Taking your vehicle to get worked on can be intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with the lingo associated with vehicle maintenance and repair. However, next to your home, your vehicle is most likely the second most expensive investment you’ll make, so it’s important to make sure you leave it in the right hands when something goes awry.
"Some customers are afraid to ask questions because they feel intimidated by technicians," says Bob Arlotta, NAPA 2008 Technician of the Year. "But it’s your right as a customer to ask as many questions as you want. Any auto care center not willing to answer your questions is probably not a good choice for your vehicle maintenance needs."
Whether you need a problem fixed immediately or are simply searching for an auto care center that can perform routine maintenance, there are a number of important questions that all vehicle owners should ask before turning their keys over to an automotive technician:
1. Are you ASE certified?
A common indication of quality service is a certificate of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE’s mission is to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service through the testing and certification of repair and service professionals. Arlotta recommends checking with your local repair shop to ensure the establishment and its technicians are in fact endorsed with an ASE certificate. This certificate confirms the quality of work you can expect from the facility is high. If no ASE certificate has been awarded, it’s probably a good idea to take your vehicle elsewhere.
2. What payment policies and guarantees do you offer?
Before approving any work to be done, it’s important to ask about the facility’s labor rates, warranties and payment policies. Auto care centers willing to provide this information up front, in writing, traditionally produce high-quality work because they know they’re accountable for it. Also, before letting a technician inspect your vehicle, it’s important to find out the cost involved. Not all auto care centers provide free estimates, and you don’t want to be stuck paying a costly inspection fee you didn’t approve beforehand.
3. What is your used parts policy?
Some garages have been known to pass off used parts as new to unsuspecting vehicle owners. To ensure you’re getting what you paid for, Arlotta recommends asking the facility about its used parts policy before having any work done on your vehicle. Does the garage use used parts? Can you request they only use new parts? Can you see the parts before they are installed on your vehicle?
4. Do you have a list of references I can contact?
To really find out about the facility’s service record, it doesn’t hurt to request a list of references who have frequented the shop before. They’ll be able to provide an overview of their experience with the technicians and how satisfied they were with the work that was completed. If the facility cannot provide you with a list of references, Arlotta suggests asking friends, neighbors and family members if they have frequented the facility before.
5. Can I receive a written explanation of what work was completed on my vehicle?
Requesting a detailed breakdown of what repairs were done on your vehicle not only helps you maintain pristine records, but also keeps the auto care center accountable for the work they completed. According to Arlotta, these records are extremely important, especially when warranties are involved.
"It can take some time to find an auto care center you trust and are comfortable with, but if you do your research and ask the right questions, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right automotive technician for you and your vehicle," says Arlotta.
NAPA AutoCare Centers offer a preventive maintenance program that includes a complete inspection and regular monitoring of vehicle systems. Additionally, all qualifying services and repairs are covered by a 12-month/12,000-mile "Peace of Mind" Warranty, good at more than 12,000 NAPA AutoCare Centers nationwide. Consumers can learn more about these programs by contacting their local NAPA AutoCare Center or by visiting www.NAPAAutoCare.com.