HTT: How to Auto-Shop

Finding a mechanic is a lot like trying to find a best friend.

You're not looking for a one night hook-up, you gotta find the guy that will share his last beer with you.

And you need references.

That's all I'm saying.

Anyway, this morning while taking our Urban Assault Vehicle in for a tune-up, we were excited to find out that our favorite auto-shop has reopened. They had changed ownership a year ago, and promptly closed due to bad management, and now have reopened with the good ole boys.

In the interim we really struggled to find the right place.

We tried the dealership first, just assuming that if anything, they would have the parts in stock. Not only did that never happen, the also charged us arms and legs for the kinds of simple things I could've easily done myself, but chose not to. They were also too neatly quaffed for people who spend a portion of their days underneath engine blocks.

Actually, the worst thing about taking you car into the dealership is when you drive up and you're immediately approached by salivating salesmen with their gelled hair and monstrous wrist watches and who invariably look at you like a side of beef they can't wait to strip a loin off of.

Is that what it feels like to be a woman?

I need a bite of chocolate just thinking about it.

After we gave up on the dealership, we tried one of those stand alone auto-shops with a friendly name.

Honest Engine.

Which we found out later was short for "We Honestly Don't Give a F@#&"

Once when I took my son to a skatepark, I accidentally left the headlights on and drained my battery and though it's not the dumbest thing I'd ever done, it was getting late and I was hungry.

I called up the shop the was across the street from the park and asked if I could get a jump start.

They quoted me $100.


I thanked them for their time and politely demurred seeing as how I had clearly called an escort service by mistake.

Jump-start, oil change, lube-job, front-end alignment. They were probably getting their prices from Craigslist ads.

My wife invariably came to the rescue and all it cost me was a hamburger and a promise to empty the dishwasher.

Anyway, our fine friends at Made in Japan are back in business and boy are we relieved.

And I thought for today's How To Tuesday I'd give you a little glimpse of what I look for in a best friend/autoshop.

First is good work. How can you tell? Actually you can't. This is why you need references. But there are clues.

How fresh does the coffee smell? If they've got a cappuccino bar set-up and you get a gentle waft of a Costa Rican deep roast from the Tarazzu Region, big clue that their focus is not on crank cases.

Nope . . . what you're looking for is a Mr. Coffee and a few styrofoam cups one of which has to have teeth marks on the rim.

Another good clue is that the mechanic has to hunt a peck on the keyboard. No fancy schmancy typing class for this fella.

Second, how do they talk to you? People with very specialized levels of information come in two different categories: Simple and direct (Good), Jargon filled gobbledegook (Not so good)

For instance, I just got a call from our guys and he told my wife that the need to check out the transmission and told her the price. She asked me real quick if that made sense, it did, and we're good to go.

On the converse, our chums at Honest Engine gave me a very long monologue on the dangers of letting a timing belt go over 120,000 miles.

Which is true.

Honest to god.

But my car doesn't have a timing belt.

It has a timing chain.

Whole different animal.

Had I not known that, he might have honestly walked off with $1,000 of my money.


Last but not least, is that you gotta know how the game is played. You are supposed to go in for one thing: a tune-up, an oil change, checking the brakes, and there is a 90% chance that they're gonna find something else that could use repair.

A good shop does this because they love you and want you to be happy and safe. A bad shop does this because that's how they keep they're mistresses from calling their wives.

Now, you should have a good idea what the extra work might be. For instance, last time I drove the Urban Assault Vehicle, I noticed the transmission felt rough.

So I get the secondary call that they need to do some transmission stuff, I'm already ahead of the game.

But you don't have to have a cursory understanding of auto mechanics to tell the difference. It's all about the tone.

A good mechanic will say something along the lines of "You're transmission's rough, it's gonna cost XXX dollars to check it out and fix it."

Straight . . . to the point . . . unapologetic.

A shady McShaderson will be all like "Gee, lady, I'm really sorry about this, but we noticed that your driver's side air bag hasn't been waxed in awhile and we really recommend having it buffed out every thirty or so weeks and it's only gonna be XXXX amount of dollars."

They know if they're selling you something you don't need, you can feel the hair gel oozing from you mobile phone.

Finding a good auto-shop is tough, and expensive, and sometimes a little heart breaking, but if you love something, don't let it go.

Like ever.

1 comment:

  1. And use the guy that uses salvage parts, just as good and way cheaper than the dealership