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What to Know Before Taking Your Car in for Repairs


The average age of cars on the road has been increasing as more consumers choose to stick with their vehicle instead of upgrading to a newer model. Keeping a paid off vehicle is a great way to save some money. Unfortunately, many price-conscious drivers are also putting off needed repairs to try to save an extra buck. But putting off repairs could actually cost you more, and it puts your safety and the safety of other drivers at risk. So don’t skip the small repairs until you need a big one. Finding a good mechanic and keeping your car maintained is both the safest and most cost-effective way to extend the life of your vehicle.

Many people can feel intimidated when visiting an auto mechanic. With little knowledge of how your car works, you are placing a lot of trust in the mechanic’s diagnosis and proposed solution. So it’s important that you prepare for your mechanic visit properly. Knowing how to find a trustworthy mechanic and how to work with your mechanic can save you a lot of hassle down the line.

Finding a Good Mechanic

The first step in servicing your car is finding the right mechanic and repair shop. One option is to go back to the dealership where you bought the vehicle. They’ll use factory parts and are experts at dealing with your type of vehicle. But that may not always be the best value. Many independent garages do great works for a fair price. And they can save you hundreds compared to a dealership service department.

The first step to finding a good auto mechanic is to do a little research. Don’t just pick the garage closest to you or one you found in a phone book or online search. Ask around. Find out where your friends have had work done and ask about their experience. Once you find a mechanic you are considering, look them up online. Look for reviews that can tell you about people’s experience with that mechanic. You can also check for a listing with the Better Business Bureau.

Of course, one of the quickest and easiest ways to research a good mechanic is to use When you find a mechanic on, you can rely on Dale’s intensive 7-point investigative review. The investigative review looks at references and many other factors to determine which businesses you can trust. And when you work with a TrustDALE certified business, you are also protected by Dale’s exclusive Make-it-Right Guarantee™. To find a TrustDALE certified auto mechanic in your area, click here.

Before You Go

Before you bring your car in, you will need to gather some information to assist the mechanic in diagnosing your car. You may have had the experience of walking into a repair shop unprepared and trying to replicate the noise your car makes in front of the mechanic. But there is a better way. Start by preparing a written record of what your car was doing just before you brought it in. If you’re bringing in a vehicle that won’t run, take note of what the vehicle was doing immediately before it stopped running. Also, make a note of what it was doing the days or weeks before. Finally, be prepared to tell the auto mechanic when the car was last serviced.

If you want to improve on standing in front of a mechanic and making strange car noises with your mouth, here are some terms that might help you communicate what your car is doing:

  • Sluggish - your vehicle is not accelerating smoothly or quickly enough
  • Surge - a sudden acceleration that happens on its own
  • Knocking - a rapid rattling noise, typically heard when accelerating
  • Shimmy - the car feels like its moving side to side, usually felt in the tires or steering wheel
  • Bucking - a sudden lurch, caused by the engine hesitating or the transmission slipping during a gear change
  • Bottoming - loud noise or harshness when going over bumps, usually felt in the steering wheel or passenger compartment
  • Misfire - one or more of the engine’s cylinders doesn’t ignite, causing a slight hesitation
  • Backfire - a gunshot sound coming from the tailpipe
  • Hesitation - the vehicle feels like it loses power for a moment while accelerating
  • Dieseling - the engine keeps running for a moment after the car is turned off

Once you have a written explanation of what your car is doing and why you are bringing it in, prepare your car. If your car is full of your belongings, take a moment to clear it out. Your mechanic may need to move around the interior of your vehicle, and clutter can get in the way. Remove items from the interior and trunk of your car and clean out any garbage you may have collected. It is both courteous and helpful to your mechanic

Get An Estimate and Leave Your Vehicle

The saying goes, “Quick. Cheap. Good. Pick any two.” If you want quality service and a fast turnaround, expect to pay. If you want excellent service at a discount price, expect it to take some time. In general, you should expect to leave your car at the mechanic. Even routine repairs and adjustments can take time if there are other cars ahead of you. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask the mechanic for an estimate of how long the repairs will take, though they may not be able to give you a firm answer until the car is diagnosed. Arrange a ride home from the mechanic and a ride to pick up your car. Unless you’ve called ahead and the garage is really not busy, don’t expect to get service while you wait.

When you leave your care, make sure that you make yourself available. Give your mechanic a number where they can reach you. Once the car is diagnosed, they will need to call you to provide an estimate and get your approval to do the repairs. If you’re unable to take the call, your car could be put aside, and other vehicles may be put ahead of it in the service order.

Sometimes, you can’t get an estimate when you drop the car off. If it’s unclear what’s wrong with the vehicle, the mechanic can’t quote you a price for repairs. Whatever you do, never sign a service agreement without a diagnosis and an estimate. Signing a service agreement without a diagnosis is like giving the mechanic a blank check to charge for any work they deem necessary. Make sure your mechanic will at least call for your approval before doing any repairs. If possible, get an estimate in writing.

If you get an estimate that seems too high, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Also, ask about the rate your mechanic is charging for labor. There are industry standards around the estimated labor for various repairs.

When You Pick Up Your Vehicle

When you come to pick up your vehicle, make sure that you have a clear written explanation of what was wrong with the vehicle and what was done to fix it. You should receive an itemized invoice that breaks down parts and labor. If new parts were installed, ask for the old parts back. This ensures that the new parts you were charged for were actually installed. If you think your mechanic may have charged you for extra parts and labor unnecessarily, having the replaced parts allows a different mechanic to inspect the parts and determine if they really needed replacement.

Be prepared to pay a small fee for your parts. While you may assume that your parts should simply be returned because they belong to you, many used parts actually have internals that are worth something when recycled. Your mechanic expects to be able to recycle the used vehicle parts they remove. When you take the parts home with you, expect to pay a small deposit, similar to the deposit on a recyclable beverage bottle. When you are satisfied with the work that was done, you can return the parts and get your deposit back.

The best way to avoid trouble with a mechanic is to start out with a mechanic you can trust. has certified AAMCO Total Car Care - Georgia. When you turn to AAMCO, you can trust that you and your car will be treated well. Dale trusts AAMCO, and so can you!