How to communicate with your mechanic
Updated 21 Feb 2020
Mechanics are professionals in their field, they have completed years of theory and on-the-job practical training to achieve their mechanical qualification, and should be treated the same way you would treat your doctor or electrician.
Even though the majority of mechanics start out with a personal interest in cars, they do have to undertake tertiary training, supervised practical training and pass performance parameters to be able to take mechanics on as their profession.
They’re not just folks that like to tinker around with the odd car here and there.
Vehicle manufacturers are constantly coming up with new systems, so mechanics are exposed to continuous training to keep abreast of updated technology.
Mechanics must stay on top of advancements, otherwise they will get left behind and become redundant. So please respect the level of knowledge and skill required to be able to keep your vehicle on the road.
What not to say to your mechanic!
Let’s start with what you shouldn’t say to a mechanic. It’s not that we want you to sound ignorant but it’s important you don’t inadvertently say things that could end up costing you more money. Here’s a few tips on what not to say:
- Leave the technical talk to the mechanic, don’t try to diagnose the solution yourself, instead just explain what the situation is and let the mechanic come up with possible deductions.
- If you need something in particular checked out make sure you let the mechanic know. Just because your car is going in for a service, that doesn’t mean every single component on your vehicle will be checked and tested.
- If you have a particular problem you would like investigated, actually show the mechanic where it is on the car, or take them for a drive to hear the suspect noise. Telling the receptionist at the counter could lead to misinterpretation.
- Never tell the mechanic to ‘just do what is needed’.
If they were to do everything that was needed on your car then you could be in with a very hefty bill when you go to pick it up. A $150 service could end up costing $1,500!
Make sure the mechanic knows why the car is in the workshop and if you haven’t been quoted a price then ask them to phone you and advise how much it is going to cost before they start working on your car.
Make it clear to the mechanic they need to contact you for approval if they find anything else that requires work. This way you are in control and aware of the costs involved.
- If you know nothing about cars, don’t verbally blurt it out to the mechanic. They don’t need to know how much you do or don’t know and in some situations, it’s good to leave them in the dark in this area.
- Never tell a mechanic how easy their job is or ask ‘How can it cost so much when all you did was plug a computer into the car to find the problem?’
If it was that easy you would be doing it yourself.
This also includes telling the mechanic that they won’t find anything wrong with your car because it’s still new. ‘New’ means straight off the dealership showroom floor, any driving once off the car yard lot will guarantee issues and repairs needed at some point.
- Google is a great tool but never tell the mechanic you googled the problem and you know what is wrong and then tell the mechanic what they have to do to fix it.
This also includes self-diagnosing mechanical issues on blogs, going by what your mate said or what you think. Let the professional mechanic do their job.
- Never offer to purchase your own parts and get the workshop to fit them.
This is a liability to the workshop/mechanic should the part fail or be the wrong part. For legal reasons, most workshops will rightly refuse to fit your supplied parts and send you on your way.
- Never compare your mechanic’s price to other quotes.
Just because someone else offers to do the same job for $40p/h less doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t take 2 hours longer to do the same job. If your mechanic states a quoted price, it’s based on their knowledge and experience and aptitude to get the job done in a timely manner at the best price they can offer.
Just as you wouldn’t go to the cheapest surgeon to have your wisdom teeth removed, reputation and professionalism should weigh heavier than the cheapest pricing when selecting the best mechanic to look after your car.
- Don’t haggle parts pricing.
Yes you may be able to buy a part from Supercheap Auto cheaper yourself, but the workshop has to pay overheads, wages and other expenses.
Sometimes the only way a workshop can make money is through their parts pricing and they will have a set percentage added to parts to be able to continue operating.
The mechanic will also make sure that the replacement part is a quality product that comes with a warranty and it will be fitted by a professional.
- Don’t tell the mechanic that you are going on a trip.
This comment can be taken as ‘I will pay for anything that needs to be done because I am scared my car won’t make the journey’.
The same can be said for parents that are buying a car for their kids and want it to be safe before they go off on their own.
Simply request the vehicle be checked over because you plan on keeping it for a while and ask for a list of any items may need to be looked at, in order of their safety priority.
- Don’t be negative, don’t expect the worst and don’t show the mechanic that you are expecting something really expensive to be found.
- It’s not a good idea to tell the mechanic to take as long as they want to fix your car.
Give the mechanic a set time frame and they will let you know if that is achievable.
Make sure you let the workshop know you want a good job that’s not rushed but you need it back by a certain day or time. If you give them an open time frame then other cars will be given priority over yours.
- Never offer to pay the mechanic before the job is finished.
Do not leave your credit card details with the mechanic when you drop the car off. Ask them to call you when the job is done.
So, exactly what should you say to your mechanic?
Here are some worthy tips for communicating effectively:
- Provide information to the mechanic in regards to what you are experiencing and when it happens. Offer to take the mechanic for a drive to let them experience it for themselves.
- Let the mechanic know if you want something in particular checked. Don’t expect that everything will be checked and fixed as part of a standard service.
- Ask for a written quote that includes labour, parts, fluid costs and any additional fees.
Make sure the workshop gives you a time frame and if they expect any additional expenses for anything. Be clear in instructing them to contact you for any expenses outside of what was quoted.
- Remember to ask which payment methods will be accepted before you leave your car with the workshop.
- Ensure the workshop offers a service warranty, which means there is a warranty for the work they perform and ask if all parts fitted will carry a warranty.
- After the work has been completed, ask for an itemised invoice with all tasks and checks carried out including parts and fluids that were replaced.
- Ask for a list of any additional items they feel need to be looked at in the future in order of safety priority.
- Ask the mechanic to keep any parts that are removed to show you the old parts before they get thrown in the bin or you may want to keep them for yourself.
- Sometimes certain repair processes can lead to other issues after particular jobs are carried out.
Ask your mechanic if there may be any adverse effects on other components or systems on your car from the repairs that were completed.
Fixing one item may put more strain on other areas or fluids may have spilt in areas that can’t be cleaned off and could create fumes or smoke for a little while.
- If at any point dealing with the mechanic you’re not happy, let them know.
If you find something wrong or have any questions after you’ve paid for the service, contact the mechanic and tell them.
They can’t fix or explain anything if you don’t talk to them about it. Keep the lines of communication open.
There’s no point complaining about a mechanic’s work if you haven’t given them the chance to rectify the situation.
Mechanics take a lot of pride in their work and reputation, and most would be horrified if they thought they had not carried out work to the client’s complete satisfaction.
Manage your expectations
The most important thing is to be realistic, sometimes diagnosing a problem may not be a quick, clear-cut process.
Today’s modern vehicles are very complex and it’s not just a matter of plugging a computer in to find the issue. Trust in your mechanic to advise you if they are not capable of working on or finding an issue on your car.
Mechanics will admit if it is outside of their field of expertise, they don’t want to waste their time or yours and will let you know if you need to look further afield.
Waiting for the right parts
Be aware that sometimes it may take time to get parts in. Mechanics rely on part suppliers to store parts for them and if it isn’t a common part there may be delays in sourcing parts, and it's probably best not to source your own parts.
Sometimes your mechanic may offer you a price on new and second-hand parts. This will provide you the option of new or used so you can decide on the option that suits your budget.
In the case of older vehicles, second-hand parts may be your only option.
Trust the professionals
Trust in your mechanic as an expert in the automotive field. They have years of experience and knowledge and appreciate being respected for their hard work.
They want your car to run as smoothly as you do.
Ask the right questions and keep the communication lines open so you get the best results possible for you, your vehicle and your mechanic.
Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.