Sorry, christineroberton, you don't get to use that tired old excuse anymore unless you choose to. There's just as many guys out there who are clueless when it comes to the machines they trust to get them and their families back home. Three of my top students were girls, and the guys had a lot of respect for them. I also had a few less-than-ideal female graduates but they didn't even come close to a few of the guys who I couldn't in good conscience recommend to a potential employer.
A big part of the problem is cars today are WAY more complicated than necessary. Much of the inappropriate use of technology comes from the designers convincing us we need toys and gimmicks. No one, including mechanics, can keep up with all the changes thrown at us every year on the hundreds of different car models.
Another problem, as with doctors, mechanics speak a different language than car owners, and if you add in a service adviser who knows less about cars than mechanics do, things get lost in translation. That is not an intent to defraud, but it is a common reason customers think they're being ripped off. I will never defend a dishonest mechanic or shop, but nine out of ten times when I've been asked to verify a car owner's suspicions that they got taken, all that was needed was a lengthy explanation of why the mechanic did what he did. Most of the time they come to realize what the mechanic did was in their best interest. Funny that when we think we're looking out for our customer, it gets perceived as we ripped them off. Most of that misperception comes from not understanding how cars work. No one expects you to know as much as a mechanic, but it isn't too hard to become an informed consumer, and to learn the basics. You took the first step by coming here.
Mechanics are held to much higher standards too than any other profession. If your doctor doesn't cure you or even diagnose your ailment correctly on the first visit, you just go to another doctor. No one blames the first one, or the second one, or the third one as being incompetent or dishonest. They have it easy. All they have to do is learn two models in varying sizes. Mechanics have to relearn dozens of new circuits and systems on dozens of new models every year, even those they might only see once in their lifetime.
When you take your truck in for service, be prepared to explain what you want with as much detail as possible. If you can imagine listening to a car owner saying "I think I need an oil change", my first thought is "you don't know"? What else don't you know about the care and maintenance of your car? If you don't know what it needs, that leaves it up to me to figure out how to make it last as long as possible and how to cost you the least money and aggravation. As an example, if I see improper tire wear today, I'm going to recommend an alignment TODAY, instead of allowing your tires to wear out too quickly and cost you more money in the long run. For that recommendation you accuse me of trying to sell you things you don't need. During an oil change I promise to not top off your brake fluid if it is low. I would never do that to my customers, and if you check up on me later, you will be angry since filling fluids is supposed to be part of the oil change service. Instead, I recommended you should have the brakes inspected, because I know WHY the brake fluid was low. Since you assumed I was trying to sell you unneeded services and you don't understand why the brake fluid was low, the brake linings wore out and are grinding metal-on-metal now. Instead of a simple inspection and brake service, you need to buy more parts now to go with that needed brake job. All of that could have been avoided if I had just taken the time to explain why that simple observation of low brake fluid told me your brakes were almost worn out. Many mechanics forget that you don't know what low fluid means, and if a service adviser is involved, all he knows is the mechanic saw "something" that warrants further investigation to look out for your well being, but he doesn't know why. He's just condensing down what the mechanic wrote on the repair order to recommendations you will understand. Your mechanic would be incompetent if he saw something your car needs and he did NOT bring it to your attention. You need to look at yourself, the mechanic, and the service adviser as members of a team. They are your advocates, not your adversaries.
Where I draw the line is when someone, typically at a new-car dealership, tries to sell you a long list of services based solely on the car's mileage. They are going by the list of recommendations in the owner's manual, not by inspecting your car. Some owners follow that list religiously and the people at the shop are going to try to get you to buy those services while you're there rather than let you spend your money at the next shop you go to. Those lists are based on average driving conditions. Any mechanic would be appalled if I told them I haven't changed the oil in my '88 Grand Caravan daily driver in well over ten years and 100,000 miles, and the transmission fluid has been changed only once in 240,000 miles, but that proves those lists are just guidelines. The manufacturer has good reason for making those recommendations, but they are guidelines. (By the way, I'm not neglecting my van; I'm abusing it! I would never recommend anyone else do as I'm doing unless they also had another properly maintained vehicle to drive).
As part of the role of advocate, a service adviser is worth his weight in gold to the shop owner if he can sell you only the service you really need now, AND get you to come back when ever you need repairs in the future. Disreputable businesses try to get as much out of you as possible right now because they know you aren't likely to ever come back. At the dealership I worked for, most of our customers were repeat customers who kept coming back because they knew we were looking out for them in the long run. Because of that, there was even less pressure to sell services that could be put off for a while.
Sorry for getting so far off topic. When you go to the shop, act like an informed car owner. When an owner acts uninformed or clueless, anything anyone does or says is going to be treated with suspicion. Some people at the shop, in an attempt to avoid the "I'm just a woman" syndrome will even go overboard and NOT tell you about things that are going to turn into more expensive problems later. Rather than risk being thought of as disreputable, they will just let your car break down and you can be mad at the next guy. Who is looking out for your best interest, the guy who is trying to sell you a service you think you don't need or the guy who ignores it to come across as not being pushy?
When they come to you with a list of needed services, ask for more more details about each one. If the recommendations are legitimate, no one will be offended at being asked to give an explanation. The exception might be if they are really busy with a long line of waiting customers or lots of paperwork, but when I was performing suspension and alignment repairs, I was proud of what I knew and I was happy to share it with customers. I had my boss's blessings too because he knew my customers understood what I was going to do for them.
There are many little add-on things we do to insure the quality of the repair, but if you are recommended an expensive service, ask why it's needed and what would happen if you put it off for a few months. Most service advisers will also help you prioritize the list so you only have the important things done right now. If someone says you have to have everything done right now, they can't or won't prioritize the list, and they can't show you the worn parts on your car or explain why they are making the recommendations, that's when I'd feel like I'm being taken advantage of.
Again, sorry for butting into this conversation and for getting so far off topic. The issue is not that you're a woman. It's that you are a typical car owner. I've been desensitized to things like that after working in a community college setting where they fall all over themselves looking for ways to classify people, then they tell us we have to ignore those classifications.
Monday, January 28th, 2013 AT 11:09 PM