Read your owner's manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer's suggested service schedule.
Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one; you can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic.
Ask friends and associates for their recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word-of-mouth reputation is still valuable. (but consider the source)
Check with your local consumer organization regarding the reputation of the shop in question.
If possible, arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a facility solely on the basis of location.
Once you choose a repair shop, start off with a minor job; if you are pleased, trust them with more complicated repairs later.
Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.
Professionally run establishments will have a courteous, helpful staff (especially the ones that are trained to build a relationship to get your trust).
The service writer should be willing to answer all of your questions.
Feel free to ask for the names of a few customers. Call them.
All policies (labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.
Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize.
Ask if the shop usually does your type of repair, especially if you need major work.
Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards.
Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications - a national standard of technician competence.
The backbone of any shop is the competence of the technicians. ( This is a key ingredient, but the culture extended from the ownership to do the job right and do it honestly is the real backbone)
Keep good records; keep all paperwork. (If the shop is up to speed and honest, they will have everything you do on file and can remember a warrantied part.
Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship. (but on occasion get a 2nd opinion to keep them on their toes and tell them that is why you did it)
If the service was not all you expected, don't rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business. (communication is a key if they are in the wrong they will take care of it, if they aren't they may still, but be sure you understand how a problem came about)
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