A good mechanic is like a good doctor or dentist. Once you find one, stay with them forever because they’re worth their weight in gold. Of course, the trick is finding one in the first place. We’ve put in the hard yards for you. We’ve worked through the important things to look for and how to go about finding a good or great mechanic you’ll want to stay with for the long term.
Why Find a Good Mechanic?
Cars can be an expensive item to own. After the family house, may be the second biggest asset you own. It makes sense then, that you’d want to find a mechanic who will look after your investment properly for you, with your best interests at heart. After all, you are trusting this person with the safety of you and your family.
Modern car servicing and repairs can be very complex. Many of their controls computerised and having multiple systems or computers from controlling the engine emissions to valve timing to the ABS and your dashboard display to name a few. There may be as many as 2000 signals floating around the network in your car at any one time. Many of us may not be car savvy or able to maintain or fault find those systems work. So you need a mechanic who can speak to you in plain terms, ex-plain exactly what is being serviced or needing to be repaired with your car and what it needs to be back up and running smoothly.
The Difference Between Maintenance and Repair
Before choosing your mechanic, it is important to understand the difference between maintenance and repair.
- Scheduled and routine maintenance are those items listed in your vehicle’s service manual. They are planned by the manufacturer to maintain your car and keep it in top running condition.
- Repairs, however, are works required to fix and rectify a problem you are having with your vehicle.
Whom You Choose May Depend on What Needs to be Done and Your Preference for Convenience
Your car’s routine maintenance does not need to be performed by the dealer you may have bought the car from. Routine maintenance may be a routine car service or log book service. Any independent automotive mechanic or franchise can perform these services and these are typically less expensive than a dealership.
Normal repairs do not need to be performed by the dealer you may have bought the car from. Repairs to a car can range from simple things like replacing worn-out brakes or a simple headlight repair, to complex issues like a transmission overhaul or diagnosing a computer malfunction.
If your car has a manufacturer’s recall for a part or some other reason, then it should be taken back to a manufacturer’s dealer centre for the work to be performed free of charge under a manufacturer’s recall claim. These can be recent model cars through to some that are say 10 years old. There are a number of types of warranties that can apply to cars such a government statutory warranty, manufacturer warranty, an extended warranty or other purchased or provided warranty. If your car is covered under warranty for the particular issue it may have you may want to call and check with the warranty provider first as to whom can repair your car under the warranty. Again, reputable independent mechanics may be able to service warranty issues and in fact be able to diagnose the issue and advise you if it’s preferable to return to a dealership or a specialist repairer.
Before the age of professional mobile mechanics and break down services, it was common for people to only consider taking their vehicles to a local or close by or convenient stationary automotive workshop. Nowadays, where time has become more precious and pressured, there are number of reputable mobile mechanic businesses available that can provide service at your door at times convenient to you. This has been increasing popular with the ultimate convenience of having work performed, whether it be maintenance or repairs (even major repairs), when and where you need it.
7 Hot Tips to Finding Your Great Mechanic
Once you know the type of work your car needs and what’s convenient for you, it is time to choose a good operator.
Independent mechanics can be more convenient than a dealer and save you money on car repairs and maintenance, but finding a good one can be a challenge. Here’s 7 tips to assist you to find the perfect mechanic for you whether it be a mobile mechanic or stationary workshop.
1. Do They Offer a Warranty or Guarantee on Their Work?
The answer needs to be a YES. A good automotive mechanic will offer a guarantee with their work, because they are happy that their work is of the highest standard and quality. Ask about their warranties and make sure you know exactly what is covered. A good warranty is one that covers both their parts and labour, and coverage for 12 months or 20,000 km (whichever comes first) is a good sign they are competent with their work. Make sure that you are covered Australia-wide if you travel interstate, as some warranties may only cover you locally.
2. Are They Suitably Qualified and Experienced?
You will need to make sure that your mechanic is suitably qualified to work on your specific make and model of vehicle, and can do the job professionally. Some mechanics will be certified by a manufacturer to work on a specific type of car(s), and this means they have gained the suitable qualifications and are proficient in servicing and repairing cars of that brand. The usual way to become a qualified mechanic in Australia is via a four-year industry apprenticeship. This is typically regarded as the gold standard for motor mechanics. A qualified mechanic can also do additional certificate courses that will add to their skills, and they may specialise in a particular type of car repair which can add value to their work.
You may also need a certified automotive electrician to work on your vehicle’s electrical system. Some mechanics are also electricians. Reputable larger automotive repairers will have at least one certified automotive electrician on staff.
Experience – There is no Substitute for Experience.
Ask when your mechanic became qualified and about their experience . The longer a mechanic has been qualified will generally mean they:
- Can be more cost effective as they have streamlined their systems for performing repairs and routine maintenance.
- May be able to diagnose a problem quicker as they have worked on a number of vehicles with the same symptoms and problems in the past.
- Will have more experience in a variety of different brands and models of cars.
Ask how many years they have been in business – a long standing, stable business is a good sign that they are being successful by looking after their customers and doing their job properly.
3. Do they have Reputable Industry Memberships & Affiliations?
Look for a mechanic who is a member of, or who is affiliated with, trade organisations and local or national automobile associations. These aren’t qualifications per se, but they can certainly boost your confidence in hiring them. Check if the business and the mechanics have suitable qualifications. Memberships to automotive bodies such as the VACC, IAME and VASA are a good indication the business employs suitably qualified mechanics and is a professional and organised business.
4. Check their Reviews and Reputation
Satisfied customers can easily recommend a reputable automotive mechanic, and the business or mechanic will have plenty of referrals and customer testimonies to share if you ask. Even though it’s generally true that dissatisfied customers, whether it is warranted or not, are more vocal. However, businesses with many genuine positive reviews will still shine through. These days, the internet and social media have made it very easy to check reviews on a business and see what their customers are saying about them.
Check the website for the business first. Often the business will have their own page for customer reviews. Try not to give too much weight to individual reviews, but look for overall impressions about the business. A single customer may have had what they thought was a bad experience for any number of reasons that may have been out of the mechanics control or even unrelated to work performed.
Dedicated reputable review sites
These sites can make your review and reputation search much simpler. Remember that even a highly rated business might disappoint on a bad day or customers may have had a bad day. However, at least these sites can help weed out those businesses that obviously are not looking after their customers. This will show you how well they communicate with their customers and how much they care about their reputation.
Google searches for a particular brand, business or name will usually return a number of results including a Google Reviews, Google’s own rating and review platform that can be very helpful. It is one of the best guides for shoppers.
True Local is a useful review site due to its convenience and high volume of reviews. Look for businesses that have a large number of reviews coupled with a high rating. A single review is not much help, so look for patterns in the customers’ feedback. Business owners can also reply to reviews. So look to see how they handle replies to both good and bad reviews. This may provide some context to the review and display how the business communicates with their customers.
There are a number of other review platforms and automotive sites that may be worth consulting for business reviews and further information. Also like most businesses, good auto mechanics rely a lot on word of mouth advertising as the biggest driver of new business to them. So ask around among your colleagues, family and friends. They all have cars that require maintenance, so see where they have had good experiences. Especially if they have the same model or make as you. People are very unlikely to recommend you to a business who has treated them badly, so this may narrow your search down quickly.
5. Do They Have the Correct Equipment and Technology?
Good mechanics will have the mechanical tools necessary to perform routine services and repairs. Ask about their tools and make sure they are using the most current tools of the trade for today’s vehicles. They will have a computer scanner to run a diagnostic check on your vehicle and its various systems. This diagnostics computer will communicate with your vehicle’s computer(s) to help determine any issues with the vehicle. Today’s vehicles run on computer systems and good mechanics will have the means to run the computer scans and diagnostics.
6. What Type of Parts Do They Use?
OEM – Original-Equipment-Manufacturer
Vehicle manufacturers and their dealers supply and sell spare parts that should match the original components perfectly. These are OEM (original-equipment-manufacturer) components. Some OEM product are simply a rebrand of another brand. This frequently happens with components and consumables such as oils and lubricants, brakes and filters.
These components are manufactured by a company as replacement parts can be used in place of an OEM component. Some well known brands include Bosch, Champion, NGK, Denso, Monroe, Walker, Mobil, Castrol, Moly, Bilstein, and Brembo. It’s not uncommon for aftermarket manufacturers to also produce OEM components.
There components are those that have been taken apart, repaired and rebuilt by a remanufacturing company. These are usually complex components like transmissions or engines or some electrical components. The company will refit, readjust or replace whatever items may have broken or worn out and then reassemble, seal and lubricate them.
Remanufactured and aftermarket parts are usually much more cost effective and often just as good. You can save you a lot of money on repair work that you may need.
Can you provide your own parts?
Independent mechanics may use any combination of genuine, aftermarket and remanufactured parts. You may be given the option of the type of parts available to be used in your vehicle. You may be able to supply your own parts to save on costs. But make sure it is exactly the right part so you don’t waste time and money. Should that part fail it may end up costing you at least the labour again to remove and refit it.
7. Something Practical – Start with Something Small
If possible, try to find a good mechanic before anything major goes wrong. Test out a mechanic’s professionalism and skills at your next scheduled routine service. This is the time to really check and get to know your mechanic. Ask all of the questions you need to for peace of mind.
Ask to see any old parts after they have been removed. You can trust a mechanic who is willing to take the time to explain the issue(s) and show you proof.
If possible, ask if your mechanic is comfortable with you watching while they work. This can be a good indication that they are proud of the way they work. A good mechanic will most likely point out other relevant information about your vehicle to you.
An honest, reputable business should be willing to gain your confidence and put you at ease as you are an important new customer to them. A good mechanic and business will be enthusiastic about educating their customers and your desire to know more and even offer helpful tips.
Ensure the business and their mechanics have the appropriate qualifications, memberships, experience, equipment and tools. It should also offer a solid and Australia-wide guarantee on their workmanship and parts they supply. A good online and word of mouth reputation is a very good leading indicator of the quality of their work and how they value and treat their customers. With convenience being more and more important mobile mechanics are now a very good alternative to the traditional stationary workshops.
A mechanic can be a trusted resource and advisor. Because they work in a specialised field, you have to trust they know what they are doing and will treat you fairly. Hopefully, by following the tips suggested here, you will find your dream mechanic and when you do, make sure you stick to them like glue. A good mechanic can save you a lot of money, save you time and make life more convenient.