Car repair is like a lot of other things in life – it’s only when you realize what it is you want that you can ever expect to obtain it. In the world of oil changes and tire rotations experience tells me that there are only a couple of general themes that run through all customer expectations.
The first is honesty. Customers feel vulnerable and have to achieve a comfort level with their service provider. It is only after some experience with the repair facility that the car owner becomes confident of the shop’s integrity. This is only earned after the shop’s ability to follow through on promises has become evident. Usually these promises deal with price, completion time and accurate diagnosis.
The first two considerations are clearly definable. The job either did conform to the estimate of cost and duration or it did not. As for the accuracy of diagnosis, this is a something very different. Although errors in troubleshooting your problem certainly can change the price and time estimates, proper diagnosis is definitely a function of competence. The need for repeated attempts at repairing the same complaint may mean that the repair facility, although quite honest, is ill equipped to deal with this specific problem. The savvy customer will be aware of how often this occurs and evaluate accordingly taking into account the shop’s explanation for the repeated failures
The automobile is a piece of complex machinery. One symptom can mask a root problem and the technician’s role is complicated by an aftermarket that is plagued by defective replacement parts. These realities make the shop’s job a challenge even on a good day, however your expectations should be met on a consistent basis.
The other expectation is good advice. Although it’s understood that the auto repair shop benefits from the sale of replacement parts and services, the customer expects the service facility to periodically assess their vehicle’s needs and make recommendations. At a good shop there should be a constant tension between performing just the requested work and “selling up” the customer to a larger repair. A trained service person can find something wanting in every car.
Knowing that some auto repair shops subscribe to management philosophies that promote maximizing the sales potential of every car that passes through the overhead door, the car owner should arm himself with information. This knowledge comes in the form of old repair invoices and recommended service intervals as found in the owner’s manual. The informed car owner knows what has been done to his car, and at what mileage additional service operations should be performed.
The real trick is distinguishing a sincere effort to maintain your safety and your vehicle’s reliability from an aggressive sales assault. In the end it may come down to how it feels. If you’re constantly spending more than expected and rarely leave the shop without a pitch for more work, it may be time to decide if this really what you want.