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Ten Questions to Ask Your Repair Shop

Ten Questions to Ask Your Repair Shop

Finding a good shop is complicated and time consuming enough, but how do you make sure you’re getting quality service from the shop you’ve chosen?

If you keep these 10 questions in mind, you’ll be well on your way to understanding exactly what you’re getting from your service provider.

  1. How long have you been in business? If a repair shop has been around for a while, it’s a good indication that they may be on the more reputable side. It also means they are likely to have an established review history online, so check them out on ratings websites like Google, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau.
  2. What car lines do you specialize in? With the sophistication of today’s automobiles, trying to repair each and every car line can be a daunting task. In our experience, garages that specialize in one or two different manufacturers seem to be a little more conversant and efficient.
  3. What are your qualifications? Ask about the shop’s affiliations with automotive repair organizations and active ASE certification for technicians. You should also figure out if there are any master certified or “A” technicians on staff who are qualified to diagnose and repair a problem without any assistance from other shop personnel.
  4. Who will be working on my vehicle? Some shops will have their “A” technician diagnose the customer’s concern and then assign the actual repair procedure to a less experienced team member. In most cases there is nothing wrong with this practice, but it becomes more important as the skill level needed to diagnose or complete a particular job increases. Remember, as a customer, you have the right to know who will be doing the repairs on your vehicle.
  5. What kind of parts do you use? Ask if they use factory or aftermarket parts, and inquire as to whether they give customers a choice. This can be tricky; aftermarket parts are usually less expensive, but they are often more limited in terms of reliability and warranty coverage.
  6. Is your repair facility well equipped? Figure out if they have all the tools that you would expect a modern repair facility to have. Do they use professional-level tools and diagnostic equipment?
  7. What is your labor rate? This is self-explanatory. Labor rates vary from shop to shop. The highest is not necessarily the best. Again, do your research.
  8. Are you willing to work with my extended warranty? If you own an extended warranty, make sure your shop is willing to work with the extended warranty company. This is important because warranty companies typically pay labor at a reduced rate and will sometimes provide the repair facility with used or re-manufactured parts. Your shop may not be willing to do that transmission job that normally pays 10 hours of labor for the seven hours the extended warranty company is offering.
  9. What labor guide do you use? A labor guide is what a repair facility uses to determine how much labor time it takes to complete a particular repair. These time guides do not factor in unforeseen issues, like seized or rusty fasteners, broken bolts, etc. Consumers need to know if the shop uses the manufacturer’s time guide or that of an aftermarket provider like Alldata, Mitchell, or Chilton’s, since these times will vary.
  10. Are your technicians required to take continuing education training classes? At the rate that technology is being integrated into today’s cars, additional training is vital. Repair facility owners, managers, and technicians who invest in periodic training demonstrate a solid level of commitment to their field.

It goes without saying that looking for an automotive maintenance and service provider that you’ll be comfortable with can be a daunting task. Hopefully, these suggestions will make it a little easier to ensure your service and repair provider meets your needs.

 

Seven Tips For Finding a Trustworthy Repair Shop

Seven Tips For Finding a Trustworthy Repair Shop

From time to time a fellow motorist will ask us if we have any tips on finding a good, trustworthy repair shop. As vehicle inspectors, who specialize in mechanical breakdown evaluations, we visit over 100 different repair facilities every year. This includes stops at massive dealerships in larger cities to smaller family owned enterprises in rural areas. Experience has taught us that the competence, expertise, and professionalism of these shops vary widely. To avoid a potential headache, motorists have to be on the lookout for sub-par shops.

Maybe you’ve just relocated, or you might feel like you’ve been burned by the repair facility you’re currently using. So the question is, how can you find a good shop?

  1. Get a referral: This is the most obvious route, and it’s also the best one. The idea is to get a referral from someone who owns a vehicle that is manufactured by the same company that built your car. Said another way, if you drive a Mustang, ask a fellow Ford driver who they would recommend. Experience has shown that automotive repair shops that specialize in one or two different makes of cars tend to be a little more knowledgeable and efficient as compared to others that work on any and every car line.
  2. Check the online ratings: Checking ratings across multiple sites like Car Talks Mechanics Files, Yelp, Google, Angie’s List, and the Better Business Bureau can help give you a more accurate picture of each shop’s reputation. Another place to check out a prospective auto repair shop is mechanicratingz.com.
  3. Use an app: Openbay and MyCarfax give users access to a database of shops that have been screened by the app owners. Private social networking services like Next Door can be helpful too.
  4. Talk to the pros: Solicit advice from technicians or service advisors who work with different makes and models. For example, you could ask a technician that works exclusively on Chrysler vehicles if he or she knows of a good repair facility or technician that specializes in the maintenance and repair of Nissan’s. The automobile repair industry is a small, but very interconnected group. Chances are they will know someone that may be able to help you out.

In addition, people who work in auto parts retail stores, body shops, and in automotive sales centers have a wealth of industry knowledge that they’re usually happy to share. They likely have multiple professional connections with local shops, so they may be able to steer you in the right direction.

  1. Contact a professional organization: There are multiple organizations within the auto repair industry that are dedicated to informing and protecting consumers. Check out the Automotive Service Association, Independent Garage Owners of North Carolina, and the Motorist Assurance Program to find lists of vetted, integrity-driven shops.
  2. Check the papers: Many local publications have “best-in-town” annual awards for service providers. These publications can help you find repair facilities that have a good reputation in your community.
  3. Tow truck drivers: Believe it or not, tow truck drivers can be a very good source of information when it comes to finding a reputable repair shop. Experienced tow truck drivers tend to know who has made a good name for themselves in the industry.

Following just one of the above tips will get you off to a good start in finding a shop you can rely on. To get the best results, check out any shops you do business with through as many of these processes as possible.

Lemon Cars 101

 

Lemon Cars 101

Need a car but are worried about buying a lemon? Whether you’re looking to buy or lease a new car, or purchase a pre-owned vehicle, there is some important information you need to know to ensure you don’t get stuck with a lemon.

What is a Lemon Car?

A lemon is any car or truck that has serious manufacturing defects that may affect the safety, reliability and value of a vehicle. To qualify as a lemon under federal or state laws, a car must meet two criteria. The first is, the vehicle has severe defects that are covered by the warranty and occur within a certain time frame or number of miles after purchase.The second is the car can’t be repaired after a certain number of attempts.

The Federal and State Lemon Laws

Dishonest sellers are everywhere, so don’t rely on what you’re told. Federal and state lemon laws are designed to protect consumers from fraudulent and deceptive practices. The laws also provide legal remedies for buyers of lemons such as a full refund, manufacturer’s buy back, a replacement car or cash settlement. For best results, keep all documentation – warranty, receipts, service contracts, and repair invoices. Hiring an attorney who specializes in lemon law issues is a good idea. In many cases, you can even recoup the cost of your attorney’s fees.

The federal lemon law, officially known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, regulates warranties on consumer products (including vehicles) that don’t function as expected. The laws require sellers to provide warranties that are easy to understand and enforceable should a product fail to perform properly.

However, federal lemon laws only apply to new vehicle purchases. In situations where a buyer receives a written warranty with a used car purchase, federal laws may apply.

State lemon laws vary considerably. The laws offer different levels of consumer protection. In North Carolina, the state lemon laws do not extend to used car purchases, but federal laws may apply to used cars that are still under the original warranty.

In most cases, if you buy a car “as-is,” the seller doesn’t guarantee the condition of the car. Also, no federal laws exist to protect you when making such a purchase. One good thing to remember is that many state lemon laws don’t allow “as-is” sales above a certain price.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) also helps consumers by requiring dealerships to provide a Buyer’s Guide for every used car it sells. The information in the guide supersedes anything you were told about a car. Unfortunately, if you buy a used car from a private seller, you have far fewer options if the car turns out to be a lemon.

 How to Avoid Buying a Lemon

If you want to avoid buying a lemon, one of the best things you can do, whether buying from a dealer or a private seller, is to get the car inspected before you buy it or (depending on the dealer) within a certain time period from the day of purchase. By getting an inspection, you will most likely discover any problems the car has and can determine if the vehicle is a worthwhile investment.

For safety, performance, and peace of mind, a car inspection is essential. With an inspection by an ASE-certified technician or inspector, you can usually avoid buying a lemon car. An inspection can also lower repair costs down the line because you can fix minor problems before they become expensive repair jobs.

When buying a new or used car, you need to do your research and learn as much as you can about the vehicle and the lemon laws in your state. An inspection will help you achieve your ultimate goal of driving a safe and reliable car that performs well when on the road.

If you live in North Carolina and want an on-site car inspection, contact Auto Spec for experienced ASE-Certified inspectors.

 

 

 

 

Buyer Beware: Seven Ways to Uncover the Hidden Threat of Flood Damaged Vehicles

Buyer Beware: Seven Ways to Uncover the Hidden Threat of Flood Damaged Vehicles

In the aftermath of record-breaking Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, many people are still reeling from the damage. But hurricanes can also cause other issues that, although less visible than obvious physical damage, can be just as painful to your wallet. According to data gathering firms Cox Automotive and Black Book, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused enough flooding to damage over 650,000 cars and trucks and a good number of those vehicles are projected to make their way back to the marketplace at some point.

Water damage can be fatal to modern vehicles. They have so many delicate electrical components that even seemingly small amounts of over-exposure to water and moisture can render a vehicle too big of an investment risk. Read on to learn how you can avoid buying a water-logged car after this hurricane season.

  1. Check for mold, mildew, damp debris and sediment, and water staining: Flood-damaged vehicles will almost always have some mildew or mold growth, often under the dashboard and seats. Mold, and its accompanying musty smell, is almost impossible to entirely remove from a flood-damaged car. If you notice any unusual or smelly residues, stay away. You should also examine the upholstery, look beneath the carpet, check under the hood, and be on the lookout for traces of sand, dirt, silt, water lines, rust, and damaged wiring and gauges. If you have access to a moisture meter, this would be a great tool to bring along on a pre-purchase inspection.
  2. Get an inspection: Be wary of any seller—whether an individual or a dealership—that won’t submit to an inspection. Even a seasoned car owner can get burned without a thorough inspection, so even if the vehicle looks and smells normal, get it checked out before you hand over any cash. Make sure the inspection includes a scan of all available control modules.
  3. Use the free VINCheck database: In 2005, there was a massive market surge of flood-damaged vehicles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This led the National Insurance Crime Bureau to establish a free database that allows buyers to use vehicle identification numbers to check for “salvage” status, allowing them to avoid purchasing flood-damaged vehicles. You can access the database at the following URL:

https://www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck

Make sure this isn’t your only precaution, though. Uninsured vehicles are the most likely to turn up on the market after being damaged, and their status is essentially invisible to the database. Flooded vehicles can also be disguised by being moved out of state, re-titled, and sometimes given new VINs, a practice known as “title-washing.”  According to Carfax, North Carolina is one of the worst states in the nation for title washing.

  1. Read the seller: The seller’s attitude can often yield valuable clues about a vehicle’s status. Do they seem impatient or evasive when you want to do a thorough inspection of the vehicle? Are they withholding potentially vital information when you ask about the vehicle’s history? If anything about their behavior seems off, walk away.
  2. Beware of dream prices: Assume that no one will offer you a vehicle at a price that is dramatically below its actual value. If a price seems too low, it’s probably because someone is trying to unload it as quickly as possible. Don’t allow excitement over a potential bargain to cloud your judgement.
  3. Don’t assume that your area is immune: Although cars damaged by Harvey and Irma are most likely to make their way onto car lots in nearby states, it’s impossible to know where these vehicles might turn up. In Texas alone, approximately 15% of drivers carry no vehicle insurance at all, let alone comprehensive coverage that would compensate them for flood damage. That’s a lot of owners who will be highly motivated to get these vehicles off their hands, even if it means moving them long distances to disguise their status.
  4. Understand the risks: Once a vehicle’s engine, transmission and other electronic components have been soaked with water, safety and reliability become a concern. It’s easy to understand why these vehicles will be more prone to have electrical and mechanical issues at some point down the line. Even if you don’t notice anything unusual initially, the vehicle may falter without warning in potentially reliability and life-threatening ways, including failing to deploy airbags in a crash.

Several years ago, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the state of Louisiana, and shortly thereafter flood damaged cars and trucks started arriving in neighboring states.  It would not be unreasonable to think that history might repeat itself in the wake of Harvey and Irma. In fact, we have personally spoken with two local dealers who unknowingly purchased flood damaged vehicles from online wholesale auctions. It wasn’t until the vehicles arrived at the dealership did they notice the obvious signs of water damage. The scary thing is, both vehicles were presented as having clean vehicle history reports and had recently passed the auctions pre-sales inspections.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of natural disasters like what was experienced in Texas and Florida can have a big and lasting effect on people in many ways. This can be especially true when a person is in the market for a pre-owned vehicle. But if you stay alert and savvy, you can avoid taking one of these vehicles home.