Angie's List: Car repair
Even though automobiles play an essential role in our daily lives, it's likely that many motorists lack the basic knowledge about how they work or what problems could arise.
If you're among the motorists who fall into this group, it's important to have your car inspected and serviced by a professional mechanic on a regular basis. Unaddressed issues can shorten your vehicle's lifespan and compromise you and your vehicle's safety.
A nationwide Angie's List poll found:
- 47 percent of respondents take their vehicle to an independent mechanic for service.
- 41 percent of respondent take their vehicle to a dealership for service.
- 32 percent of respondents change their oil as recommended, but skip regular service checks on their vehicle.
Angie's List, the nation's premier provider of local consumer reviews, asked highly rated auto care technicians on the warning signs you shouldn't ignore.
Look for these warning signs that your car may need inspection or repairs:
- Warning light indicators: If the "Check engine" light or "Service Engine Soon" light illuminates on your vehicle's dash, call your mechanic.
- Squealing or grinding sounds when coming to a stop. This can indicate your brake pads, rotors or calipers are on their last leg and need to be serviced as soon as possible.
- Oil spots under your car. An oil leak can be dangerous to your car's lifespan. Without proper lubrication from oil, your car's performance is undermined and the engine can eventually lock up.
- Green liquid leaking from your engine. Radiator coolant, which helps maintain engine temperature, is usually dyed green by the manufacturer for safety. If you have a coolant leak, your engine could overheat, which can mean thousands of dollars in repairs. Leaked coolant can also poison pets.
- Slow starting. This could mean that your battery is dead or dying.
- Excessive vibration while driving. If your car is vibrating more than normal it could be a sign that you need new tires or your tire alignment adjusted.
- Car is running unusually loud. This could be an indicator that you need a new muffler.
- Squealing noise when you start the car or turn on the A/C. This could be the sign of a bad serpentine belt, which helps provide power to essential components such as the power steering, water pump or alternator
Angie's List Tips for finding reliable car repair:
- Find a good shop before you need one: Don't wait until your car is on the blocks to find a mechanic. Doing your homework and developing a long-term relationship with a mechanic/service shop will help you avoid being rushed into a last-minute decision. You'll also be first in line for emergency service and cost savings.
- Specialty service: A full-service shop may be able to handle most of your needs, but if you need a highly specialized service, do some research to find the right specialist. If you have a good and long-term relationship with a full-service shop, you'll likely find at least one good recommendation there.
- Read and follow the manual: If you read nothing else in the manual that comes with your car, read the preventative maintenance schedule about tires and follow it. Know what type of tires your car has.
- Get it in writing: Get a written estimate before authorizing repairs. Request that all replaced parts be returned and insist on a detailed invoice of work done, including an itemized description of parts and labor charges.
- Check licensing & certification: State or local law may require that a shop be licensed or registered. ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified mechanics must have two years of experience and pass an exam to become certified.
- Warranty work: Determine if your warranty requires you to use a specific dealership or shop. If you use another source, keep all receipts in case your warranty coverage is questioned.
- Diagnosis: Many auto service shops charge a diagnostic fee to determine what ails your vehicle. Some may reduce or forgive that fee if you have the work performed there. Always ask why a repair is needed.
- Get a second opinion: On expensive or complicated repairs, get a second estimate. If you decide to have the work performed elsewhere, be aware that you may have to pay another diagnostic charge.
- Before you leave the shop: After repairs are finished, get a complete repair order that describes the work done. Ask to see any old parts. Some states require mechanics to give you any parts they have removed from your car unless the warranty requires they be sent back to the manufacturer.