How to navigate conversations with your auto mechanic – CNN
Jessica Chou knows that stress — and how it can be compounded by gender stereotypes around car knowledge. When she was younger, she would fake a call to her father or boyfriend while at a mechanic in the hopes it would help her avoid overpaying for repairs. Eventually, Chou decided studying up on her vehicle might help her more.
She has amassed 30,000-plus followers on YouTube since she began posting videos in 2016 to document how she’s learned to work on her car. Now, Chou is director of brand marketing for RepairSmith, an auto repair company, and works with hundreds of mechanics. Due to her experience on both sides of the industry, Chou understands consumers as well as the behind-the-scenes work that goes into car maintenance.
“When I started my YouTube channel, I was frustrated, I was angry,” Chou said. “I didn’t bash mechanics openly on my channel, but I had this feeling that, ‘Oh, they’re always trying to take advantage of me, especially because I’m a woman.’ And that’s not the case.”
Mechanics may not be trying to rip you off, but a little knowledge about maintenance can help you save money and avoid stress. Here’s what you should know when you take your car in.
Don’t skimp on the details
Even if you know nothing about the technical aspects of your car, you likely know more about the way it typically runs than a mechanic. A weird sound coming from a certain location can mean many things, but if you are able to explain when it happens, where it’s coming from and what it’s like, you can help the mechanic find the issue faster.
You can also make things easier by telling the mechanic when the problem began, Chou said. If you hit something, be honest about it.
“Mechanics aren’t fortune-tellers,” Chou said. “Diagnostics are required, and oftentimes places charge for diagnostics. It takes an hour, two hours, if not more to find where the issue’s coming from.”
It can also be helpful to tell the mechanic your car history, including problems you may have experienced and whether you have been putting off routine maintenance.
“Avoid pretending or essentially lying to them about whether you’ve taken care of your car or not,” Chou said. “Give them more helpful clues so that they can pinpoint the issue.”
When describing problems, try to refrain from diagnosing the issue, said California-based mechanic Rebekah Fleischaker. The best thing to do is give as much detail as possible, so the mechanic can properly diagnose and fix the problem.
“Going to a mechanic is like going to a doctor,” Fleischaker said. “One may know the symptom, but not the cause of the problem. In my experience, the more information you give your doctor or mechanic, the better and less costly (the) result.”
One of the best ways to avoid getting ripped off is to ask questions, Fleischaker said.
Some questions recommended to ask before maintenance include:
- What are you going to do? Can you explain why? “Asking the level of how complicated the repair might be will give you a better understanding of why they’re charging four hours for labor,” Chou said.
- What parts will you be using?
- Can I see the before and after parts? Sometimes mechanics will charge you for parts they …….