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December 18, 2013
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

We've all seen articles written just to fill a page before a deadline. (Not this one, of course). We recognize them quickly if we have some expertise in the subject being discussed. Mundane details glossed over, theories advanced and retracted. The Internet is overflowing with them. If the subject has anything to do with human relations, it is usually described as "psychobabble." So I think anything to do with automotive maintenance should be labeled "automobabble."

AOL recently published a piece about how to pick a mechanic and/or a garage. The author of that piece had very little knowledge of the subject, and what little he had was wrong. Aside from that, it was a nice article. Good grammar and spelling, just lacking accuracy.

For instance, in his first paragraph he refers to automotive technicians as "grease monkeys." I think writer "hacks" live in glass houses and shouldn't throw stones. Name calling is juvenile, unless I do it.

In his next paragraph he says to phone around to find a good garage. In a way, that could be true, but not the way he thinks. If one is asking for prices with these phone calls, it's a waste of time. It's impossible to estimate the expense of a repair job without knowing exactly what is needed, and that requires an inspection by a qualified technician. The owner's opinion is not accurate enough. So any price given without an inspection first, is simply a come-on, given to entice you into their clutches. You can identify honest shops over the phone as the ones that decline to offer a price before an inspection.

He then says to be sure the shop belongs to a national association because that will guarantee the shop does good work. Actually, any shop will be accepted in these organizations simply by sending in a check.

He says to look for ASE certification, because they inspect shops. Actually, ASE certifies individual technician skill levels with a battery of written tests. They do not inspect shops.

He says shops might specialize in a particular kind of car, but not your kind of car. Actually, independent shops usually specialize in mufflers, or transmissions, or collision repairs, or brakes, or tires, or tune-ups, or air conditioning, etc. Each will accept almost any brand of car for the kind of work they do.

He says to insist on free inspections, or no inspections until there is an estimate, because "getting repairs without estimates give the go-ahead for other repairs." Utter automobabble. An inspection is not a repair. An inspection precedes an estimate, which precedes a repair. Some inspections are quick and easy and therefore free. Some require time, tools and equipment, which may not be free.

He suggests you insist on installing used parts for your repair job, and to call around to other shops for prices of doing the job with used parts. There's that "calling for prices" thing again. Let's start over.

He says to stand by your car while work is being done, to guarantee that it is done right. In actuality, if you talk to him, you're distracting him, taking more time, and if you rush him, he's more likely to make a mistake. Also, hovering is really annoying, making you not his favorite customer of the day, which might motivate him to rush you out the door, and out of his hair. Hovering is always counterproductive.



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