Today's cars, light trucks, and sport-utility
vehicles are high-tech marvels with digital
dashboards, oxygen sensors, electronic
computers, unibody construction, and more.
They run better, longer, and more efficiently than
models of years past.
But when it comes to repairs, some things stay
the same. Whatever type of repair facility you
patronize-- dealership, service station,
independent garage, specialty shop, or a national
franchise--good communications between
customer and shop is vital.
The following tips should help you along the way:
Do your homework before taking your vehicle in
for repairs or service.
Today's technician must understand thousands of
pages of technical text. Fortunately, your
required reading is much less.
* Read the owner's manual to learn about the
vehicle's systems and components.
* Follow the recommended service schedules.
Keep a log of all repairs and service.
When you think about it, you know your car
better than anyone else. You drive it every day
and know how it feels and sounds when
everything is right. So don't ignore its warning
Use all of your senses to inspect your car
frequently. Check for:
* Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke,
warning lights, gauge readings.
* Changes in acceleration, engine performance,
gas mileage, fluid levels.
* Worn tires, belts, hoses.
* Problems in handling, braking, steering,
Note when the problem occurs.
* Is it constant or periodic?
* When the vehicle is cold or after the engine
has warmed up?
* At all speeds? Only under acceleration?
During braking? When shifting?
* When did the problem first start?
Professionally run repair establishments have
always recognized the importance of
communications in automotive repairs.
Once you are at the repair establishment,
communicate your findings.
* Be prepared to describe the symptoms. (In
larger shops you'll probably speak with a
service writer/service manager rather than with
the technician directly.)
* Carry a written list of the symptoms that you
can give to the technician or service manager.
* Resist the temptation to suggest a specific
course of repair. Just as you would with your
physician, tell where it hurts and how long it's
been that way, but let the technician diagnose
and recommend a remedy.
Stay involved... Ask questions.
* Ask as many questions as you need. Do not be
embarrassed to request lay definitions.
* Don't rush the service writer or technician to
make an on-the-spot diagnosis. Ask to be called
and apprised of the problem, course of action,
and costs before work begins.
* Before you leave, be sure you understand all
shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees,
and acceptable methods of payment.
* Leave a telephone number where you can be