Starting Your Search: How to Find an Honest Mechanic
When you’re driving down the road listening to your favorite playlist, and a little oddly shaped yellow light blinks on in your dash, you may want to take it to a shop to check what it means. Do you know the correct thing to do with any of your warning lights? If a mechanic tells you it’s an O2 sensor that needs to be replaced, do you know if $500 is a fair price? What if they find other odds and ends that need to be done on your car, are they really necessary?
What if you go through and have them fix everything they say is wrong with the car, lose out on having your vehicle for however long it takes, and spending whatever they ask you to, only to have the same light blink back on a couple of days later? This is a situation you do not want to find yourself in, and it used to be the norm when dealing with mechanics.
Times have changed, and many honest and capable shops can be found all over. But for every few fantastic places, there will always be a poor location. A good mechanic can save you incredible amounts of time and money on repairs and even replacing vehicles. Most of the time people find one place they trust and only ever go there for all of their family’s needs.
Red Flags to Avoid with Mechanics
If you’re buying a car, there are certain things you can see that will immediately tell you if you should walk away from the vehicle or not. If the AC doesn’t work, don’t assume it’s a quick fix. Blue smoke out of the exhaust? Expect a big bill soon. There are similar red flags to look out for when on the hunt for a good place to care for your vehicle.
- “Free” Services: If you find out that a shop is offering a service for free (free tire rotation, inspection, free undercarriage wash), this is usually a tactic to get you in so they can start recommending services they will charge for. There are even some things that if they find a problem, they will have you sign a waiver saying your vehicle is unsafe to drive. This isn’t necessarily a sign of a bad shop, but be aware of the follow-up repairs they might (and probably will) offer.
- Tough Diagnostics: Starting in 1996, OBD-II specification became mandatory in all cars sold in the US. This means that every car is equipped with an easily accessible diagnostic readout that anyone can pull the codes from. These codes are rather specific and can easily point you to only a couple of possible problems vehicles can have. There are times that a shop may have a misdiagnosis, but if you are expected to pay for them to make multiple attempts to fix a problem, then the shop is probably just trying to get your money. If that happens, it’s recommended to take the vehicle elsewhere, if only to verify that this new problem is the real issue.
- Scare Tactics: Mechanics are like any other kind of service in that they are trying to sell you something. There are honest ways of doing this, and then there are other less honorable methods to employ. Some shops will try to scare you into getting something fixed, saying your car is unsafe (even making you sign a waiver just to leave without repairing something), even offering to reduce the price on a repair to just make sure it gets done. Any time this happens it is recommended that you seek out a second opinion on the problem. Cars are over-engineered to be safe even when things start to fail, so a catastrophic outcome is rather unlikely.
Signs of a Reliable Auto Repair Shop
Just like there are signs a shop is untrustworthy, there are also some signs that you’ve come across a real resource. Here are a few tips that can help you weed through the masses to find your go-to location.
- Referrals / Reviews: Oftentimes if you need a service of any kind, there will be people in your circle that have some experience dealing with it, be it family or friends. Take their recommendations and look them up online with review sites like Yelp, Nextdoor, or Google Reviews and see what the masses have to say.
- See Who Public Transportation Companies Use: When your business relies on a device’s reliability to make any money, they don’t take chances with repairs. If a taxi service or bus company uses a mechanic, odds are they are pretty reliable, since a broken bus is nothing more than a very large and expensive paperweight.
- Experience: while not all shops that are new are bad, A long business career is usually a good indication of reliability, since they probably wouldn’t be able to have enough customers to stay afloat for a long time if they weren’t dependable. Also, experience usually leads to a better insight into problems, since they’ve been around longer to see more.
- Test With Something Small: Sometimes the best option is to put them to the test. Take your car in for something small, like replacing brake pads, changing fluids, or a tire rotation, and see what happens. If they suggest extra work, let them know you’d like to get a second opinion and see what they do. That will tell you a lot about their character.
Need an Honest Mechanic in Portland, Oregon?
One of the number one ways you can vet a possible shop is to take your vehicle to multiple places for estimates as well as second (or third) opinions. That way you will be able to compare a ballpark figure for the cost (the high outlier is probably a price gouge, the low is probably not as qualified or quality work), as well as get confirmation of the likelihood that their proposed problem is actually the issue. Just like with your doctors, it’s usually a good idea to make sure multiple experts agree on the diagnosis and method of treatment before you do the surgery.
If you’re looking for a Portland mechanic, we hope you consider AG Automotive. We take great pride in our work and customer service and always go the extra mile. Whether it’s with us or another shop, this should provide you with some tools and skills to help you find an honest and reliable mechanic for your vehicle.