Service Pitfalls

5 things you should ask yourself before dropping your vehicle off for service.

After a quarter century in the car business I have seen some crazy things. You have all heard stories but reality is that choosing a repair shop can be scary. You live out of your vehicle, it keeps you safe, or makes you money, it makes you proud, happy, relieved……. Whatever the reason your vehicle is important. When it comes to repair and maintenance, you want a garage that has a good doctor/patient relationship with you, that is qualified and affordable. There are gigantic pitfalls you can avoid by asking yourself 5 simple questions.


1. Am I in the right garage?

There are many choices as to where you can take your vehicle when it’s in need
of maintenance or repair. Those include going to a dealership, a department or chain-store
franchise, or an independent mechanic at a service station. When it comes to this decision
there are some common assumptions out there. Let’s take a look at some and consider if they
are fact or fiction.

Assumption #1 “Repair work under factory warranty should go to the dealer”

Normally True, That’s where you’ll find mechanics that are trained to fix problems that pop up with new car models. The manufacturer requires training and experience levels for the dealership to be allowed to operate. They have a direct line for parts and often can get them quicker or already have them in stock.

Assumption #2 Because dealer overhead is high, expect to pay top dollar for repairs not covered under your warranty.

Yes that can be a big fat false, you may say I am biased? Yes I want you to come to us but
Forget me for a sec. just think about it:

– department store overhead is gargantuan. What do you think that big box store’s electric bill is?

– The chain store? Franchise costs/royalties, advertising, all of the insurance and building maintenance costs all add up. In contrast, a dealership shares costs with the sales department often making our costs to operate service less.

– The small or one man show? His cost must be cheap? Wait a second, how much volume does he do? Central Hudson charges him the same for electric as the rest of us. If he has less customers, Does he need to make more on each one (that’s right you) to cover his bills.

Before leaving your car at an independent automotive shop find out if the mechanic working on your car is at least ASE Certified (or factory certified) on the component or system that needs fixing. I have read that there are 8 certifications offered by ASE and apparently many shops do not have technicians that have all of them…..or even most of them. Don’t let some junior mechanic work on your car that is not certified or qualified on that particular repair area. He or she may mean well, but do more harm than good.

2. Are the repairs you are paying for actually getting done?

It happens on purpose. It happens by mistake. Either way, it happens. Let’s say you drop your car off at the garage to have the fluids, belts and filters replaced. But the garage is busy, the mechanic who works on your car is a new hire, and the manager hasn’t trained him that well yet or failed to give very clear instructions. As a result, the belts never get replaced, but you drive away thinking you’ve got brand-new ones.

A good way to avoid the problem of work that was supposed to have been done but wasn’t: Ask to see the old parts. In some cases, mechanics can give you the parts they’ve removed from your car, or at least show you them if there is a core charge requiring the part be recycled. (Same exception is if the warranty requires they be sent back to the manufacturer.) If you have a concern that a part was replaced when it shouldn’t t have been, you should ask for it back or at least to see the old one.

3. Do I need those repairs?

Let’s assume everyone out there is honest, I am not naive, I know some are not. The reality is that unnecessary repairs can occur even if the nicest people are working with you.

Most unnecessary repairs are due to the fact that cars are so incredibly complex that often a shop ends up trying a few things in order to solve the problem. When a repair baffles a mediocre mechanic, he or she will probably keep replacing suspect parts until the problem is finally solved. Many of the parts replaced may have nothing to do with the problem, but you’ll probably end up paying for them anyway.

4. Are they high tech?

Cars have become incredibly sophisticated. Did you know that a 1991 Ford Ranger had more computing power than the first Apollo moon lander? Today’s vehicles are a hundred times more complicated. Some mechanics haven’t caught up. Automotive dealers are required by most manufacturers to buy the expensive diagnostic equipment needed to pinpoint the source of computer problems. That means their technicians are more likely to be trained in these complicated repairs.

Still, not all mechanics are properly trained in the computerized systems found in most cars today. That could be because independent car mechanics have to bear most of the costs when upgrading their technology. Independent car technicians must make the same investment in sophisticated diagnostic equipment if they expect to be able to diagnose and repair these complex cars. The problem is that without enough volume and sales department revenue, are they equipped to take care of you.

5. What about my warranty?

Confusion about your warranty is good for a repair shop. After all, it’s not in
an independent mechanic’s best interest to tell you when a repair is under warranty
because he can charge you for it.

The way dealership warranties work is that if you get the car repaired somewhere else and something goes wrong as a result of that repair, the cost of fixing the problem will no longer be covered by the warranty. So say you get an oil change at a quick service franchise shop and the mechanic does something wrong that eventually damages your engine; the manufacturer doesn’t have to honor your warranty when your engine is finally repaired. But some dealers like to take it a step further by making it seem as if you have to bring your car to them for all repairs or risk losing your warranty protection. Don’t fall for it. They should instead offer you good price and quick service so you stay with them because of that doctor/patient relationship and value, not fear.

Remember, it is YOUR choice where you service. Never let anyone tell you different. Of course, I hope you choose us, but wherever you choose make sure you keep the receipts so that way if the manufacturer suggests your maintenance was not kept up, you can prove otherwise.

As I admitted throughout, I really want you to come to Northeast Ford. Because of the high volume of every make and model we sell pre-owned, we have a ton of experience with out of make vehicles. My people are trained and have the cutting edge, state of the art tools and diagnostic equipment available. Our doctor/patient approach will be nice for you because we are there to explain your care, and to let you decide your path for treatment with great bedside manner.

Thank you so much for reading.


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