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7 Tips for Better Service

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Whichever shop you choose, here are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting good results

1. Write down a detailed description of your car’s symptoms and give it to the service write-up person to give to the repair technician. Describe how the car sounds, smells, and drives and how long the problem has been going on. Explain when it happens—in hot or cold weather, wet or dry, when the engine is hot or cold, at high speeds or at low speeds. If the problem is hard to describe, take a test drive with someone from the shop.

2. If possible, talk directly to the repair technician who will be working on your car. If you get to know a particular technician and you are satisfied with his or her work, try to get the same person each time you take your car in for service.

3. Either get a written estimate in advance or note on the repair ticket that no work is to be done without your approval based on a written estimate. All shops in Illinois are required to give you a written estimate of both completion date and cost if the work is expected to exceed $100. (A shop can’t charge more than 10 percent above its estimate without your approval.) If all the work to be done is covered by a warranty, write on the repair order “only warranty repairs are authorized.”

4. When a shop gives you a diagnosis and recommends repairs, ask whether other repair options might produce satisfactory results at a lower price.

5. When you go to pick up the car, get a written, dated invoice detailing the work performed, each part supplied and its cost, all labor charges, and the vehicle’s odometer reading. Illinois shops are required to provide such invoices. Also, get the shop to write on your invoice what the shop’s warranty is on the repairs.

6. Pay by credit card. This will give you rights under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act to dispute charges and withhold payment if the shop didn’t provide the service agreed upon.

7. If you discover a faulty repair after you leave the shop, be sure to build evidence as soon as possible. The best approach is to get the service writer to put a signed, dated acknowledgment on your copy of the bill saying that you brought the problem to the shop’s attention. Alter-natively, you might keep a copy of a note or e-mail you send to the shop describing the problem with the repair.
–R. K.


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