Word to the Wise: Finding a reliable auto mechanic

When your vehicle needs repairs, you don’t need a crash course in auto mechanics, but you should know how to find a reliable shop and mechanic. The Better Business Bureau and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence recommend following a few key points to ensure your automobile gets fixed without a glitch.

No matter what you drive -- a sports car, family sedan, pickup or minivan -- when you go in for repairs or service you want the job done right. While most mechanics are legitimate, there are always those unscrupulous few. In 2014, BBB received more than 14,000 complaints against auto repair companies.

Don’t just drop your vehicle off at the nearest establishment and hope for the best. BBB and ASE recommend the following tips before choosing an auto repair shop:

Get familiar with your car and your local auto repair shops. Read your owner’s manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer’s suggested service schedule. Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one. You can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic.

Ask around. Always check out the mechanic and auto body shop’s BBB business review at before doing business. Ask friends and associates for recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word of mouth reputation is valuable.

Scope it out. Once you choose a repair shop, start off with a minor job, and if you are pleased, trust them with more complicated repairs later. Look for a neat, well-organized facility with modern equipment in the service bays and vehicles of equal value to your own in the parking lot. Professionally run establishments will have a courteous and helpful staff. The service writer should be willing to answer all your questions.

Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached, and before you leave be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees and acceptable methods of payment.

Get everything in writing. When you pick up your vehicle, get an explanation of all work completed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you. Your repair bill should be itemized so that if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee. Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize in specific makes and models.

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Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc. Direct questions or complaints about a company or charity to the BBB at 478-742-7999, or by emailing