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Finding a great repair shop is integral to owning a car... Finding a great repair shop is integral to owning a car (Alamy).
When is the best time to look for a high quality auto repair shop?

Answer: before you need one.

Because making a sound decision is difficult when you are faced with a car problem and time restraints, finding a shop takes time and patience; you want to research and evaluate the facts in a relaxed fashion. Emergencies create an emotional climate that thwarts a clear and objective evaluation. So find a repair facility before you need one.

The Prime Time To Visit A Shop

The process of evaluating repair shops is really quite simple. Call or visit shops in your area. The best time to call or visit is between 9A – noon because it is after the morning rush and cars are in the bays being evaluated. By noon the techs have completed their diagnoses, come up with an estimate of repairs, and customers are being called to discuss the necessary repair work. Thus, 9A – noon is lag time for the owner/shop manager and the best time to talk with them. Catch them any other time and you might find them curt.

Acronym Hunt

Once you have the owner/shop manager's undivided attention, tell them you are looking for a repair shop. Ask them what professional automotive repair associations they belong to. Membership in associations such as AAA (AAA Approved Auto Repair), iATN (International Auto Technicians Association), ASA (Automotive Service Association), or TechNet (Carquest Technician's Network) means the shop and/or technicians care about their level of expertise and have met the standards of membership. In addition, look for membership in such associations as the BBB (Better Business Bureau), SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), ASP (Automotive Service Professionals), and ICAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair).

Involvement in these organizations tells you that the owner of the repair facility is interested in the quality of the workmanship, and most likely operates by a code of ethics expected by the organization. In addition, membership in these associations often requires that the shop subject itself to an arbitration process that is binding, should the need for arbitration between customer and shop arise.

To further make this point, consider the following: To become an "AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility," a shop must undergo a rigorous investigation. In addition to having state-of-the-art equipment, training, qualified technicians, and information systems in place, the shop must score high with its customers. AAA contacts roughly 100 of the shop's most recent customers and conducts a CSI (Consumer Satisfaction Index) study (the number varies from club to club but it represents a significant number of the shop's most recent customer base). They ask the customers questions such as:

- Was the estimated bill the same or close to the actual bill?
- Was the job done on time?
- Did they fix it right the first time?
- What kind of warranty did they give you?
- Was the shop clean and presentable?
- Did they offer a ride to work or somewhere you needed to go?
- Was there a comfortable, pleasant, and clean waiting area?

If the repair facility meets their standards, it is granted membership and they can hang the "AAA Approved" shingle. As you can see, membership in such an associations is a significant qualifier when evaluating a facility.

Use Your Time Wisely

While visiting the shop(s) you're interested in, note whether they are clean and orderly (or do they look like they ought to be condemned by the health department).

If there are customers there, be bold and ask them questions, such as, "Why do you do business with this shop?"

Some answers don't hold much credibility, such as: "They are the cheapest." "They offer a lot of specials." "Because the owner is a friend of my father's."

Look for responses such as: "They fix my car right the first time." "I can trust them to do the job at a fair price." "No surprises when I pick up the car." "The price is always what we agree on." "They welcome my questions and concerns and take the time to answer them." "They explain in plain English what the problem is and what my options are... patiently." "Their technicians are the best in the area." Good "word of mouth" is a great qualifier.

While at the facility, look for technician certifications displayed on the wall. If the walls are bare, ask to see the techs' certifications. This will tell you a lot about the people that work at the facility. What shingles and certifications should you look for?
Do you trust your auto repair shop?
Yes. 8730 (55.3%)
No. 7049 (44.7%)

- Certification from ASE, ACDelco, ASP, and/or manufacturers such as GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan
- Aftermarket training from such leaders as NAPA/Echlin, Moog, Carquest, TRW, ACDelco, or Bendix
- Continued education from a technical training college

These shingles are evidence that the technicians have taken the initiative to "go beyond the call of duty" and keep up with changes in their field. Not only are they trained in the latest technology, but they also show a serious interest and pride in their work. Continued education/certifications also convey that the owner of the shop cares about the quality of the work because usually he/she is the one who foots the bill for any extended training.

Another factor to consider when choosing a repair facility is the equipment and repair information systems available. Does the shop have state-of-the-art equipment such as hand-held computer scanners and diagnostic software, digital volt-ohm meters, logic probes, lab scopes, and on-line repair information systems like Alldata, or Mitchell-On-Demand? Don't be afraid to ask if they have these resources. Up-to-date information systems and tools are necessary to diagnose and repair your hi-tech car accurately. Without them, fixing your automobile is a hit-and-miss proposition that you pay dearly for, in both dollars and vehicle down time.

Size Matters, To A Degree

A note about shop size: Some people think that because a shop is either smaller or larger, the price will vary greatly. That's not true these days. With the high cost of equipment, training, and information systems, prices between dealers and large or small independent shops have balanced out. As a matter of fact, in a lot of cases we've seen the larger entities (dealers and larger repair facilities) actually offer more competitive pricing than the 'little guys' in an effort to gain more retail customer business. If the criteria we have discussed are in place, and the quality of the parts and warranties are equal, most likely the pricing will be close. At that point, it's just a matter of where you feel most comfortable.

Use The Internet As One Data Point

A quick and dirty way to narrow your field is the internet. While some of the more general sites such as Yelp and Angie's List provide a lot of feedback, often you'll find you'll get a skewed sense of a shop from feedback that isn't entirely helpful. RepairPal offers a leg up on those general review sites since it's automotive focused.

The best recommendation is to use these review sites as a strong starting point. But then do you own research. If you can identify a good repair shop before you need it, you'll be in the best position to get your car back and on the road safely and to your liking.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      If you live in or near Spartanburg, SC. Brady's Frame & Alignment Service at 7001 White Avenue is the place to go. Harry Brady is the most honest repair serviceman we have ever patronized. He is also very reasonable, If the car doesn't need a repair, he will tell you that too. I've never seen anybody that could measure up.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am new to the internet and a friend of mine told me about this car insurance website: ( http://tinyurl.com/InsuranceTip ) It was so easy to find everything I was looking for, when getting free quotes and comparing prices. I saved over 380.00 dollars on my families car insurance costs. My neighbor is an insurance agent and he was amazed at the deal I found.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Funny how these writers never mention the difference between good mechanics and paper mechanics. Most certifications and memberships are earned by the amount of money you pay for them, not the real knowledge or experience you have. At our shop we don't spend our money and time on hanging plaques on the wall. We spend our time working on our customers autos and continuing to earn their trust and that of their friends and family. A plaque doesn't make you a mechanic anymore than a chef's hat makes you a chef.
      Air Jordan
      • 4 Years Ago
      Tom T is as good as they get. Listen to his show " America's car care. Mike buffalo
      • 4 Years Ago
      If you are serious about getting your vehicle fixed right the first time look for someone who specializes in your particular make of car. I have a small shop in Pa. and specialize in repairing Ford vehicles almost exclusively. I've worked for the dealer for years and got tired of the b.s. all they want is techs to sell services. First of all every tech at the dealer is not necessarily trained and certified. Any shop that works on anything cannot repair every vehicle accurately the first time or sometimes the second or third.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've worked for 30+ years now (24 of them professionally) on nearly every kind of vehicle, from bicycles, to jet airliners, race cars to heavy equipment, and not once have I EVER had an alphabet certificate to hang on the wall of the shop I worked in. I've never had a problem being hired as long as there was an opening (and once even when there wasn't!) by just showing the establishment what my knowledge, skills and experience were. That being said, I have worked briefly at some shops whose work was less than honorable, so I know that they do exist. But, the idea that you can tell which are trustworthy and which aren't by which letters are on a certificate on the wall, is totally false. the worst shop I have ever seen had a brand logo on their sign, more alphabet certifications on the wall than anyone could count, including a few that even I did not recognize, and suspect may have been made up on the owners computer. On the contrary, the best, most honorable and best value for your dollar shop I have ever known as a technician or a customer, was owned by an elderly gentleman, who had only a few signs on the wall. One of which was in fact, a BBB plaque. Another was from the local community business owners association, but the most impressive to me was the frame full of photos. there were a few customers with their cars, but there were also signed pictures of local little league teams he had sponsored for a few years, publicity shots from a race team he had been involved with and that sort of thing. to me this speaks of the shop being a participating member of their community and caring about the people they see as customers AND the people they see every day that are just neighbors and friends. His shop was always busy, always had plenty of work for him and his 2 or 3 other mechanics, and sometimes even a little more than they could handle, but they were NEVER too busy to take a quick look or listen to your car and give an experienced, knowledgable opinion as to what it could be, and if you needed to fix it right away, or bring it back later. Unfortunately this fine gentleman passed away a few years back, and although his shop still exists, the new owners have taken the big business approach and expanded beyond their ability to maintain the personal service that made the shop what it was. in short, dont be fooled by a one size fits all set of parameters to finding a good mechanic. use your senses, including common sense. when your comfortable with the person, you'll know you have a good place to get your car fixed. AND, when you decide to change your car, remember that a diferent car may mean a different mechanic or different shop. just like your wouldn't go to your dentist for heart surgery, dont take your Chevy pickup to the local German auto specialty shop.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am a single woman raising children. WE are the people making these "mechanic thieves" rich! Lets face it. . they don't offer auto mechanics at school and if you don't have family to show you these things your sunk. . and the mechanics know it! They should have a guy there double checking their work. Every other plant in this world has a "quality control" person to check their products. Ripping people off like that should be illegal. I'd rather pay the guy next door to look at my car. So, thats what I do. Its all who you know. So, for you mechanics that think your getting away with it...in the end, your NOT. Enjoy the money, because its not going to last. People are getting wise!
      • 4 Years Ago
      One year and 3500 miles only since fitting new steering and suspension parts and the garage say these are worn out and need replacing. Rubbish. This is called looking for work and profits and what's more it's attempting to obtain cash by deception.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Find out if the shop's mechanics work on commission. I think that makes a difference in the repair recommendations.
      • 4 Years Ago
      My husband recently took our car for an oil change to the dealer. After the oil was changed they checked out the car and came up with expensive repairs needed. They said the coolant was leaking and showed my husband the drips. He did not have it repaired, and after he came home, I noticed a fresh puddle in our driveway that was not there the day before. Was that a coincidence?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Type your own comment here is the truth. Every auto mechanic out there whether he works for himself or someone else has to tell you that you need these repairs. Even Pepe Boys. I heard it from the horses mouth. I am a woman and can't tell you how many times I have been taken or almost been taken. I have learned over the years to get a second opinion., The head office makes these guys push these repairs. I have gone in for oil changes on a new car and been told I needed things I didn't need. Imagine these kids surprise when I told them this car is brand new. How quickly they walk away with their hands rull of lubricants. Or every time I went to the dealership after the warranty was up to just get an oil change and they start coming at me with a long list of things that need fixed and it is always $600. I get on my cell and call my son and he says tell them "no and I will take a look at it." It is usually women and old men they go after. we are most vulnerable. Shame on these people. Do they not realize we are not made of money? But we are afraid that if we do not put the money into our car that it will break down along the road somewhere? My son laughed when he read some of the things they wanted to do to my car. If I had listened to them a reputable Chrysler dealer I would have given them $1200 by now instead of having $1200 still in my bank account.
      • 4 Years Ago
      my uncle owns two dealerships took my truck in for service my brother is the service manager his grease monkey told me I needed a new thermostat had me pay for the parts first I thought that was fishy took a look myself and could tell it wasn't leaking had a second opinion he said it was fine went and confronted my brother about it he turned red and took offense that I would question his integrity the grease monkey took offense also I was so pissed I almost went to tell my uncle what they were trying to pull but I think he condones it and is a crook also don't trust even family verify get a second or third opinion
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