How to Communicate for Better Automotive Service

Source: Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)

Communication between car owners and repair shops is essential. Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) recommends that car owners do their homework before taking their vehicles in for repairs, learn to recognize warning signals and know what to do and say once inside the repair establishment. Do your homework before taking your vehicle in for repairs or service.

  • Read the owner's manual to learn about the vehicle's systems and components.
  • Follow the recommended service schedules.
  • Keep a log of all repairs and service.

Use your senses to inspect your car frequently for:

  • Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings
  • Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels
  • Worn tires, belts, hoses
  • Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations

Note when the problem occurs:

  • When did the problem first start?
  • Is it constant or periodic?
  • When the vehicle is cold or after the engine has warmed up?
  • At all speeds? Only under acceleration? During braking? When shifting?

Once you are at the repair establishment, communicate your findings:

  • Be prepared to describe the symptoms. (In larger shops, you'll probably speak with a service writer or service manager rather than with the technician directly.)
  • Carry a written list of the symptoms to give to the technician or service manager.
  • Resist the temptation to suggest a specific course of repair. Just as you would with your physician, tell where it hurts and how long it's been that way, but let the technician diagnose the problem and recommend a remedy.
  • Don't rush the service writer or technician to make an on-the-spot diagnosis. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action and costs before work begins.
  • Do not be embarrassed to ask questions.
  • Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop policies regarding diagnostic fees, labor rates, guarantees and acceptable methods of payment.
  • Leave a telephone number where you can be reached.