Where can I find a good local mechanic?

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Answered by: Stephan, An Expert in the Your Mechanic Category
People often wonder if there is such a thing as a good mechanic. Most car owners have had a negative experience with a mechanic, and few people could recommend a local mechanic to a friend in good conscience. If asked off-hand, most people might reply that they want a cheap, honest mechanic. While both of those criteria are extremely objective, the good news is that the majority of local mechanics are legitimate businessmen and women, and one of them is a good fit for you.

The secret to finding a good local mechanic lies in knowing what you want or need out of your car, learning which local shops cater to those needs, and learning what questions to ask once you've arrived. So what should you look for in a good local mechanic? We'll offer some tips after exploring two examples of a common repair recommendation: brake pad replacement.

You've taken your car to a new mechanic for a routine oil change and inspection, and the Service Adviser informs you that your brake pads are low, and you should replace them. You're given a $200.00 quote for repair, and asked how you'd like to proceed. In this situation, many people might decline, take their car, and start shopping brake replacement quotes. A large percentage of those people will seek a second opinion. Both of those reactions are perfectly reasonable.

Now let's examine an oil change and inspection with a different mechanic. This time, the Service Adviser informs you that your front brake pads measured 3 millimeters out of 12, and your front brake rotors are within several tenths of a millimeter of minimum replacement specification. She continues, saying that in her experience, many people will experience unpleasant noise or vibration around this time. Her quote is $450.00 for the replacement of your front brake pads and rotors! This Service Adviser also explains that while she can't tell you exactly how many miles you can drive before your brakes are unsafe, you may have three months or more to act, depending on your driving habits and the conditions under which you operate your vehicle.

The two examples above illustrate the difference between a "cheap, honest" mechanic, and a good mechanic. The cheap, honest mechanic was right, you "should" replace your brake pads. However, without a valid explanation as to why, cheap means nothing, and honesty is lost in translation! The second mechanic explained your problem in detail, offered you some possible indicators of a deteriorating condition, and gave you a reasonable timetable for repair. Many people might agree that the second mechanic has more to offer, even if she isn't "cheap."

The key attributes of a good local mechanic are communication skills, diagnostic and repair proficiency, and flexibility. They should be able not only to identify and address your car's problem, but they should be able to explain reasons for a repair in terms you can understand, and provide you a reasonable schedule for completion. If at all possible, you should be given the option to schedule any repairs on your terms.

A good local mechanic also realizes that no two cars serve the same purpose. If your car is 20 years old, he may ask how long you plan on keeping the car after the repair. If you had to schedule your service appointment around dropping the kids off at school, he should know to ask whether you ever transport your children in the vehicle if it is potentially unsafe.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do when searching for a good local mechanic is to pay attention to your instincts. If you just don't feel comfortable working with a mechanic, it's time to move on. Your car is a part of your family, and your mechanic is your car's doctor. After all, if you can't feel comfortable with your doctor, who can you feel comfortable with?

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