Auto Repair New Year's Resolutions

December 27, 2010

New Year’s resolutions are never fun, because they remind you of all your shortcomings. But let’s put away all the guilt and shame of the past and concentrate on the future. The pundits that deal in these sorts of things say that our promises to ourselves should be attainable and realistic, so we will just offer five in no significant order of their ability to prevent auto repair meltdown.

I will treat my car as an object. There is a tendency to attribute human characteristics to 4,000 pounds of mass-produced sheet metal, steel and plastic. There is no physical evidence that any vehicle has ever harbored any personal ill feelings against its owner. It only escalates the tension to assume that there is. So treat a breakdown like what it is - the failure of a machine, which, in most cases, can be repaired.

I will not self-diagnose my car’s problem. If I was ranking these suggestions, this would be number one. When interacting with the staff of an auto repair shop, offer as many symptoms and descriptions of your vehicle’s problems as you think are pertinent, but don’t cross the line into diagnosis. This is what you are paying the service center for, and once they offer a solution to your problems, they are also assuming ownership of the fix. This eliminates the chance you will hear something like. “But you said you thought it needed a tune-up,” as a justification for added cost or the reason the initial repair proved ineffectual.

I will make myself available for consultation. Put yourself in the service facility’s place. It is working on multiple cars with different equipment and personnel needs and once your car makes its way to the lift or alignment rack, it has to be resolved in a timely fashion. If you, as the decision maker are not available, the process grinds to a halt. If you demand to be notified as to cost or completion time (which you should) you have to be committed to responding promptly.

I will not be swayed solely by price. Everyone likes a bargain. In auto repair, giving in to your frugal inner self is often what becomes, in the end, a recipe for disaster. While looking for what is most troublesome about the industry, I have found that it is the lowball price that is used to draw in customers who are then sold unnecessary services. A sound decision about where to have your car repaired should be based on not only price but reputation and convenience as well.

I will be car aware. Here, I’m borrowing from the Car Care Council. What it means to me is responding promptly to all warning lights, unusual noises and sensations that your vehicle may be displaying. This is done by doing a walk around your car looking for conditions like excessive tire wear or leaking fluids. Doing this prior to trips or once a month will keep you abreast of the condition of your vehicle. This awareness will save you repair dollars in the long run.

There is always room for improvement in any endeavor and your approach to having your car repaired is no different. Following these resolutions may make the process easier and save you money along the way. 
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