A trip to the auto repair shop can be intimidating if you don't know much about your vehicle or have had a negative experience in the past. However, AAA says a trip to the repair shop can be much easier and less stressful if you select a quality facility and do a little preparation before going in for a visit. When taking a car to a shop for maintenance or repair, AAA recommends motorists do the following:
Describe the problem
. Write down notes on the vehicle's symptoms and performance beforehand so important information is not overlooked or forgotten. Include all of your observations, even if they seem silly or irrelevant.
. Describe the symptoms to the technician rather than suggesting solutions. Explain what has been seen, smelled, heard and felt while driving the vehicle. For example, does it vibrate or pull to the left? Explain under what type of driving conditions the problem takes place and how long ago it started.
. Try to be precise. For example, "a rattle under the hood starts at 40 mph" or "the smell occurs only on cold days after the engine has been running for 10 minutes."
. When describing symptoms, refer to the driver or passenger side of the vehicle rather than the right or left side.
. Resist the temptation to use technical jargon unless you are absolutely sure what it means. Explain what is being experienced in terms that minimize the possibility of misinterpretation or misdiagnosis.
. If the vehicle has been serviced recently, bring copies of the previous repair orders rather than trying to explain what work was done.
Put it in writing
There also are some things motorists can do to help protect themselves from unexpected charges or unneeded repairs. AAA recommends that motorists:
. Read the repair order before authorizing any work. Look for specific instructions outlining what the technician is supposed to do. If there is vague language, such as "fix engine noise," ask that the repair order be rewritten. If you want to see the parts that will be replaced, be sure to let the shop know before work begins so they can set them aside for you.
. Ask questions if terms used are not easily understood or something is not clearly explained. A quality repair shop should be willing to take the time necessary to clearly explain the work to be done in advance of the repair. If the service adviser is unable to satisfactorily explain a job, or suggests the repair is too complicated to explain, get a second opinion from another shop.
. When picking up the car, read over the bill and question any charges that are not clear. Insist on descriptions of parts, not just the part numbers, on the final invoice.
Finding a quality auto repair shop that can be trusted is key to a good auto repair experience. AAA offers a free service where it inspects and certifies auto repair facilities. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops must meet and maintain stringent quality standards for customer service, training, equipment and cleanliness. There are nearly 8,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. They can be located online at AAA.com/repair.