You’re in Naples to enjoy another great season when your car won’t start, steam is rolling out from under the hood, or the check engine light is on…where do you turn? If you are like many, you’ll choose a repair facility by its proximity to your location or simply let your fingers “do the walking” through the Yellow Pages. Either way, you are taking a chance equal to walking down an inner city alley at midnight. With over 250 repair facilities in the Naples area, and only a handful of good choices, you are at a disadvantage if you make your selection by either means.
Many articles have been published with suggestions to help you make your decision. Most, however, need to be done before you breakdown. First, ask friends. If they’ve had an on-going relationship with a shop, and they’re pleased, this would be a great start. Next, check the condition of a repair facility. Do the vehicles they work on appear to be similar to yours? The theory, here, is they‘ll have experience with yours in both condition and value. Most advanced technicians have tens of thousands of dollars invested in personal tools. When this is the case, and the facility appears neat and orderly, there’s a good chance they’ll treat your vehicle the same way.
While all of the aforementioned hints are correct, there are other things you should check to insure you’ve made a wise decision. Do they have the latest shop technology to handle most problems? Just because they have a “scanner”, to pull a trouble code, doesn’t mean they can fix it. Often getting that code is only the beginning…and, sometimes, there are multiple codes as a result of the “real” problem. But, which is the real problem? Do you wish the tech to replace every sensor that shows up with a code? Certainly not! Next comes research time on the computer getting the manufacturers data to isolate the issue that brought you in. This information isn’t free. Quality shops spend between $3000 and $10,000 a year, depending on how many different sources they have, just to stay current on the vehicle repair data, technical service bulletins, and recalls. This is an investment, along with equipment and training which many facilities can’t or won’t make. People, however, are the most important element in the process, and there is a big difference in skill levels between the tire & battery changers and those technicians who do drivability issues that involve your vehicle’s computers.
Every day I receive calls requesting prices for repairs. While it’s usually easy to give prices for oil changes and other basic services, every thing else is just a lie. While we don’t mean for it to be, that’s the way it is since the customer gives us the wrong diagnosis 80+ percent of the time. Yes, you may have a coolant leak, but your wishful thinking that it’s “just a hose” doesn’t always play out. Unfortunately, the repair people who have gone over to the dark side will prey on you. This is where INTEGRITY comes in. It is the most important part of your relationship with a repair facility. Since you are calling around to get prices, on a repair, we know you probably don’t have a favorite repair shop. Even though the exact nature of the repair needed hasn’t been established you expect a price. Statistics show you’ll go to the low price bidder. What a shame! Unless they’re psychic it’s impossible to know what the real cost is going to be. I’ve had callers asking to beat a quote they’ve received for air-conditioning repairs. When I ask if their previous quote was for new or remanufactured parts, R12 or R134a, new dryer, system flush, or length of warranty…they can’t answer. The lure of the $59.95 brake job or the “lifetime” brake service is hard to fight, with a phone quote, when the price of quality parts and service is much higher. Usually what happens is once the vehicle is in the shop; they find a rather healthy amount of repairs that adds up to way over the low-price phone quote. By the way, nothing lasts a lifetime…they’ll install cheapo brake pads, over and over, and charge labor each time. It won’t be lifetime of free brakes!
Recently we serviced a vehicle that had been taken to a local muffler shop for a catalytic converter. Three months later there was a check engine light that was triggered by a faulty converter. The first problem was that his original repair was done with a “universal” part…not up to the quality of the original part. But the real tragedy is that it would have been covered in full by the dealer, because of an 8 year/ 80 thousand mile Federal warranty not publicized by the manufacturer. Now, the dealer has no responsibility because their part is long gone. A quality shop will know and will tell you when there is a better option for you…even if it means they don’t get your money.
Quality shops use quality parts, charge fair prices, watch out for the long term service on your vehicle, and give options where applicable. They have to; it’s the only way to keep satisfied repeat customers.
Bruce Buchanan is Vice-President of Fuel Injection Products & Services, Inc/Auto Tech of Naples and Naples Auto Repair Association, Inc./Rick’s Automotive