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How To Talk To Your Mechanic

Mechanic talking to car ownerTalking to a vehicle mechanic can be intimidating for just about anyone. It’s understandable. After all, you are basically handing over and entrusting one of the most expensive investments you own to a stranger. You’re hoping he or she will be able to figure out what’s wrong and fix it at a reasonable price. It is common for vehicle owners to be apprehensive and guarded around a mechanic. Mechanics, better known as Technicians, are trained and highly skilled people who are problem solvers. They desire to get to the bottom of your vehicle’s problem, fix it properly, and get you back on the road. A positive and successful experience is dependent on your respect and trust in their knowledge and skill.

Technicians are so much more than the unpleasant and antiquated label, “grease monkey.” Technicians are hard-working professionals who have undergone a great deal of training and mentoring to hone their skills. They are knowledgeable and dedicated individuals who have a passion for vehicles and have dedicated years to education, special training, certifications, and experience to their trade. Many positions today require specific certifications and education. In many cases, for specialized components, such as transmissions, or a specific vehicle manufacturer, additional training is required. How you discuss your vehicle’s trouble can help you achieve a successful experience. Here’s how you can make your next trip to the auto shop a mutually pleasant experience:

Communication Is Key

While a description of the symptoms your car is exhibiting isn’t always enough to diagnose the vehicle entirely, it’s a great starting point for your technician to begin his search for the cause of the trouble.

1- Take notes – When your car starts acting up, write down exactly what the car is doing and what the circumstances are while the car is experiencing the issue. Is this issue only happening at start-up? Are you stopped? Are you traveling over 50 MPH? Include specifics such as noises, smells, vibrations, or any other unusual behaviors.

2- Details, details – Describe the issue in as much detail as possible. Use common automotive terms such as:

  • Backfire – a loud bang that comes from the vehicle’s tailpipe or engine.
  • Bottoming – Occurs when the car bottoms out when going over a bump or high spot in the road. Usually accompanied by a loud noise, typically having to do with the suspension system.
  • Bucking – A rocking or lurching feeling felt when vehicle changes gears or after hesitation.
  • Dieseling – Describes what occurs after the vehicle is turned off but continues to run for a short period.
  • Hesitation – A temporary loss in power during acceleration.
  • Knocking – A knocking or rattle sound, usually from the engine, heard during acceleration.
  • Misfire – A failure to fire. Engine excludes a part of the combustion cycle due to a failed component, causing it to run rough.
  • Shimmy – An unusual wobble feeling often felt through the steering wheel or tires.
  • Sluggish – Car struggles to accelerate, either slowly or awkwardly
  • Surge – Car accelerates suddenly, and the engine produces higher RPMs than usual.

3- Go for a drive – If you find yourself at a loss for words in explaining the issue to the technician, ask to go on a test drive with the technician. You’ll need to duplicate the same situation that causes the issue to occur.

The Diagnosis

Once the technician knows what is needed to fix the problem, he’ll explain the repairs including the estimated length of time the repair is expected to take. Provide a telephone number where you can be reached so that you may be contacted when the repair is complete or if any unforeseen problems occur. This is also the time where the technician will discuss the costs involved in the repair. If there are several items on your car’s repair “to-do” list, ask your technician to list services beginning with the most imperative to the ones that can wait until another date. Keep in mind, the price provided to you is calculated based on the cost of the part and the time needed to complete the repair. No one enjoys pouring money into their car for repairs, but if you are concerned about the cost of them, politely question the cost. Your technician will be happy to provide a breakdown of the cost of your service(s).

A vehicle that needs repair can be stressful and frustrating. By taking your vehicle to a professional, you’ll find out what trouble your car is experiencing, what needs to be done to resolve the trouble, and the associated costs and time needed to complete the repair. Now that you understand how best to communicate with a Technician, you’ll arrive at your next service confident in communication and their ability to get the job done to your satisfaction.