The economy, did you hear? It is not so good these days. That is all we hear about on the news anymore.
Personally, I keep my television set tuned to the Discovery or History channel when I watch TV and stay away from the popular news channels. I know my 401K has been losing ground, I can see it in my quarterly report and I do not have to be reminded of it every 30 seconds.
It seems "news only" channels thrive entirely on bad news. Scaring the dickens out of us gets them the best ratings. At any rate, I will keep funding my retirement account every other week. After all, stocks are on sale these days and history shows that eventually the market will recover.
In the past many of you may have traded in your vehicle every three years or so. Modern vehicles today experience very few problems in the first three years. Should a problem arise, warranty coverage would most likely be in effect. Going to the dealer for service may have been routine and somewhat affordable. Many dealers offer lifetime oil changes when you purchase a new vehicle or even a used one. This is a great deal as long as you can resist the up-sell for other services that they will charge up to triple the fair rate.
Due to the current economic times, this may be the year to keep your car instead of trading it in on a new one. At this point, you have two choices, keep taking your car to the dealer for service and pay three times the labor and parts cost of an independent repair shop, or find one of those independent shops to work on your car when repairs and maintenance are necessary.
Finding a reputable repair shop may be a little bit of trial and error. Word of mouth may be the best way to start. Ask your friends, co-workers or relatives what automotive shop they use to work on their vehicle. Also, ask if they had to go back to the shop repeatedly for the same problem at any time. Do not wait until you break down on the side of the road to start your search for the right mechanic. When you do get a recommendation from someone, go there to get an oil change. Why oil change? Well, if they cannot get that right you will not want them doing anything major on your car.
Unbelievably, in my search for the right shop three out of four shops overfilled the engine with oil by as much as two quarts. That is almost as bad as driving with to little oil in the engine.
Once you get a recommendation, if possible stop in to make an appointment. This way you can look around a little. The shop bays should be somewhat clean and uncluttered. Look to see how the employees are working, if one of them is sitting on a chair scratching his belly while the other is cussing and throwing wrenches around, it may be a sign to check out another place. If all looks good, go inside to make the appointment. The owner or service writer should greet you in a reasonable amount of time. They should be pleasant and really listen to what you want them to do. If he acts as if they are doing you, a favor or you just ruined his whole day by showing up, leave. Do not be scared, you are not committed to them at all and your car still runs, and that is why you start your search with routine maintenance.
Lastly, listen to your gut! You know that feeling, that uncomfortable feeling, that you are about to be taken for every penny you can muster. If you get that gut feeling, walk away.
Remember, this may cost more than the 18.95 you see advertised in the paper and other places. That price is just to get you in the door with the hopes of an up-sell later. No one makes a profit at 18.95. They probably lose money. But with one spark plug and wire change at the dealer at say 400.00 to 600.00, that makes up for a lot of oil changes! When your car is finished, as soon as possible check your oil. It should be at the full mark on the dipstick and the oil should be a golden clear color. If the oil is over or under the full mark by more than a 1/8 inch call them back and let them know. If they are rude, or get aggravated, start your search for another shop. If they are apologetic and offer to make it right, let them. Hey, stuff happens. Give them another shot next time.
Always check a shops work. Become familiar with what your car looks like under the hood. More times than not I have had work done and had to put many things back together myself. Even at the dealer! The shop I currently use, I asked the owner if he had any good mechanics. He was honest and said he has two good ones and the other two were not so good. I said ok, so only the good ones will work on my car, right? He said that is right. I told him I really do not like putting my car back together after a repair job. He personally checks the work out before I pick my vehicles up. Because he knows, I certainly will!
When you do find a good shop, hang on for dear life. Good mechanics and shops are hard to come by these days. Good mechanics seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to diagnosing problems with new vehicles. Especially with those pesky check engine lights. Sometimes it may take several trips to find exactly what the true cause is even with the most sophisticated diagnostic equipment available today.
I hope this article will help you save a few bucks by finding a good independent repair shop rather than going to the dealer and paying overly inflated labor and parts cost.