The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), a nonprofit group that tests and certifies automotive mechanics, nowadays called "auto technicians," offers these tips to students looking to find qualified repair facilities:
- Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one. Procrastination does not pay off, either in school projects or car repairs.
- Ask your friends and parents for their recommendations. Make your car repair project a group one -; friends and family with good experiences can point you to reputable shops.
- Arrange for your transportation. You shouldn't choose your repair shop based on its proximity to malls or movie theaters. If your car repairs might take a while, arrange for a friend to help you out.
- Trust Your Eyes. Look for a neat, well-organized facility. The vehicles in the parking lot? They should be equal in value to your own.
- Speak Up. The staff should seem friendly and willing to answer your questions. Ask for the facility's policies on estimated repair costs, diagnostic fees, guarantees and methods of payment. If you know your car has a specific issue, make sure that the shop either specializes in, or is familiar with, handling your type of repairs.
- Check the walls. The customer service area should display civic, community or customer service awards -; signs that the facility is professional and effective.
- Make sure the technicians are qualified. Professionals won't hide evidence of their education and training. Trade school diplomas or certificates of advanced coursework prove good signs. As does individual certification of the auto techs from ASE; their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign.
For more information, including seasonal car care tips, visit www.ase.com.