How to Build a Great Relationship with Your Auto Mechanic

If you own a car, chances are you have had (or will have) to take it to a repair shop at some point. Unfortunately, tales of crooked mechanics are as prevalent as crooked politician stories, resulting in most car owners being wary or downright defensive before they even walk in a repair shop’s door. Referrals for auto repair shops, when their service and quality of work result in a positive experience that customers share with their friends, family and coworkers, hold a great deal of weight when car-owners are deciding who will service their car. Auto technicians are car-owners too, and know how it feels to be on both sides of that service counter. Below are a local shop manager’s suggestions for dealing with your automotive technician/repair shop in a way that will benefit both of you.


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    Be loyal to a good technician. A good technician knows that he/she needs to provide you with honest, quality work at a fair price if they want your loyalty. If you find a repair shop that does this, don’t "shop around." A tech or repair shop that you’ve developed a win-win relationship with will often reward your loyalty by waiving minor fees or offering special incentives to their best customers.
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    Offer trust. There are times that repairing the most immediate or obvious problem results in identifying other, often more serious issues that could not be readily diagnosed prior to the repair work. A good tech will communicate this possibility to you during the diagnostic phase; be prepared and do not become defensive when it happens. If you know your tech well, you should trust that s/he is telling you the truth, and not just trying to "up-sell" you. Remember: your tech didn’t cause the problem - he’s just the messenger.
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    Take care of your car. Auto technicians do not relish telling their customers that they need expensive repair work, especially if it is due to lack of proper maintenance. What they do enjoy are customers that get their regularly-scheduled maintenance done, i.e. oil changes, tune-ups, EFI cleanings, etc. These services add years to your car’s life, often result in better gas mileage, and give your tech the opportunity on a consistent basis to look your car over for any fluid leaks or other "first tells" of more serious issues. Early detection can often result in a much lower repair bill.
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    Realize that your tech cannot read minds. If you have had your car somewhere else for repairs within the last 6 months, tell your technician up-front exactly what was done. If you have noticed fluid under the car, strange noises, running problems, or any other out-of-the-ordinary behavior, tell your tech when you bring the car in.
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    Be honest about the problem. Some people think that if they tell the mechanic too much the bill will be larger. Just the opposite is true. Hiding symptoms may result in additional diagnosis (which costs money) or, worse, may result is an incomplete or improper repair. Sharing everything you know about what the car is doing is the way to the lowest possible repair bill.
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    Don't expect miracles. Remember the old saying: Cheap, Fast, Good - pick two. Are your expectations realistic? What is your #1 priority? If you are hoping for that '85 Chevy with over 150K to "run like new," you might want to evaluate your expectations a little bit.
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    Refer the garage to friends. The best compliment is to bring the shop new business based on your good relationship.


  • When you bring your car in for service or repair, make sure that the car has at least 1/4 tank of gas. Nothing upsets a technician more than having to test drive a car with the gas reserve light on.
  • If you're dropping your car off in the morning for service, consider bringing some donuts or other sort of small food item for the mechanics at the shop. It won't even cost you $10, and yet can go a long way toward establishing a good relationship with the people working on your car.
  • If your mechanic went above and beyond the call of duty, or even just did a good job, send a note to his boss (the Service Manager). Phone calls are good but don't provide the same effect as written documentation. The mechanic usually will see the letter and get a bonus for his good work. They often work long hours and don't make the best money and a bonus can really help out. And, chances are, they'll remember you next time.
  • When having the source of noises checked on your vehicle, request that the technician go for a test drive with you. Sometimes in the translation from the service writer to the tech, the description of the noise and when it occurs, changes. This also will give you a chance to to talk to the tech and help establish or reaffirm a good relationship.
  • ASK what your repair options are. Specifically for the 'realistic' time frame that you plan to keep the car. If you are realistically going to keep the car another two years, don't say that you are 'hopefully' going to trade in 6 months. You may get a 6 month band-aid repair inexpensively, but a year later, when you still own the car, have to face an expensive repair again.
  • Once the perfect mechanic for your car is found, a marriage occurs in which you become the "father" giving away the "bride" (your ride) to him. That is how serious your relationship will be from that moment on.
  • Consider an independent specialist. For example a shop that services only Honda products or Toyota products, but is not affiliated with the dealership. Many such shops are staffed by people that are enthusiasts and have a real love of the particular car-line. Most shops like this are staffed by former dealership employees that have vast product knowledge of the car-line. Due to the 'business politics' nature of many dealerships, turn over is high. You might not always get the most experienced tech working on your car at a dealership.
  • Finding the perfect mechanic on the get go can be a bit tricky. But never be dissuaded by how long it may take. He may not like your favorite sports team, but if he has the basics covered like passion, skill and an honesty towards his trade, you are golden.
  • Keeping these seven points in mind will help you develop a long-lasting, mutually-beneficial relationship with one of the most important people in your car’s life, and keep it (and you) on the road for many years to come.
  • ASE Certified:You see this sign at most all shops, however, a mechanic can be certified only in brakes, but diagnose and repair any and all systems on your car. Ask if the shop employs any ASE Certified Master Techs. A car is not a big machine, but a lot of little machines that work together, and a master tech better understands how one system works in relationship with other systems.
  • Spend some time exploring the difference between a "high quality" repair facility and the stereotypical shop. Keep in mind that a "high quality" repair facility spends tremendous amounts of time, effort and money on training, facility and equipment, in order to be better prepared to provide your vehicle with high quality maintenance and repairs. To treat these folks with the same respect as you might show for a typical telemarketer can be a slap in the face.


  • Do not treat technicians like grease monkeys. They have to study thousands of systems and models. Their job is much harder than the reward or respect they receive.
  • Allow reasonable time if you expect quality work. They can do the impossible today, but miracles sometimes take a little longer.
  • Ask the service writer to show you on the car what needs attention. A reputable shop should have no problem showing you the problem areas and explaining repair or maintenance options.
  • NEVER try to deceive your mechanic if a DIY repair has been attempted and failed, or led to subsequent problems. They will find out eventually, and it will most likely require extra diagnostic time and additional charges, and damage your relationship with them.

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