Getting A Car Repair Right The First Time

June 6, 2011

The service department of a large dealership had a unique way to promote quality control. Above the repair area floor, there was a catwalk from which management could oversee the happenings below. On the wall behind the catwalk was a huge banner that read “Fix It Right The First Time.”

No, this is not an article about the demoralizing effects of a top-down management style. This story is about doing everything that you can to ensure that you get your problem corrected the first time you bring it in for repair. You can do that by answering a few questions:

Do I need a specialist? There was once a time when there were radiator, front-end and brake shops, but now most shops are generalists doing almost everything. The one exception is the transmission shop which remains prevalent in most markets, but may install rebuilt assemblies as opposed to rebuilding your trans unit. Be sure to ask what you are paying for and what the warranty is. If it is a remanufactured transmission, there may be no need to go there since the general practitioner could just as easily install the “crate” transmission.

Do I need the dealer? There is no love lost between the dealership service department and the independent repair facility. But at times even the most proficient and well-equipped independent professional might have to defer to the dealer. While the independents have exposure to many manufacturer brands, which in itself can be an advantage, sometimes the sheer volume of one brand seen by that dealer can be give them a decided leg up. One rule would be that as you move away from the very popular brands, you become more likely to need the expertise of an independent specializing in your brand or the service department of the dealer who sells it.

How involved is my problem? You are going to say that this why you need an expert. You are partly right. There are types of repairs, however, that send very clear signals as to their nature. The scraping of brakes, the volume of exhaust noise and the glow of a battery light are examples. These repairs are not rocket science and usually can be handled efficiently and without drama by anyone you trust. More subjective issues like drivability problems or an intermittent failure can require more analytical talents.

Am I prepared to help? No, you won’t have to get your hands dirty for the kind of assistance that I’m talking about. Just make sure that you've thought about the circumstances that surround the problem. It’s like a statement to the police. The service facility will want to know what, where and when your problem occurs and any observations you might have. But remember, just the facts, just the facts, no theories or diagnoses--that’s the job of the repairer.

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