Do you know a good mechanic? That’s a question I get all the time, and suggests there are other kinds, who are not so good.

Don’t want to suggest that there are no nefarious mechanics out there, but I do feel that the ratio of good mechanics to lousy ones is better than most people perceive.

I would put that down to how easily the customer-mechanic relationship can sour, and how unpleasant it is to, say, shell out $2,395 for a transmission overhaul, when you really wanted to use that money for something fun — like a Harley Davidson-themed hot tub, with rabbit fur, leather and chrome trim.

But for today’s discussion we’re going to concentrate on how you might find one of the more stellar mechanics and/or auto service establishments in your area.

 

Unfortunately there are no bulletproof and/or pain-free methods. Most take a bit of time, persistence, and patience…

Third Party Recommendations

World of mouth is the best way to hear about the best shops. Also check out organizations such as the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and the Automobile Protection Agency (APA), who publish respective lists of recommended auto service providers.

Length Matters

Consider shops that have been in business for a good stretch, at the same location, with the same ownership or management. Any place that cheats people and/or is not on the mark for providing a certain level of service is not going to be around very long.

Trial and Error

Once you have a short list, you should actually patronize a few shops before you settle on a favourite. Start small — oil changes, tires changes, routine maintenance, etc. If they do those well, up the ante with more expensive and complicated work.

Meet Your Match

You don’t need to have them fill out a personality questionnaire à la Lava Life, but you need to develop rapport and, ultimately, trust.

At the very least, it will be easier for both of you to discuss complex vehicle issues.

Mechanics also differ in approach to their jobs; some are perfectionists, others are more comfortable with ambiguity and experimenting with lower-cost solutions.

Pick one that is closer to your style.

Cleanliness

I’m throwing cleanliness into the mix, because I know it’s important to some, and in some cases, can be a sign of a mechanic who is organized and conscientious.

But I don’t buy it outright. Judge them more on their work, their word, and their price/value quotient. Disclaimer: I can’t find my desk at the moment.



Equipment and Training

Vehicles are getting more complicated than 1960s spacecrafts. Ask prospective mechanics about their ongoing training initiatives, and what they have in way of diagnostic equipment.

Run away from any mechanic who uses a Willow stick divining rod to find electrical glitches, and any mechanic who consistently prescribes Robitussin, for any and all drive-ability problems.

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