Considering how much importance most people attach to their vehicles, choosing the right auto mechanic can literally spell the difference between financial survival and ruin. Without a reliable means of transportation, wages can't be earned and important bills might not get paid. A mechanically sound vehicle can easily become the owner's lifeblood, and the right auto mechanic at the right time is essential.
So how does one find the best auto mechanic in a sea of garages and service stations? Word of mouth is one good way to narrow the search. Ask co-workers and friends about their own experiences with any local auto mechanic. Listen for key phrases such as 'quick turnaround' or 'fair labor charges'.
There may be some horror stories as well about the auto mechanic who ordered the wrong parts or forgot to reinstall a vital hose. Almost every repairman is bound to make a mistake or two throughout a career, but a good auto mechanic should demonstrate attention to detail. If a co-worker strongly recommends a specific auto mechanic, there is probably a good reason.
Oftentimes the safest bet for finding a qualified auto mechanic is to use the service center at a car dealership. This isn't always the least expensive route to go, but at least you'll know that the shop is familiar with your car model and has access to authorized factory replacement parts. An auto mechanic working for a dealership may have years of experience on the manufacturing side as well, so he or she should understand the relationship between systems. A local amateur auto mechanic may not be as up-to-date on factory changes. Service centers may also offer rental cars or a free shuttle service back to your home.
Another quality to look for in an auto mechanic is certification. There are a lot of talented mechanics who instinctively understand engines, but a certificate of training demonstrates a strong interest in improving skills. A certified auto mechanic had to attend a number of training sessions and demonstrate aptitude for a specific type of repair, such as brake work. A certificate alone doesn't guarantee expertise, but it does mean that the auto mechanic takes his profession seriously enough to seek out more professional training.
A good auto mechanic should also be able to translate a complex mechanical problem into plain English for the customer. Some mechanics tend to scare customers into expensive but unnecessary repairs through the use of jargon. A good auto mechanic should be able to explain why a thrown bearing rod or a blown head gasket is dangerous to a 78-year-old grandmother or a 16-year-old beginning driver. He or she should understand that a $2,000 repair estimate for a 10-year-old car might be problematic for those on limited budgets. An auto mechanic should never be too eager to suggest the most expensive repair options first. Customers should feel comfortable discussing other options and learning more about the risks they would assume.
Finally, a good auto mechanic should be fair with his or her service fees. New replacement parts may have relative fixed prices, but the option of using less expensive refurbished or salvaged parts should be discussed openly. Labor charges are not always calculated by clock hours -- many auto mechanics, especially those working for dealerships, charge labor fees according to an industry standards book. Replacing a part may only take one clock hour, but the book may indicate a three hour repair time. Try to choose an auto mechanic who charges for labor according to actual clock time, not the repair manual's estimate.