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How to Communicate for Better Automotive Service

An important part of any automotive repair process, whatever the season, is good, two-way communication between customer and repair establishment.

Here are some tips from the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) on ways to communicate effectively at repair shops:

Do your homework before taking your vehicle in for repairs or service. Get involved in the process. 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.

Use all of your senses to inspect your car for the following:

  • Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings.
  • Worn tires, belts, hoses.
  • Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels.
  • Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations.

Note when the problem occurs:

  • When did the problem first start? Is it constant or periodic? When the vehicle is cold or after the engine has warmed up?
  • At all speeds? Under acceleration? During braking? When shifting?

Once you are at the repair establishment, politely stay involved in the process:

  • Be prepared to describe the symptoms (but do not suggest a specific course of repair).
  • Do not be embarrassed to ask questions or definitions of technical terms.
  • Don't expect an on-the-spot diagnosis, but ask to be apprised of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins.
  • Be sure you understand policies regarding diagnostic fees, labor rates, return of old parts, and guarantees.
  • Avoid establishments where you feel rushed or ignored. Good shops realize good communication is an important, two-way responsibility.

Article from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

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