Does it burn you up when your automotive technician takes too long to find what's wrong with your car? Wait a minute. Before you lose your cool, stop and think about what you're asking him or her to do.
In a word, you want a diagnosis. You want him/her to listen to your description of the problem, run some tests, make some checks, perhaps do a test drive, announce a prognosis and follow it with a cure — make that an inexpensive cure.
"While it's true that today's vehicles are equipped with computers, digital dashboards, oxygen sensors and more, there's still a lot of old fashioned patience that goes into repairing a car," says Donna Wagner, President of the Car Care Council. "And to a large extent, a timely diagnosis starts with the motorist."
For example, if you take your car to have the brakes repaired, can you tell the technician or service writer when the brakes were serviced last? Just as it's helpful for your doctor to know your full medical history, a technician can often glean information from former service and/or repairs. Note to self, "Keep a log of all maintenance and repairs."
Knowing this information, does it make sense to find a shop you like and trust and stick with them? "You betcha," insists Wagner, "Provided they keep the history of all of their customers' cars on file, this is the best idea."
"Sometimes just a few extra minutes to communicate the full extent of the problem can save a lot of time on the part of the tech."
What about withholding information from your technician? While not punishable by law, it can certainly delay a diagnosis. Here's the scenario. It's early and you're late for work. You drop the car off, and the service writer begins asking a few pertinent questions. You bark, "I'm telling you it just dies in the middle of the road," and you race out the door for the office.
"Hmmmm," the service writer wonders. "Does it die in the morning or later in the day? Does it die at stoplights or in between them? Is there a smell or a noise when it dies? Is the car going up hill, downhill or on level ground? How fast, and how long has this been going on?"
Sometimes just a few extra minutes to communicate the full extent of the problem can save a lot of time on the part of the tech. This in turn saves you money and gets your car repaired more quickly.
Another tough call is a condition that comes and goes. These intermittent problems are a technician's nightmare because often the circumstances must be repeated for the symptom to reoccur. If you're not sure of the circumstances, you're asking the tech to diagnose a non-existent problem.
Finally, it's important to remember that cars are a lot like people. The flu, left untreated, can lead to something more serious. One needed repair, gone unchecked, can lead to another, often larger and perhaps more expensive problem. So don't be impatient if your tech makes a diagnosis, then digs a little deeper. If he or she uncovers a second problem, and recommends a separate repair, be grateful. "Remember," says Wagner, "any responsible shop has one goal: to fix it right the first time."
Another way to make sure your car is in tip top shape is an annual inspection, not unlike the kind your doctor suggests for you and your family. The Car Care Council offers a free pamphlet that explains what needs to be addressed during your car's yearly physical, which you can download from their website.
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