the shop to check it out before you take your car in.

Tip #2: Communicate clearly and ask questions

When you clearly communicate what’s wrong with your vehicle, it’s easier for your mechanic to diagnose and fix the problem. Perhaps you could write down ahead of time any specific sounds, sensations and smells, along with when and how often they occur. Did something happen just before the car stopped running? Also, note when the vehicle was last brought in for service, as today’s issue may be related to last month’s repairs. And don’t be shy when it comes to asking specific questions about the repairs your mechanic suggests. Ask him to tell you exactly what will be done, how long the repairs will take, and how much they will cost.

Tip #3: Get an estimate in writing

A complete, written estimate of the services and materials required to fix your vehicle will eliminate any unforeseen or additional last-minute charges. The estimate should include a cost breakdown, so you know exactly how much each repair costs. Estimates may not always be accurate to the penny, but they will give you a clear idea of what to expect.

Tip #4: Set realistic expectations

Plan to leave your car in the shop for most of the day. Even if it’s a quick fix, there may be several other cars ahead of yours in the mechanic’s service bay. Ask up front how long the car will need to be in the shop and arrange for transportation to and from the repair facility. Be prepared to pay the going rate for parts and labour.

Tip #5: Let the mechanic do his job… but don’t go too far

Your mechanic won’t work faster if you hang around impatiently. However, if you leave, be sure he has a phone number where he can reach you easily. If they can’t contact you to approve a repair, the car will take that much longer to repair. Spare yourself some trouble: don’t head back to the shop until they call in to confirm that your car is ready.

How to talk shop

You want your mechanic to understand the problem? Speak his language! Here are definitions of some common vehicle symptoms:

  • Backfire: Common in older engines, it can sound like a gunshot coming from the engine or tailpipe.
  • Bottoming out: When you hit a bump and you feel the underside of your vehicle hit the pavement.
  • Hesitation: A brief loss of power when accelerating.
  • Shimmy: A rapid, side-to-side motion that feels like it’s coming from the tires or the steering wheel. It’s worth noting when you feel it – at a certain speed or on a specific road surface.
  • Misfire: Hesitation that occurs, usually when fuel in one or more of an engine’s cylinders fails to ignite properly.
  • Dieseling: A sputtering sound that occurs when an engine continues to run for a few seconds after the car has been turned off.
  • Brake fade: When your vehicle’s stopping distance seems longer than normal.
  • Knocking: This is a rapid rattling sound that you can hear when you accelerate.

The information in this article has been adapted from the following web sites. For more on this topic, visit:

CAA South Central Ontario: How to find an auto mechanic you can trust

Wheels.ca: How not to get ripped off by your auto mechanic

5 tips for talking to your auto mechanic

You treat your vehicle well, because it gets you where you need to go. Regular oil changes, tune-ups?

The information and advice in this article are provided for informational purposes only. The Personal shall not be liable for any damages arising from any reliance upon such information or advice. The Personal recommends using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, expert advice. It is also recommended that you consult the owner's manual and follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines with respect to the use, installation and storage of products referred to herein.