Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lessons in Chic-onomics: Car Repair

Hi, there! How was your weekend? Did any of you try my easy summer hair tutorial? If so, I'd love to hear or see how it turned out. This weekend was the winery bachelorette party. It was super fun and we enjoyed some excellent wine. I think my favorite was the raspberry sparkling wine from Chandler Hill Vineyards, which is appropriate since I baked raspberry champagne cupcakes for the occasion.

The guests went home with winery-themed favors which included cheese, a cheese spreader, almonds, chocolate, a wine opener, and a bottle stopper.

Unfortunately, the fun ended during my drive back to Chicago. What should take 4.5 or maybe 5 hours took 7! So is the love/hate relationship with my car.

I love my car for the excellent gas mileage and safety. It's fun to drive and it gets me where I need to go. On the other hand, it's a little expensive. It takes premium gas. And being 8 years old with about 108,000 miles, it's starting to require more expensive repairs.

It's latest tricks include the oil pressure light (while telling me to stop the car), a check engine light that will turn on and off at will, and a broken side mirror (I tried to have it replaced, but the shop couldn't locate a replacement). The most recent addition is a grinding noise when I accelerate and push the RPM's past a certain point.

I haven't been very diligent with car maintenance because I don't drive the car as much in Chicago as I did in St. Louis. Plus, with moving to and around Chicago, I haven't been able to find a good car repair shop. And herein lies my problem, I don't trust car repair shops.

When I walk into the shop, they see it as an open invitation to max out my credit card with seemingly unnecessary repairs. What should just be a wheel alignment turns into a new set of tires and tie rods. Ugh!

Since I haven't had the best experience with a dealership or any other shop, I've been doing the bare minimum with the national chains. It may have come back to bite me now.

I've done a little research on finding a good auto repair shop and wanted to share some tips:
  • Ask for recommendations from family, friends, or neighbors. Especially ones with similar cars, lifestyles, and income levels. A normal tune up for one person might not be appropriate for your car.
    • Also ask whether the estimates were accurate, the repair was done right the first time, the job was done on time, and if the shop is clean and presentable. You will also want to know if the staff and technicians are friendly, polite, and helpful.
    • You can look at Yelp, but the reviews tend to be extreme. Some people rave while others rant. Can you tell what's the baseline service experience?
  • Find a mechanic with certifications, licenses, or memberships in associations with qualifications. Some include ASE [National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence] or AAA [American Automobile Association]. Others include NAPA Autocare, Parts Plus, TechNet, ATEA (Automotive Technology and Energy Association), ASP (Automotive Service Professionals), and ICAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair). Is the shop certified by your car manufacturer?
  • Check your local Better Business Bureau for recent complaints and whether the shop is accredited.
  • Does the shop have the latest equipment to diagnose and fix the problem?
Once you decide on a shop, the fun really begins:
  • Use the owner's manual to learn about your car and any warning lights before taking your car into the shop. The owner's manual will also list different service requirements based on the mileage on the car. [I'm guilty of ignoring this....sorry Dad.] It's better to say you need the 50,000 mile service (including the specific services) instead of a general tune up.
  • Get a detailed parts and labor estimate before proceeding with service. You want to know what they plan on doing before starting to work on your car.
  • Once you get the estimate, ask plenty of questions. If the price estimate is much higher than expected, ask if all of the services and repairs are totally necessary. Ask to see the parts and explain the problem and procedures. 
  • If the job still seems too expensive and the car is drivable, get a second opinion.
I plan on taking my car to the local VW dealership this week. I'm hoping for a good experience, but will definitely keep these items in mind with my guard up.

Do you have any good car repair experiences? Any horror stories out there? How did you find a reputable car repair shop? Has anybody had experience with a VW dealership in Chicago?
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  1. I've visited your earlier post entitled "Lessons in Chic-onomics: Car Maintenance" where you referenced this. I liked your tips, yet this- "if the price estimate is much higher than expected, ask if all of the services and repairs are totally necessary"- may have a negative impact on your car in the future.

  2. I really like your blog about the auto repair. I am getting online information regarding the best auto mechanics. I will choose the bet mechanic after seeing online auto repair reviews.

  3. Car repair does not have to break your budget. By fixing problems quickly, finding a trustworthy shop, keeping up with only the necessary routine maintenance, and buying a vehicle that is cheap to fix, you can keep your vehicle running well without spending too much money.
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  4. Hi there, Is there any place on the internet where I can find customer reviews on quality and reliable auto repair service?

  5. Thanks for this! Not many girls know much about cars, so this is cool.

    1. Perfect, I totally agree with it. This blog has good information and for that I thank the writer of this blog.

  6. Superb writing, it will be the source for viewers and visitor who are looking for auto body and collision repair. Impressive material...

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  7. i really likes your post because the Panel Beaters many are not search these thing so you down this its good and interesting job...

  8. Now a days new technology that was invented today are great because they can repair your car in a very easy way. Same as in Napa Auto Repair Atlanta because they have a latest gadget on their shop. That's why I always bring my car there to fix easily the problem.

  9. Very good article! We will be linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the good writing on car repair.

  10. It's good work for the future. Keep going and I wish to success that all of works. It'll be a good solution for the fuel problem and environment friendly.

  11. This is really good article and i will definitely share it in my social media profile. Thanks for sharing this awesome blog post with us.


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