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How I Found A Good Auto Mechanic

by The Happy Rock on September 14, 2008

While my tires were being installed by my local Sunoco they mentioned that both front struts and the left outer tie rod needed to be replaced.  I had seen some oil in the right wheel well, so the struts weren’t too far out of the question, but tie rods are a notorious rip off part to replace.   The quote was almost $700 for just parts, so I told him just to install the tires.  He obliged, but now I had to get the new work checked out and done.

I had been wanting to try a new mechanic for a while and this seemed like a good oppurtunity.  I had been happy with my current mechanic and felt that they were honest, but I didn’t feel like they did a good enough job with preventive maitenance or finding existing problems while it was in for other stuff.    Also, who knows what I could be missing if I could find a great mechanic.

With that settled, now I had to go through the scary prospect of finding a new mechanic. Here is how I found a new mechanic:

1. Ask all friends and neighbors. An excellent review from a trusted source is about the best you can hope for.  Really positive and really negative recommendations are the most helpful, but things like ‘my mechanic is OK’ isn’t particularly useful.  I had already tapped my network and hadn’t found anyone that made me want to switch.

2. Paid rating services. Angie’s List and Checkbook.org are at the top of the list.   I have seen mixed reviews about Angie’s list and I personally don’t like the business model.  Checkbook is only in limited areas, but I have read that the library often carries their magazine.  I hadn’t used either and didn’t want to pay for the information, so it was on to step three.

3. Free Auto Mechanic Review Websites. Car Talk’s Mechanic’s Files was the best in terms of content, ease of use, and number of reviews.  I was able to find a few great leads and was able to narrow it down to two.  If you are interested in trying some of the other sites, just google for “car mechanic reviews” and search a few of the first page sites.  I found a little extra information between them all, but no particular site was worth a mention.

4. Call The Mechanic. I called the first mechanic and I was impressed with the counter women and the time he took to give me an accurate quote and the honesty with which he treated me.  I prefer a mechanic that is willing to take their time to talk me through the problems and my options and even show my parts when I pick up the car if I ask. No need to try the second mechanic, I set up an appointment.

He confirmed the problems and fixed both front struts, the tie rod, and completed a full digital alignment for $869.94.  Big bill, but it was right in line with what I expected and was going to be much cheaper than the Sunoco which originally found the problem.  The alignment also came with the before and after computer printout, which added to my opinion that he is honest and doing a complete job.

Do the readers have any other tips they have used to find a good mechanic?