How to find a good mechanic?

February 27, 2011 · 22 comments

I got in a car accident a little over three years ago, and nearly totaled my car. It was in the shop for a month and had a bunch of work done to it. Just about everyone told me my car would never drive the same…no matter how good the mechanics were that worked on it. Luckily, I’ve had no major issues over the last couple years.

I’d be stupid, however, to think that this trend will continue. In fact, I’ve had a few hiccups. About two years ago I drove over a nail and had to have my front tire patched. Crazy thing is, Discount Tires apparently patches tires for free…even if you didn’t buy your tires from them (SWEET!). And then there was the time I backed up near a pole and completely ripped off my passenger side mirror. I called the dealership to get a quote for replacement and was told it would cost $400. After a little internet research, I bought the side mirror online (paid $180) and watched a 3min YouTube video on how to install it. Five minutes later I had myself a new mirror for less than half the price of what the dealership was going to charge me.

For the first time, however, I think I finally have to take good ol Winn Dixie in for some work. She seems to have lost her voice…aka her horn doesn’t make noise. It wasn’t a huge surprise, though, as it sounded pretty wheezy over the last 12 months. Sadly, it wheezes no more. I tried to fix it myself (thought maybe it was a blown fuse…it’s not), but have to admit the problem is above my limited mechanical knowledge.

There is no way in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks I’m gonna get my horn fixed through the dealership. They’ll charge me an arm, a leg, and probably my left nipple, for what costs them a few bucks. Once I move to Seattle, I plan to find a mechanic. Not just any mechanic, but MY mechanic.

I want to treat my car like I do my teeth. I don’t just take my dental problems to anyone. No, I’ve been taking ‘em to the same dentist for years. My car should be no different. I want to find a mechanic that I can get to know on a personal and professional level. One that has my (and my cars) best interest in mind.  One that will take the time to explain to me what work NEEDS to be done, and what doesn’t. Do those types of mechanics exist, or are they fictional creatures…like this unicorn man…

As soon as I get settled in Seattle, it’s time for me to find a mechanic. Problem is, I don’t really know how to go about doing that. I know a few of my friends have mechanics they swear by. I suppose I’ll start there and see what comes of it.

Do you have a mechanic? How’d you find him? How do you know when someone is being honest as opposed to trying to bleed you dry? Why the heck is car maintenance so intimidating!?

p.s. Did you notice I made some changes to PDITF over the weekend… What would you want the stick figure persons in the banner saying to each other?

1 eemusings

We tend to go to specialised garages depending on what the problem is – eg auto electrics, suspension/undercar, etc.

I’ve never really had a family doctor or a dentist, either.

2 LifeAndMyFinances

I recently lived in South Florida, and I really never found a good mechanic. The fact that I really don’t know that much about cars certainly didn’t help the situation, but there are certain areas in the U.S. that just have “scam” written all over them. If I kept living there, I would have started learning about car repair on YouTube and done some repairs myself.

3 joanne

Check the fuses for the horn.

Also, check for AAA approved garages when you move to Seattle.

joanne

4 joanne

oops..missed the part that you checked the fuses. sorry :)

5 Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

Ninja
If I were you looking for a mechanic, I’d use your seattle network to find one. Since you’re from there and already know a handful of people, start out by asking them where they take their car/cars to the shop, and how the like the guy/gal that does the work. They could all tell you the same person.
Good luck – and as for the horn, could be a loose wire…I’d check that if I were you. It could just need to be resoldered

6 Spork

Go to the NPR Car Talk website. There is a list of mechanics recommended by the Car Talk community. That’s how I found mine in NJ. I then checked him out on Google and found good reviews. I’m definitely happy with the service I got.

7 ParatrooperJJ

Get a train horn installed.

8 Larry

Or perhaps you can find a used bass trombone.

9 TTGOOD

We found our mechanic by a fluke. A flyer put in our door for a free inspection and we thought what the heck. Turns out he is really great guy, i.e. honest. There has been several times he has allowed us to buy the part online because it would be cheaper then him ordering it. Also, several times when he has installed said part for free because it only took him a few minutes. We swear by him and have referred him about 5 or 6 people. Speaking of which waiting to hear back from the mechanic regarding the latest car issue….Dang cars can be expensive.

10 Robert Muir

Like Jeff suggested, check for corrosion or a disconnected wire on the horn. If voltage is getting to the horn, then it may need replacing. What are you honking your horn at anyway? 99% of the time that a horn is blown is because the blower is just an impatient s.o.b. :)

As for a mechanic, I would drive around the neighborhood looking for small one or two-man shops. Give it a try and see if the vibe is right. Find a good mechanic and you find a reliable partner. They can check over used cars before you purchase them for problems and they’re better any anyone with recommendations because they know that they’ll be stuck working on the blasted thing if it turns out to be a lemon.

11 Jenny_Dee

I am incredibly lucky that my brother-in-law works for Firestone (and before that another service center) and knows a LOT about cars. If I take my car in and the diagnostics or he tells me it needs extensive work, but it’s not “that hard”, I’ll drive over to his driveway and he’ll fix it for cost of parts. He’s blown out the fuel injection system, changed the brakes, pads, oil and a few other things. Plus, bonus is that I get the family discount; half off oil changes when he can’t do them because it’s too cold (like now).

If I had to find a mechanic, I’d ask friends and family first for their recommendations. I’d try an online search for bad mechanics, bad car service, and the like, before I checked out any of the mechanics in the area to make sure there wasn’t a bunch of complaints out there. I’d even try a “good mechanic” search for the area to see if anyone’s had positive experience. I don’t know if a service like angieslist.org has mechanics, but it costs $$ to join (so I didn’t when I was looking for an electrician). I’ve also asked coworkers where they have car/house work done and got some excellent recommendations. Found out one of my coworkers’ husband is a plumber; cheap fix ftw!

After a front-end wreck, my horn doesn’t sound the same :( I think one of the “sounds” isn’t hooked up correctly, because it sounds more like a dying goose than a fun honk. I’d suggest changing the honk sound to the Dixie theme from the Dukes of Hazzardd :)

12 Becca

Word of mouth is almost always the best bet.

I found my mechanic when I had a blown transmission. At first I thought I could get away with just having the transmission flushed, but when I stopped at this little garage and they did a test drive and looked at it, they said that doing so would probably cause huge problems and recommended I go to a place that specialized in transmissions. The fact that they were honest about that when they could have done it and pocketed the cash made me swear that I was only taking my car to them from then on.

Of course, you definitely don’t want to be in that position.

13 krantcents

Your friends are good source, Auto club (AAA), and you can call for an estimate. Use this horn problem as a way to find one.

14 Car Negotiation Coach

Yeah, whenever you move to a new city, some priorities should be establishing a relationship with a good mechanic, doctor, dentist, and pizza delivery man….not necessarily in that order.

15 Crystal @ BFS

I tried different mechanics out for different problems and used Google to check their work, lol. I finally found a guy that straight up tells me when I problem isn’t really a you-need-to-fix-this problem and when it is a fix-it-right-now problem and he’s never charged me above the going rate I find online (about $30 an hour for labor and cost for parts which is fine by me since I don’t own the $50,000 lift and $500 specialty wrench and whatnot…). :-)

16 Jenna

My family has been going to the same mechanic for years. Before I could drive my parents went there, then when I got my own car I started going there. Definitely feels good to support the local small businesses in my neighborhood. I’d ask around, see who you’re friends are going too.

17 Stephanie

I’m probably being foolish, but I just go to the dealership. Granted, I’ve only gone for the tuneups (though I’m guessing I could do it cheaper by myself, but I’m willing to pay to have someone legit do it). My boyfriend has a local mechanic that he goes to. But I’m not even sure the mechanic is that good, since the last time he went to pick things up, they didn’t do what he had asked.
I guess I will have to do some searching eventually. My coworker is actually dealing with that right now after he was rear ended by someone who was rear ended (chain reaction in the slushy snow) and wants to get everything fixed.

18 Stephanie

Oh, and his current searching method is getting recommendations from his insurance and then looking up the recommended mechanics on Yelp.com.

19 Rob

I’m big on getting second and third opinions. We ask if a place will give free diagnostics and get a quote. If one place says it’s one thing and another it’s something different. Enter contestant #3.

20 Rebecca

Go on a blind date with one. Then marry him. Then he won’t rip you off cause he is paying for the repair. Its drastic, but it worked for me. :-)

21 SP

Yelp, if you don’t know anyone who can recommend. Or car talk, as someone above suggested

22 Laura

Mine is a friend of my dads, they’ve known each other for years. They knew my grandparents when they were still alive. Its really nice to know that your mechanic isnt trying to rip you off, my ex’s car was always in the shop. They even tried to get him to agree to do things they had already claimed they did!
“you need a transmision flush.”
“you just did that last week.”
“did i say *transmission flush? i meant… uh…”
Ask around, I found a great motorcycle mechanic at the gas station i worked at. He was a regular, and talked about his shop all the time! Turned out hes got a great place, they always did really good work.

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