HAMILTON—A trip to the auto repair shop can feel like visiting a foreign country for some motorists—they do not understand the language and are worried about being taken advantage of by the locals. However, AAA says a trip to the repair shop can be much easier—and less stressful—by selecting a quality facility and learning to speak ‘auto tech.’
When communicating with an automotive technician, AAA recommends motorists do the following:
• Before taking the vehicle to a repair facility, write down notes on the vehicle’s symptoms and performance so important information is not overlooked or forgotten. Include any observations, even if they seem silly or irrelevant.
• Describe the symptoms to the technician rather than solutions. Explain what has been seen, smelled, heard and felt while driving the vehicle. For example, does it vibrate or pull to the left? Explain under what type of driving conditions the problems takes place and how long ago it started.
• Try to be precise. Such as explaining a rattle under the hood starts at 40 mph or an issue occurs only on cold days after the engine has been running for 10 minutes.
• When describing symptoms, refer to the driver side and passenger side instead of the right or left side of the vehicle.
• Resist the temptation to use technical jargon unless absolutely sure what it means. Explain what is being experienced in terms that do not direct the technician to a single solution. This will help eliminate unnecessary or ineffective work being performed due to misinterpretation or misdiagnosis.
• If the vehicle has been serviced recently, bring copies of the previous repair orders rather than trying to explain what work was done.
There also are some things motorists can do to help protect themselves from unexpected charges or unneeded repairs. AAA recommends motorists:
• Ask questions if the technician uses jargon that is not understood or if something is not clearly explained. A quality auto technician should be willing to take time to clearly explain the problem in advance of the repair and the proposed solution. If the technician does not explain the problem and the remedy in a clear and convincing manner, or suggests the repair is too complicated to explain, consider seeking a second opinion from another shop.
• Always read the repair order before signing it and authorizing any work. Look for specific instructions detailing the maintenance to be done, or the condition to be corrected and work to be performed. If the language is vague or unclear, such has ‘fix engine noise,’ ask that it be rewritten. In some cases it makes sense to ask that a diagnosis be performed and an estimate provided before a final repair is authorized.
• Read over the bill, and question any charges that are not clear. Insist on descriptions of parts, not just the serial numbers; be listed on the final invoice. In some cases, motorists might want to specify in advance that the shop will show them the parts that are to be removed and replaced on the vehicle.
• Before authorizing a repair, be sure to obtain a written description of the warranty the shop provides, including the warranty on parts as well as labor. Most repairs should carry a warranty of at least 12 months and 12,000 miles.
To better help motorists understand some of the technical terms associated with auto repair, AAA offers an Auto Repair Glossary with commonly used terms and definitions at AAA.com/Public Affairs.
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