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How To Avoid High-Pressure Car Repair Practices


There is a very useful bit of reading available at Edmunds that should be required reading for anyone who owns a car, but doesn't do their own repairs. It has been around for a while and was part of the website's confessions series.

"Confessions from the Dealership Service Department" is linked at the bottom of this article. The piece is anonymously authored by an experienced service writer and describes the landscape inside the service department of a car dealership. What jumped out at me was the article's emphasis on the importance of reading your owner's manual and how it should be used as the playbook for your vehicle's care.

All Car Advice has stated many times that the recommended service intervals as found in the owner's manual should serve as a guideline for what you have done to your car and when. Our post Five Auto Repair Scams And How To Deter Them deals with many of the same conditions that are explained in the service department confession.

The Edmunds' confession points out that the service writers must be dealt with as the commissioned salespersons they are. Knowing that, the consumer must be armed with the recommended service intervals and his own vehicle service history to ensure that their suggestions are neither unnecessary duplications of previous maintenance, warranty items nor aggressively premature.

As the whistle blower says in the confession, there is always a tension between needed maintenance and volume that generates profit for the dealership. The only way to combat the advantage that the service department has is to attempt to level the playing field by knowing what the manufacturer of your car recommends and by obtaining some basic general knowledge about your vehicle. As the author says, "service advisors are wary of customers who look like they know what they're doing," so make an effort to learn about your car by getting information at least about the major systems.

The idea is not to know enough to repair a car yourself but to be conversant about the brake, cooling and suspension systems for example. This can be done by asking questions when you get your car repaired or typing a question into the search engine at ACA. For more detailed information try 2carpros which uses clear photos and simple text to explain various repair operations.

There is one good thing about aggressive sales tactics commonly known in the industry as the upsell. They're easy to identify. Just check the owner's manual for how much the car maker recommends to be done and then check your invoice and wallet when you leave the repair shop, if the two don't feel right, you might want to make a change.   

[Edmunds]
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