All drivers know the feeling well: The dread that washes over you when your check-engine light comes on, your car refuses to start, or your vehicle begins making a weird and troubling noise—often warranting a trip to the mechanic. You can typically take your car to a dealership for routine maintenance or basic repairs, but occasionally, you may need or want to take your vehicle to an independent auto shop. In the latter case, it’s imperative to have an experienced and trustworthy mechanic so your mind can be at ease. But finding one is easier said than done. To help make the process less challenging, here’s how to choose a good auto mechanic in California.
Ask friends and family who have a similar vehicle to yours about their auto mechanic. Alternatively, you can research repair shops in your area using Consumer Reports, Angie’s List, and Cartalk.com. Once you’ve narrowed your list, check the Better Business Bureau to see how each shop fares.
Find an Auto Shop for Your Brand of Car
Many garages specialize in certain makes, which means they are more likely to have the latest training and equipment to fix your car. This factor is particularly important if you have an imported or high-end car.
Check for Certification
It’s critical to ensure the auto shop and the mechanics working there are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Aside from an ASE certification, a shop in California should also have a license from the California Bureau of Automotive Repair.
Try It Out
It’s highly recommended to try out some local shops before your car needs a major or urgent repair, so consider taking in your car for basic repairs or maintenance items such as tire rotations or oil changes. This allows you to get a better sense of the professionalism of the shop and the quality of its customer service. When you meet with the mechanic, pay close attention to his or her bedside manner: Is the technician engaging with you and asking specific questions about the issue your car is having? Does he or she seem to have a clear understanding of the problem? Is the mechanic treating you with respect?
Before getting your car serviced, ensure you’re asking the right questions. For instance, warranties vary among shops, so it’s important to inquire about them ahead of time. You should also ask for a price quote or written estimate, ideally broken down into parts and labor. A quality shop should be able to explain why the labor rate is priced a certain way and be willing to show you the wear and tear on a part that needs replacing. It’s also recommended to ask if there are any fees that aren’t included in the estimate, such as a tire-disposal fee in a tire replacement. It’s beneficial, too, to request a list of job priorities, especially if you have an older vehicle that may require multiple repairs.
Follow these guidelines—and trust your instincts—to choose an auto mechanic in California. It may take some trial and error, but once the research is done, going to the mechanic will no longer be an anxiety-inducing task.