A good mechanic is an important person to know! Popular South African cars such as the Toyota Corolla contain about 14,000 parts, and if just one of these parts fails when you are travelling at the national speed limit of 100 or 120 Km/h your life is in danger. Every part in your car must work properly, but car parts do wear out so regular car servicing is essential. The problem is finding a good mechanic to service your vehicle, one you can trust with your life. That’s why we’re taking a look at what you should be concerned about when you’re looking for a mechanic.
Of course, there are some simple maintenance and service jobs that you can do yourself. You can change a tyre, for example, or even change a battery, but for the big jobs, and for servicing, you’re looking at getting a mechanic. So, just what should you be doing to get the best man for the job?
Finding Your Mechanic on the Internet
Most of us will first look online for a local mechanic when we need work done on our cars. Local is important for convenience, but there are many other factors to check for as well. Websites might be simple, but that is not always a guide to the quality of the work you will get done when visiting a mechanic. However, a complex website is usually a sign of a business that is willing to invest in marketing, and this is often a sign of a healthy business with a decent income, which in turn usually means satisfied customers.
Websites rarely give prices except for those for a basic oil change. Companies are wary of being undercut by their competitors or of customers demanding a discount to match the garage down the road, so you might not get all the information that you need to make a decision, meaning you’ll probably need to visit a mechanic for an estimate as well.
Recommended Car Mechanics
A personal recommendation is worth a lot. Always ask around your friends and relations for the names of people to avoid and ones to trust. It is better to learn from others’ experience where you can, since this will save you time and money.
The AA does have an inspection scheme for garages, so look for AA accreditation in advertising and promotional literature to guide your choices.
Qualified Motor Mechanics
Look for certificates from the National Institute for Automotive Excellence. This South African organization runs many courses in the different aspects of servicing cars, SUVs and bakkies. Manufacturers’ own service departments are likely to be the best because having qualified technicians on-site is one of the conditions that dealers have to fulfil. Training certificates will be on prominent display in customer reception and waiting areas, so keep an eye out for these!
If you have had an accident and your insurance company is paying for the repairs then they will give you a list of approved repair facilities. The insurance company inspects the work of these garages, ensuring that the repair will be done properly using original manufacturers’ car parts where possible.
Auto-electrics is a specialist area and many general motor repair shops will outsource auto-electrical work, adding on a percentage of the cost. It will be cheaper to take your car straight to an auto-electrician than to take it to a general garage, so keep this in mind if you’re looking for auto electrical repair. Even if you’re looking for a general mechanic, you might want to ask if auto electrics are done in house or outsourced, so you’ll know for the future.
Appearances and Your Mechanic
No, we’re not concerned with how attractive your mechanic is! But the appearance of his garage can say a lot! Look for an ordered and clean workspace. Mechanics’ hands should be clean. Dirty hands mean the inside of your car will be covered in greasy hand prints. Dirty overalls are unavoidable to a certain extent, but it should look like today’s dirt not the past year’s!
There should be no large oil stains on the floor. The floor should be clean and tidy. Tools should be stored away rather than littered around the workshop. Alongside that, a busy workshop is usually a good sign, just as long as the cars in it are changing regularly. How many lifts are there for raising cars up to inspect the underside? More lifts equals a busier garage. Is there uncluttered space for technicians to work on each car? Do employees use disposable seat covers and gloves to protect your upholstery? Is there adequate supervision to prevent accidental damage by inexperienced staff? Do the staff look old enough to be experienced?
Prices and Your Mechanic
Of course, price is going to come into the equation too. Not many of us have bottomless bank accounts, so prices are important. The biggest variable here is labour which is charged at R342 – R602 per hour! Ask on the phone about labour rates because this is often the largest part of a service bill. The mechanic does not get that rate of pay or anything like it. Garages charge labour at these exorbitant rates in order to cover fixed costs, marketing and the wages of clerical staff.
Sometimes garages will give you fixed rates for particular jobs as a way to avoid quoting R600 per hour for labour. If you ring a few garages and ask how much a full car service costs you will get a good idea of labour charges that will be applied to any work you need done. Remember that training costs money though, so the lowest cost will rarely get you the best-qualified mechanic.
Finally, what good is work that has no guarantee? If a motor mechanic is not ready to stand by his work and give you a warranty then you should avoid him. Any parts that are fitted should come with at least a three month warranty. If a garage wants you to come back again the next time your car needs repairs then they will fix any problems that arise from their work without extra charges.
A Good Mechanic: The Bottom Line
Clearly, there’s a lot that goes into finding a good mechanic to take care of your car. It is important, however, that you keep the above things in mind when shopping around for a mechanic. A good mechanic can literally be the difference between life and death when you’re out on the road, so this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Good luck in your search!
Main Subject: mechanic
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