Do you know how to avoid automobile repair scams?

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 recommends following a few key pointers to ensure your automobile gets fixed without a glitch.

While most auto repair shops are legitimate, there are always those unscrupulous few that end up sucking thousands of unnecessary repair dollars from consumers. In 2017, BBBs received just under 10,000 complaints against auto repair services and fielded more than 1.5 million inquiries from consumers looking to find a reliable business in the industry. Many of the complaints received by the BBB fell under billing, service and refund and exchange issues.

Whenever you take your car to the shop, never try to diagnose the problem yourself. Describe the symptoms and confirm that the work cannot begin until you have a written estimate and given your authorization.

BBB recommends considering the following advice when taking your car in for auto repair services:

Check your warranty. If you have a problem with your vehicle while it is still under warranty, follow the manufacturer's instructions, which may require that repairs be made at an authorized dealership.

Ask around. If you are looking for a qualified, independent shop, ask friends for recommendations, or request a list of BBB accredited businesses that do the type of auto repair you need. Be sure to check with the BBB about the shop's reliability at www.bbb.org. Look for shops that display certifications. For major work, such as brakes, transmission or engine repair, you will need to find a shop employing a specialist. The BBB recommends finding a reliable repair shop long before you have a problem, that way you are never rushed to make a decision.

Ask all the questions you need. Don't be embarrassed to request explanations. Don't rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action and cost of work before any work begins.

Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Be sure 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, if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving the Fall Line Corridor including 83 counties in portions of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The column is provided by the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a company or charity should be referred to the BBB at 1-800-763-4222, www.bbb.org or by email to info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.