Automotive Maintenance

How to talk to your auto mechanic

A mechanic or service rep talks to a female customer, both wearing masks, at an auto repair shop

Vehicle owners might not like to hear it, but they bear some responsibility if a maintenance procedure or a repair on their car goes south.

Often it comes down to one thing: You need to communicate clearly with your service rep or the tech working on your car. Here are some things to do (and avoid).

How you can help your technician

1. Describe a problem specifically

It's better to say, "I hear a high-pitched noise coming from the right rear wheel when I'm driving on the freeway" than "The wheel makes funny noises." Also, avoid technical jargon unless you really know what you're talking about.

2. Don't diagnose the problem

Today's cars are more complex than ever. Automakers have established procedures to determine the cause of various problems, and it's the tech's job—not yours—to sort it out.

3. Ask questions

Once a tech tells you what needs to be done, if there's anything you don't understand, ask about it before the work proceeds.

A mechanic or service rep talks to a female customer, both wearing masks, under the hood of a car

How your technician can help you

It's not a 1-way street. A repair shop has responsibilities to you, too.

1. Complete, clear answers to all your questions

If you're working with a service rep and aren't getting the information you need, have them arrange for you to meet with the tech working on your car.

2. A written estimate of all the work that will be performed

This should include parts and labor, and should occur before the work begins.

3. An explanation of what work is most important

If you're on a budget and some repairs can wait, a tech or service writer should be able to tell you.

Following these guidelines can go a long way toward taking stress, misunderstanding, or conflict out of your relationship with those who service your vehicle. 

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