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No matter what you drive, when you take your vehicle in for repairs or service, you want the job done right and at a fair price. The following advice should take much of the guesswork out of finding a good repair facility.

Don't just drop your vehicle off at the nearest shop and hope for the best. That's not choosing a shop, that's merely gambling.

I. Preliminaries

*Read you owners 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 into a decision.

*Ask friends and associates for their recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, word-of-mouth reputation is still valuable.

*Check with your local consumer organizations regarding the reputation of the shop that you have in mind.

*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.

II. At the Shop

*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 area.

*Professionally run shops will have a courteous, helpful staff. 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, warranties, methods of payment) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction.

*Ask if the shop is familiar with your make and model vehicle. Some shops 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, BBB membership, 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.

III. Follow-Up

*Keep good records; keep all paperwork.

*Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship.

*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 shop a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.

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