by Jacques Gordon
Recently I posed a question in the Industry Issues forum on iATN. If you’re not familiar with the International Automotive Technicians’ Network (www.iatn.net), check it out now. It’s a meeting place for some of the industry’s most conscientious technicians and shop owners, and I asked them to define a good repair shop by answering this question:
“Suppose someone you know moves far away. They know nothing about cars or the service business, but their car is important to them and they want it taken care of properly, so they ask you, a pro, how to find a good repair shop. What do you tell them? What should someone look for when they pull into the driveway, get out of the car and walk in the front door of a repair shop?”
Here’s a sample of their answers, lightly edited for readability.
“I tell them to find a specialist. Drive by the shop and look at the parking lot for nice, late models of the car they drive…and phone to ask what diagnostic computer they use.”
“I tell them, above all, they need to feel comfortable talking to and going to the shop. I tell them that if they have any questions after talking to the perspective shop, I’ll call the shop for them. I consider that part of (my) professional service.”
“Have a brief consultation with your previous service provider before you move, then use a shop locator like the one on ASA’s front page (http://www.asashop.org/about/what-asa-means-to-motorists). Determine the shop’s specialty with a phone call; find out what kind of work they’re prepared to do. Search the Web for complaints or legal action against the shop. Once you’re satisfied with all these, walk in and talk with the folks at the front desk.”
“I tell people that shops with factory-level scan tools and service information have a higher chance of first-time success than someone using a code reader and web forums. I also tell them to ask how often the shop thinks they should flush their fluids. Any answer that includes miles or a measurement of time would be considered wrong. Answers like ‘when they are contaminated’ are good.”
One reply suggested some other things to avoid: “…like ‘buy 3 get-one-free’ or tires-at-cost specials, free brake pads with brake service or $19 oil changes. I would relate these to less technically competent shops and I would not want someone I care about going there.”
Here’s an idea I found interesting: “Have them go to the local automotive parts suppliers and ask them for recommendations. Go to several parts stores, not just one, and see if one or two shops keep getting mentioned. Guaranteed, the professional parts guys will know which shop to go to and also which ones to avoid.”
Here’s what ASE recommends (http://tinyurl.com/kh9egzm). As you will see, it’s solid consumer-oriented information suitable for publication outside our industry.
The question generated a fairly long thread, and while most of the replies are fairly predictable, it was still comforting to see so many professionals discuss the topic and agree that the most important quality of a repair shop is competence.
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When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.
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