How to Talk to an Auto Mechanic
You may feel you’re speaking a different language, you your your technician are both very compatible – you love your car, and he or she loves to work on them. Here are some suggestions for communicating with success at the auto repair shop.
Come Prepared – Know the Problem
It’s important to have a good understanding of why you’re bringing your car in. Be prepared to explain exactly what is happening to your car and when. For example, what kind of noise it’s making, where the noise is coming from, where it’s leaking, what colour the leak is, etc.
The more information you can give, the better your technician will be able to service your car. Here are some terms that may help to explain common auto symptoms:
- Back-fire: A gunshot-like sound that comes from the engine or tailpipe. Back-firing can be common in older engine designs.
- Bottoming out: When the rear end of your vehicle dips far enough down in the back end to hit pavement. You may notice this happen most when backing out of a driveway or carrying excessive weight in the rear end.
- Bucking: When the engine hesitates as it changes gears, causing the vehicle to lurch. You may feel this most when accelerating with force.
- Hesitation: A brief loss of power upon acceleration. This may feel like a stumble or jerk. There are a number of reasons a car may hesitate, from a dirty air filter to a problem with your ignition wires.
- Shimmy: A side-to-side motion that may be felt in the tires or steering wheel. Take note of when you feel shimmying – from the speed you’re driving to the road surface you’re driving on.
- Dieseling: When an engine continues to run and burn fuel after the car has been turned off. An engine that is dieseling will typically sputter when off.
- Hard steering or stiff steering: The vehicle is difficult to steer, especially during parking or when first started.
- Brake fade: When your vehicle’s stopping distance seems longer than normal.
Ask for an Estimate Breakdown
If a repair requires multiple steps, there may be multiple costs involved in your quote. If you don’t understand the steps your technician is going to take, your estimate will make little sense. Ask for an estimate breakdown so you can understand each line.
Auto service technicians understand most people want to avoid spending a ton of money on car repairs – you may ask your mechanic to prioritize the fixes that should be done, but if the price doesn’t work for you, get another estimate elsewhere. Since you now have a better description of the problem, you may feel comfortable comparing prices over the phone.
Ask for an Explanation of the Problem
Ask your technician to explain what needs attention. If possible, have him or her physically show you. This will help you better understand your car’s needs, and it also shows that you care about your car and value their expert opinion. If they have time, your technician will likely be happy to do this.
Other questions you may want to ask include:
- Will I get my old parts back if I need replacements?
- What is your used parts policy?
- What warranties do you offer?
- How long will the service take?
- Will I get a written explanation of what was done to my car?
Make Yourself Available After Drop Off
After you drop off your car, be sure to leave your phone number with the shop and make yourself available to take their call. If your technician isn’t able to contact you to approve the repair or notify you of any changes, your car may sit unattended. Communication doesn’t stop when you leave the shop.
With proper vehicle maintenance habits and the right coverage, you can be be sure that your summer driving will be worry-free. Before your next visit to your auto service technician, take the time to consider why you may need additional coverages, which offer you the option of covering the cost of certain repairs.