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Many of us know little about the inner workings of the vehicles we drive. Even if we have enough knowledge to keep our cars running smoothly day to day, we can get easily flummoxed by a minor problem or a major breakdown.
And if a malfunctioning - or non-functioning - car isn’t frustrating enough, you have to put your faith in a mechanic who might be less knowledgeable or honest than they claim to be.
For most of us, a trip to the car mechanic is a leap in the dark. We have to put our trust in the diagnosis and hope that the work they recommend is every bit as necessary as we’re told it is. However, you can cut out some of the risk and uncertainty by following a few relatively simple steps.
"You’re not going to become an expert overnight, but doing a bit of research will help give you better understanding of what the mechanic is saying."
The first thing to do is to read up as much as possible on the make and model of your car. Find the manual and read it thoroughly. Also see if you can get hold of a more in-depth guide to your particular model. You’re not going to become an expert overnight, but doing a bit of research will help give you better understanding of what the mechanic is saying.
It’s also worth ‘Googling’ your particular problem to see if it’s a common fault associated with your car. You can learn a lot from the experiences of fellow owners writing on blogs or forums.
While you’re online, also do a search on the garage you’re intending to use, to see what you can find out about the customer experience of others - good or bad.
If you’re unsure of which garage to use, ask friends and family for recommendations. If possible, opt for a garage that belongs to a code of practice such as the Motor Industry Service and Repair Code of Practice, or the Office of Fair Trading’s code of practice, run by the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association.
At the garage
Get a written quote for the work the mechanic recommends, or failing that a written estimate. Check to see if VAT is added, to avoid any nasty surprises.
Get as much information as possible about the work they intend to do. If you agree to let them carry out the repairs, make sure they don’t do any added work without getting your approval first.
And before you give them the green light, contact a few other garages for quotes on the proposed work to see how competitive the charges are.
Collecting your car
When you pick up your car after repair, make sure the bill tallies with what you were told the work would cost. If they’ve replaced any parts, ask to see the old ones. Also make sure the work and parts are detailed on your receipt, in case there are any problems later.
If you're not happy...
If you have a complaint about the work or service, let the garage know as soon as possible. If there is a problem with new parts, check to see if they are under warranty. If the matter isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, you should contact any trade association or body that the garage is affiliated with.
If you still can’t get the matter settled, get advice from Consumer Direct (08454 04 05 06), your local Citizens Advice Bureau or the Trading Standards Office.
Choosing the right mechanic can help ensure that your car is in the best hands. To be certain that your car is properly protected in case of an accident, fire or theft, you can look into the various car insurance options.
This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.