Can you trust your auto repair shop?

The days of getting ripped off by your auto repair shop are, for the most part, behind us.

Growing up, my family was always wary of auto repair shops. Service writers have a strange power over the average motorist – they have access to tools and information that the customer cannot verify, and they are selling customers on work that the majority of drivers don’t understand.

When I began working on cars at the age of 23, I discovered a whole new world of knowledge, understanding, and confidence in auto mechanics.

The cars I grew up around from the late 90s and early 2000s are just a pile of bolted-together systems, designed to work together and hold together to transport you where you need to go. In recent years, they have introduced digital technology to pretty much every system on the car, but in reality all that means is now there is computer programming and additional wiring for you to rely upon, on top of the traditional nuts and bolts.

By design, these systems work, and work well. As cars get used, certain components will wear out and should be repaired or replaced, but cars are generally much more tolerant than I was led to believe as a kid. If a bolt is tight, it is tight – there are very few bolts (outside of the engine) that require exact precision on torque specs (how tight you tighten the bolt). I learned that the DIY world was not as daunting as I first anticipated, but I also gained an incredible appreciation for professionals in auto repair.

If you take your car to a busy auto repair shop, here is what I would advise you to consider.

They’re busy. You had to wait for an appointment, there are more cars waiting to come in after you’re done. The shop is providing some sort of good experience to customers so that they are coming back and referring their friends. You have no reason not to trust them. The technicians and service writers want to make your car safe, address your complaints, and provide you with manufacturer-recommended maintenance.

With those priorities in mind, it’s not surprising to me that a shop will come back to me recommending more services get handled than my original request.

I once brought my truck in to a shop for brakes. When the shop called me back, they recommended I rebuild my differential, replace the power steering pump, fix multiple oil leaks, and replace the air filter.

As someone who knows a little something about the mechanics of my truck, I know that it has oil leaks, a slightly dirty air filter, a whining power steering pump, and a howling differential. I also know that I have oil in the back, the air filter can last another couple thousand miles, and the differential is noisy, but hasn’t caused any problems yet. Like I said, cars are tolerant.

With my basic level of knowledge, I am able to decline those additional services for now. That being said, I can completely trust that shop. Although they recommended thousands of dollars of work on my truck that it technically didn’t need, I acknowledge that it will eventually need those services to be in the best condition.

Remember this, next time you’re sweating awaiting an estimate from your auto repair shop – trust them, they have your safety and your car’s reliability top of mind, not your wallet.


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