How to Communicate Effectively with Your Mechanic
Have you ever known something was wrong with your car as you’ve driven down the street, but you had no idea how you’d explain it to a mechanic? You’re not alone.
After working with thousands of customers over the past 24 years, we’ve found that certain steps can help drivers simplify the explanation of his or her car problems. Here are the 5 steps you need to understand before handing over your car keys.
STEP 1: Observe Your Healthy Car.
When the FBI prepares a new candidate to hunt down counterfeit money, they don’t bother teaching about the counterfeit variations, but instead they focus the prospect on what real cash looks, smells and feels like.
The same holds true for your car. When your car is in great condition write down all the things that best describes the drive. This reference will help you determine what the car no longer provides in the area of a comfortable ride.
For instance, when a car drives down a slow road, it should continue straight and steady when you take your hands off of the steering wheel. If, however, it pulls left or right, or surges forward or seems sluggish, those differences will help the mechanic determine the real issue needing repair work.
STEP 2: Describe the Problem in Writing.
The more detail you use to describe the problem compared to the historical healthy ride, the easier it is to help the mechanic understand your issue and expectation. Here are a few examples of specific word choices that will help your mechanic…
Backfire—A loud abrupt sound coming from the engine or tailpipe.
Bottoming—When the car hits bottom after going over a bump, which sometimes is felt through the steering wheel.
Bucking—The sudden lurching of the car when changing gears or after the car hesitates.
Dieseling—When the car runs for a brief time after the car is turned off.
Hesitation—The sudden temporary loss of power when accelerating.
Knocking—A rapid knocking or rattling sound during acceleration.
Misfire—An un-rhythmic sound of the engine leading to loss of power.
Shimmy—A side-to-side motion felt in the steering wheel or tires.
Sluggish—The car’s acceleration feels bogged down instead of strong and smooth.
Surge—The sudden increase in RPMs and racing engine.
STEP 3: Test Drive with Mechanic.
If the mechanic is having a hard time figuring out what you’re saying, offer to take a test drive with him. This will allow you to point out the issue as it occurs. If the symptoms are intermittent, describe the result you want and give the mechanic a couple extra days to witness its reoccurrence during additional test drives.
STEP 4: Keep Focused on Your First Goal.
When you pick up the vehicle take it for a spin around the block to make sure your original issue and goal have been successfully handled. If a new issue seems to have popped up, make an inquiry, but don’t assume the mechanic did something that caused the new issue. Many existing problems can’t be detected until after the car is brought back to a healthier state.
STEP 5: Ask About Preventative Care to Avoid Future Problems.
Most problems can be avoided with a regular maintenance program. According to the National Car Care Council, only 15% of drivers take their cars in for regular preventative maintenance. This raises the individual’s car repair/maintenance costs from $400-$600 annually to $1,200-$1,600 annually.
The above 5 steps will give you the knowledge to know how your healthy car should act and what is different when something goes wrong. With a clear focus on the issue and good descriptive details of both the potential issue and how the car should feel when restored, you’ll be able to help the mechanic bring your car back to a healthy state.