Checking Under the Hood of Your Auto Service Options

Auto repair man

A Good Mechanic Can Mean Fewer Automotive Headaches


For many of us, the service technician we use for our car is like our family doctor or dentist in that we continue to see them for all our automotive repair requirements because we trust them. Also, they get to know your particular car over time, and understand your driving habits. This can be useful information when diagnosing an issue with your car. But if you’ve just moved to an area or are purchasing your first car, how should you go about finding a reputable and trustworthy service facility? Here are a few practical tips for searching out the best service options for your automobile.

Dealership for Warranty Issues

If your car is still under warranty, you will need to take these issues to an authorized agent of that car manufacturer in order to make the warranty claim. This is best done at the dealership where you purchased your car, or if you have moved out of the area, at a local dealership for your car make. There are also independent service centres that are authorized by the manufacturer, but they may be harder to locate than a dealership. But this is not to say you have to go to your dealership for all routine maintenance during your warranty period. Read on for some insights into finding a good alternative to using a dealership.

Will I Void my Warranty Going Elsewhere?

Following your car’s maintenance routine as outlined in your owner’s manual will not only keep your warranty valid, but will extend the overall life of your automobile. There is frequently some confusion over using an independent service facility for regular maintenance while your car is still under a manufacturer’s warranty. No warranty can force you to use a particular service provider for ongoing maintenance; however most will stipulate that you must use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts and fluids. So it’s very important when choosing a service provider, that they can provide these parts and fluids for routine maintenance. During your warranty period, each time you take your car for routine maintenance, make sure your receipt lists all the work performed and the parts and fluid types that were used. You may need this documentation to support your warranty claim at some point in the future.

Ask Friends and Colleagues for Recommendations

If your car is out of warranty, big ticket repairs may become more frequent. So trusting that you are getting the best service at an affordable price is important. Speak with other car owners in general and particularly to others who have the same make and similar model. If you have a European car make (whether or not the actual car was manufactured in North America), such as a Volkswagen, Audi, BMW or Peugeot you may want to find a service technician that specializes in these cars. The same goes for hybrid and new electric vehicles. Know the questions you’d like to ask other owners about their technicians such as “do they warranty their work?”, “do they stick to their estimates or provide written changes to those estimates?” It’s also good to know how timely their service is. No one wants to drop off their car not knowing for sure when they’ll have it back.

Check Online Reviews

Certainly check any online reviews for facilities you have in mind. You may also find helpful information and reviews on websites such as With any luck, the information you find will further corroborate recommendations you have received, making you that much more confident in your search. If you’re looking for a new technician because you moved away from your last, check with them to see if they know anyone in the local area.

Don’t Wait for an Emergency

Don’t wait until you have a catastrophic mechanical issue to find a trusted service technician. Use your routine maintenance visits to assess a few facilities and the service they provide. If you have recommendations for three or four local facilities, try out these places for one of your routine oil or filter changes. This gives you an opportunity to engage with the owner or technicians and see how they handle your vehicle. Ask questions about their practices such as estimates and warranties. Let them tell you why they should be your chosen service provider. Have a look around the facility. Does it appear organized and does staff appear diligent in carrying out their work? If you have a chance, watch them engage with other customers and maybe consider speaking to one or two of these customers as well.

Location Is More Than Just Convenience

If you’ve been recommended a particular service technician but they are all the way across town, chances are much greater that you’ll postpone important routine maintenance because the location is out of your way. Prolonged procrastination of some routine maintenance can lead to much bigger mechanical issues. Consider how the location will fit into your schedule. If you’re dependent on your vehicle for everyday activities, you’ll want to find a service facility either near your home or your work, so that appointments don’t throw off your entire schedule. Most service work can be accomplished in a single day, providing parts are available. So a location where you can drop the car off in the morning, carry on with your day and retrieve the repaired vehicle in the evening is ideal.

Communication is Key to Positive Relationship

It is quite common that during a routine service appointment, a technician may spot another needed repair. A frayed belt perhaps or hose close to bursting. It’s important to have an agreement with your service technician that any repairs out of scope of the current appointment should be quoted verbally before being made. That way, you remain in control of what gets done and when. Communication with your service technician in this way is enormously important. Some people can afford to give carte blanche instructions (fix anything you find) but this is not the case for most of us. Work with your mechanic on defining critical issues and create a schedule to address other issues that can perhaps be put off. This is why getting a written estimate is important, because that defines the scope of work. If you’ve found that you’ve been charged a great deal more for a repair than the estimate indicated, sit down with your mechanic and discuss how this came to be.

A friend had a situation where his mechanic replaced a windshield motor without instruction or approval to do so while the car was in for a few minor items. While replacing the wipers, the technician noted that the driver’s side motor was struggling and would soon cease working altogether, so he removed the old motor and replaced it with a new one. This added $350 dollars to the repair bill that my friend couldn’t afford at that specific moment in time. After a calm discussion, his technician agreed to remove the labour component for the motor installation, charging only for the part, since he’d not sought approval for this out of scope repair. Henceforth, they have an agreement to speak directly about all proposed repairs before work commences; a policy that you can define with your technician. Issues happen. It’s how you handle them that counts.

Know Your Rights

As with any consumer issue, you have certain rights as far as auto servicing is concerned. Every province operates uniquely but each offers some level of protection to the consumer of automotive services. It’s best to familiarize yourself with your own local protections beforehand, rather than depend on them after the fact. Here’s a list of Consumer Affairs offices in each province. Some of these links (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan) point directly to automotive service issues while other government websites are more generalized. If you have found a more specific link to this information in your province, feel free to pass it on to We’d love to hear from you. And as always, you can file your complaint with We’ll direct your concerns to the proper channels and help you get resolution to your complaint.

Alberta Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council
British Columbia Consumer Protection BC
Manitoba Manitoba Consumer Protection - Car Repairs
New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador Consumer Affairs Newfoundland Labrador
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia Consumer Rights
Ontario Consumer Protection Ontario - Car Repairs
Prince Edward Island Consumer Services Prince Edward Island
Quebec Consumer Protections Quebec - Vehicle Repairs
Saskatchewan Financial and Consumer Affairs Saskatchewan - Car Repairs
Northwest Territories Consumer Affairs Northwest Territories
Nunavut Consumer Affairs Nunavut
Yukon Consumer Protection Yukon Territories

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