Originally created 03/19/00

Quick tips: Car repairs



Knowledge can save money, sanity during car repairs

The typical car owner spends about $1,000 each year on vehicle repair and maintenance, not including fuel costs. The following tips can help you save money and keep you from having a mental breakdown when your car breaks down.

1. READ THE OWNER'S MANUAL before bringing your car in for repairs. The problem may be something simple that you can fix yourself.

2. DON'T SHIRK ROUTINE MAINTENANCE. Adhere to the manufacturer's suggested service schedule outlined in the owner's manual. Be sure to change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles or even sooner if you do lots of city driving or towing.

3. HUNT DOWN A GOOD MECHANIC. Start shopping for a repair shop before you need one. Ask friends for recommendations. Look for a mechanic who is certified by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence.

4. COMMUNICATE WELL. When your vehicle acts up, describe the problem precisely and accurately. Bring a written list of symptoms to the shop, and make sure the technician or service manager writes down everything you want checked.

5.GET A WRITTEN ESTIMATE. Tell the shop you want to approve any charges that surpass the estimated bill. Ask if the prices quoted are for new, used or rebuilt parts.

6.ARRANGE ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION so you won't feel forced to choose a repair shop solely because of its location. When at the shop, don't allow yourself to be pressured into doing major repairs because the mechanic says he can do it while he's under the hood.

7.GET A SECOND OPINION for major repairs. If you hear the same advice twice, it's probably correct. Seek a third opinion if the price seems too high.

8. CHECK THE INVOICE CAREFULLY. Before you pay, make sure you understand the work performed. Keep copies of all work orders and receipts, and get all guarantees and warranties in writing.

9. READ YOUR WARRANTY'S FINE PRINT. If your car is still covered under a warranty, repair work should be done at little or no cost to you. Be aware that you may void the warranty by allowing anyone other than the dealership to work on the car or by failing to perform routine maintenance on time.

10. IF YOU HAVE A COMPLAINT, talk to the service manager and give him a chance to resolve the problem. If that doesn't help, contact the president or owner of the company. If you're still not satisfied, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at (800) 955-5100 or the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs, 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 356, Atlanta, GA 30334, (800) 869-1123.

Sources: Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs (www2.state.ga.usGaOCA); National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (www.asecert.org); Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).

Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.