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Friday, February 8, 2008

FINDING A GOOD MECHANIC by Tim Bryce


Years ago we used to use the local "service station" for basic car repairs, such as tune-ups, lube jobs, tire rotations, oil changes, etc. There was usually a senior guy there who you trusted to take care of your car, and if he didn't know how totake care of a problem, he would know someone reliable who could. But local service stations disappeared as the price of gasoline escalated and replaced by mini-marts that also happento sell gasoline.
Today you basically have four choices for taking care of your car; do it yourself, dealerships, service centers, and independent mechanics. Sure, you can still repair your automobile yourself, if you have the time and inclination to do so, but cars have become more complicated over time, as well as over-engineered, making them much more difficult to work on than years ago. You can also take it to the dealership where it is typically "hit or miss" in terms of getting good workmanship. More troublesome to consumers though is when they go in for one thing to be fixed, and the dealership recommends five more things; I call this "harvesting" of the consumer by the dealership, others call it a "shakedown," but it is an expensive proposition nonetheless.
Service centers are usually run by tire companies who also try to "harvest" the consumer by selling new tires at every opportunity. I also don't find the mechanical workmanship to be very good at these places. I had a mechanic at one of the secenters replace a worn belt on my engine. Unfortunately, he puton a new belt backwards which caused the water pump to spin backwards causing the car to overheat and make a strange squeaky noise. It took me a long time to figure out what was wrong. I took it to an independent mechanic who appeared to be reputable.He thought the transmission was breaking down and that I should replace it, at considerable cost. I took it to another who thought there was a problem with the engine seals. I finally took it to a mechanic who studied the problem and discovered that the belt was simply on backwards and rather inexpensive to correct.
To me, auto repair is about trust. If I trust the expertise ofthe company or individual working on my car, I will gladly paythem whatever they ask. But if the trust is broken by either a mechanical snafu or harvesting of the consumer, I'm going to pick up my marbles and go somewhere else, and blacklist those who have wronged me, as well as tell my friends about them. I have seen a lot of mechanics come and go in my area. Those that are out to make a quick buck rightfully don't last very long. But those who are honest and conscientious about their work are worth their weight in gold (such as the mechanic who figured our my belt problem). If you find such a mechanic, hold on to him and tell your friends about him. Without such support, these craftsmen of the auto world will eventually disappear. When we go into service shops, we want to believe they will maintain our best interests like they did at the service stations of yesteryear. In reality, most are interested in only maintaining their own interests and consumers are crest fallen when we discover this, usually too late. Perhaps what is needed is an independent consumer rating system implemented over the Internet whereby we can grade the companies and people who service our cars. Without such a watchdog, we will inevitably goon spending good money for bad service.


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