Taking your daily driver in for routine maintenance or something more serious is right up there with root canals and extended in-law visits on our lists of things to avoid. Even if you’ve struck gold with a great service provider who never lets you down and always provides reasonable prices and superior results, there’s always more than a little nagging feeling when it comes to getting auto work done. A lot of this has to do with costs and inconvenience, but mainly because our vehicles’ technology has outstripped our ability to understand exactly what’s going on under the hood. So here are a few words to those that want to be wise to keep your relationship with your go-to shop humming along.
Stop chasing coupon deals and loss-leader ads around town. If you lucked in on finding a great shop (be it a dealership service department, national/regional chain, or independent facility), try to make your choice a one-stop affair. If they sell tires, for example, let them quote you on replacements when the need arises. Yes big national stores can often get you a slightly lower price on tires, but it means a separate trip and dealing with strangers working on your ride. No auto shop has a large markup on tires and the few extra dollars you might spend with your regular shop will be well worth it in terms of convenience and their knowledge of your particular vehicle and preferences. Don’t just assume they can’t do a particular job because you think it might be a dealership or other source specialty. Even smaller more modest shops have kept up with technology and many can do such former-exclusive-to-dealership jobs such as updating onboard computers and such. All you have to do is ask.
Let them give everything a good once-over at least once or twice a year. Just about every type of auto repair shop offers comprehensive inspections at discounted prices during the year and taking advantage of them (especially at winter/summer tire changeovers) is a great way to stay on top of things and have some real peace of mind driving. But be warned, if you continually ignore your tech’s repair/maintenance recommendations based on those inspections, they may simply just stop advising you. No matter how advanced a vehicle may be, keeping it on the road safely and performing well takes much more than just oil changes.
Understand their limitations. Working on vehicles in our climate takes building space and specialized equipment. That costs serious coin so very few shops ever overbuild. They have capacity for average and slightly above average demand, but under exceptional circumstances, things can get backed up. Think of the first serious snowfall, for example, when everyone and their dog are trying to get snow-tires put on at the last minute. In these cases, no matter how great a customer you might be, you’re not likely to get bumped up past others in line. Other times when your shop might be overbooked are Fridays (when everyone is pushing to get things done for the weekend) and first thing on Mondays (when all the weekend problems land at their doorsteps). If you can avoid these rushes with inquiry calls and visits, you’ll find booking your vehicle in a lot easier.
Give your shop a fighting chance. When it comes to intermittent problems, such as noises that come and go, or mysterious warning icons that show up on your dash one day and are gone the next, take the time to note the circumstances and conditions when the problems crop up. It’s very helpful for a tech to know where the noise seems to be coming from, at what speeds, on braking or accelerating, over what type of bumps, etc. Use the technology in your hand; cell phones can record strange noises and let you dictate the information of when things are happening. One of the most common miscommunications between clients and repair shops is differentiating between a noise and a feeling (like a vibration). You’d be surprised to know how many hours a tech might waste chasing down a noise, only to find out after a conversation with the customer that it was a vibration concern. Remember, when you make things easier for your tech, they usually take less time to pinpoint the problems and therefore save you money and time.