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Car care etiquette

February 11, 2015
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

In the rough and tumble world of a car repair shop, where impact wrenches scream and hammers, wielded by calloused hands, pound on cold steel, it might seem strange to say there is an etiquette involved, but there is.

As with any human interaction, things go more smoothly if certain rules are followed by all involved parties. That means between mechanics (i.e.; never borrow another man's tools without his permission, lest one of those calloused hands might be around your throat) and between customer and service provider requires mutual respect and civility.

The mechanic should take the time to explain the repair process to the customer, from symptom to diagnosis to repair procedure, and then to the final cost estimate. The customer needs to allow this progression to happen in the correct order and not make the first thing they say as they walk through the door: "How much do you charge to"

Here's why not. A customer typically asks something like, "How much would it cost for you to do "X" "Y" or "Z" to my car"? The car is not there at the time, because he wants a price first. A service advisor might ask, "What is the make and model of your car?" The customer tells him. As he begins to research the labor and parts, the advisor asks for the engine size. The man says he thinks it's a six cylinder. There are three different six cylinder engines available for that model car. "Well, what would it cost for each of them?" asks the man. The advisor starts on the first of the three,and discovers that there is a change in the middle of the production year for that vehicle, meaning different parts are required for early models than for later models, resulting in different prices. "Just price them both," says the man.

Many times, as the advisor finishes that option and segues to the next possible engine size, he runs into another variation that the customer can't answer, so it has to be researched each way. All of these questions could have been answered if the car had been there at the time, by referring to the vehicle information number on it. Without the car, this advisor might have to prepare a half dozen or more estimates for this one job, not only using a lot of his time, but being of almost no use to the customer at all because he wouldn't know which one was for his car.

That's not all. Many times it turns out that the car did not need what the customer was asking about anyway. So the entire process is a waste of time. That's why one shouldn't start the conversation with, "How much is it?" Start with what your symptoms are and let the progression take place. If you don't like the end of it, which is the estimate, you can always say no.

A shop that gives you a quick price -without going through the process from the symptom stage- is conning you. They can't know what you really need until they check it out, so they can't know the price, so they're simply hooking you to stay with them until you to agree to a repair price,. Then, that's what they will undertake for a repair job, whether you need it or not. If your symptoms persist, it's not their fault. They didn't diagnose it, you did, or your neighbor did, or whoever, but you let them off the hook by not making them diagnose it. Get the etiquette right and the repair will be right.

If you or anyone you know has had a car repair conflict, "The Car Care World" can help you understand how it happened and how to avoid a repeat performance. It is available online through and .



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