Car Repairs for Dummies

Car Repair

No, this is not written for the car guru, it’s for the person who is afraid she’ll get taken because she knows little about cars, repair shops, and how they charge. Used-car buyers especially need to be smart about car repairs.

You may be the kind of person who goes in for an oil change and asks, “Is it time for a tune-up?” Or, “Just do whatever. I want it fixed right.” These are among the 10 things you should never say to your mechanic. If the guy is honest, such remarks will tempt him not to be.

Most important is to know the required maintenance and repair schedule for your particular car. For the former, read the owner’s manual; for the latter, get smart about how parts and labor charges are figured. You can do this with some online resources.

Let’s suppose your 2006 BMW 325i has been in a fender-bender. You aren’t sure if there is more than visible damage. If you didn’t know this before, you’ll soon realize that BMWs are among the most expensive cars to repair.

First, get a friend or someone knowledgeable to recommend one or more repair centers that they have used. Family-owned shops with a community history are reliable; so are many dealerships that are family-owned. Get two or three written estimates and compare them.

Another way to locate a shop is to use the CarGurus Auto Repairs listings. Search by zip code, city, makes serviced, or categories of repair. Reviews are listed for many shops.

There is more to compare than price, of course. Check out 2carpros.com for answers to your specific questions about repair from qualified mechanics. Automd.com can help you estimate repair costs and diagnose what may be needed. Simple repairs, like brake jobs, are the easiest to estimate, naturally. RepairPal.com can help you find a shop.

After they finally find a garage they’re happy with, most people will stick with it and give the same shop all their business. That’s a good idea, as they will get to know your car and possibly give you a break on future work. You really do form a relationship with these folks, which is the best way to ensure that you get good work at a good price.

So, back to your 325i: Here’s another site that lists typical trouble areas and estimated repair costs for the 3 Series. As in buying a used car with our DealFinder, use all your resources and you won’t get stung—or keel over when the estimates roll in.

Have you used any online resources for car-repair help? Would you recommend any of them to a friend?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used BMW 3 Series

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