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How Do You Find A Good Mechanic?

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I’m an engineer by training and a shade tree mechanic by pure enthusiasm. Realistically, though, there are a great many jobs that I find myself unable to realistically achieve in my own backyard. When this happens, I’m forced to hand my pride and joy off to a real mechanic. But how do you find a good one?

There are a great many ways in which a mechanic can cause your car harm. They may do sloppy work, or simply not do a job at all while telling you they have. If you’re particularly unlucky, your car might end up worse than it was when it went in. One particularly horrifying story saw a friend of mine leave an alignment shop, only to have his suspension fall apart just a mile down the road.

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Then, there’s the simple risk of being overcharged. Nobody wants to pay too much for a cheap job. At the same time, you don’t wanna go too cheap and risk getting substandard parts that aren’t up to scratch.

In my own automotive life, I’ve been lucky to find a few good mechanics over the years. These all came to me via the recommendations of the car communities I was in. The MX-5 club introduced me to a guy across town who knew the cars inside and out. I threw quite a few jobs his way and he never let me down. Similarly, a BMW Facebook group put me on to a specialist workshop that tackled the gargantuan task of repairing my car’s air conditioning. The heroic job took three weeks to figure out and yet they charged me an incredibly reasonable price.

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And yet, I’ve been steered wrong in this regard, too. A much-lauded Volvo specialist let me down in multiple ways. For a start, my car left the mechanic with a sticker advertising the workshop—something I didn’t consent to. Sticking your ad on my car without asking? That’s absolutely galling. Worse than that, the repairs I’d paid good money for didn’t stick, and I had to chase them up elsewhere.

The reason I ask is because I’ve bought a new ride. It has no service history, so I’m taking the cautious route. I’m having the timing belt and water pump changed, and that’s a job I can’t handle right now.

The problem is that this is a big job. I can’t hand it out to any old jamoke, because if they get it wrong, I’m out an entire engine. I also don’t want to get ripped off; even a fair price for this work is going to set me back a lot of money.

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I dearly wish I could call on Alexei to solve all my problems, but he’s a busy man who lives several days away.

I want to find a specialist in the brand, but so far, I’m not having much luck. There’s one that’s well-reviewed, but I’d have to spend $200 on Ubers just to get there and back to drop the car off and pick it up. There’s another close by that has a good reputation for mechanical work, but half the customers say they’re pretty rude and hard to work with.

Right now, I’m feeling stuck. Go ahead and help me out—how do you go about finding a good, trustworthy mechanic?

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Image credits: Lewin Day

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Myk El
Myk El
19 days ago

Been a lot of word of mouth for me historically. My nephew is WAY more extroverted than I ever will be and knows so many people. He’s found good mechanics, plumbers, HVAC techs just by knowing so many folks.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
19 days ago

Sometimes the issue is finding a good tech for a specific issue. Alignments on old German cars for instance. I had a guy, but despite being a steering and alignment savant, he lost his business to the bottom of a bottle.

No shop within 2 hours of me seems to be able to properly align my 38 year old land yacht. Which makes me sad.

Col Hathi
Col Hathi
19 days ago

I try and stay away from mechanics with two traits:

  1. Slapping on stickers with their garage names on customer cars (happens a lot in India)
  2. Anyone with “Specialist” in their name, either by brand or by type of issue (this is also true for a first diagnosis for my health)
Aardvark775
Aardvark775
20 days ago

Look at their hands. If there is no grease under their fingernails, go somewhere else.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
19 days ago
Reply to  Aardvark775

Damn, I wear gloves to avoid getting cancer again. I best shred my technician license and stop teaching then.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
21 days ago

Let’s remember owner making bad decisions doesn’t make the shop a bad shop.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
21 days ago

This is why living in a small town is good. Everyone knows the good mechanics.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
21 days ago

You can find them anywhere—just not everywhere. Recently took my work van for oil change & tire rotation at a national franchise. The owner is at the front counter, knows most of her customers by name—and often knows their parents.
I declined an inspection, saying that the TPS monitor light was on, and the left blinkers were going fast even though I had changed the bulb. The guy who signed me in took apart the socket for that bulb, re-secured it, and it started working properly again. Without asking—or charging for it.

Yeah, I’ll take my cars to them. (I asked, and they’re fine with me bringing my own oil & filter)

Oh, they fixed the tps—only standard charge for when tires were rotated

Last edited 21 days ago by TOSSABL
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
21 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

SpeeDee in Salem, Va, in case anyone is in my area. Our shop also uses Richard’s Automotive across from them—and they replaced the cam phaser on my daughter’s NPC quickly & for a fair price.

-seems I ought to pass along names for an article about how to find someone decent

EXL500
EXL500
21 days ago

Ask your friends and neighbors. Ask local community pages on Facebook and Next Door.

Know as much as you can about your car from online car forums so you won’t be hoodwinked.

In my case, I go to the guys who my parents used, and they’re excellent.

Last edited 21 days ago by EXL500
Spectre6000
Spectre6000
21 days ago

Practice, practice, practice.

BuildWithAndrew
BuildWithAndrew
21 days ago

I do my own work, but a couple years ago I didn’t have the space to do a complete rebuild on the front suspension, steering, and brakes of my 02 Ford E250 camper van. Steps I took to find a mechanic:

1. Knowledge: mechanics make money based on labor rate * time + fluff they add on top of part cost.
2. Look up labor time and part costs online (so you can calculate what they charge for labor rate and fluff on top of part cost).
3. Get multiple quotes, atleast three. Make sure they itemize the job clearly into labor and parts so you can calculate info in step two.
4. Compare quotes, and ask if you can buy parts instead of them (usually doesn’t work but if it’s a big enough job and small shop, they may bite).

For finding mechanics to get quotes from: FB groups, Google reviews, ask around… to optimize quality of work and price, you likely want to find a local shop (not franchise) who has a good reputation.

It takes time. But it’s worth it… I saved over $3000 between most/least expensive shops, and now I have a longterm mechanic I can trust!

Last edited 21 days ago by BuildWithAndrew
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
21 days ago

I ask around different car groups I’m in, paying particular attention to other people who track their cars and women who chime in. I need someone who understands extra wear and tear and won’t see easy upsell money the second a woman walks in the door.

Like, half of why I do so much work on my garbage car sons is from being exhausted by dumb men who try to upsell me at various shops. A shop is a last resort because it’s all too often a frustrating experience. Even if I go, no, I’m fixing that myself soon, I can take care of it, I KNOW MORE THAN YOU, it’s just frustrating that I even have to do that. It immediately makes me question the quality of the rest of their work.

SooperDooperPooperScooter
SooperDooperPooperScooter
19 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

“garbage car sons” hahahahaha

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
22 days ago

I buy mainstream Japanese cars so I don’t have to seek a good mechanic.

Sarah Blikre
Sarah Blikre
22 days ago

I do most of my own work but for the rest I’m lucky that the best mechanic in town lives only a couple miles away. The only downside is he’s always booked out like 4 weeks.

Autopizen
Autopizen
22 days ago

Long ago I found a good mechanic through a friend. He specialized in Honda & Toyota. No advertising, word of mouth, in a nondescript, back lot building.

He did good work. Gradually I gave him more business. Then I asked about preventively replacing hoses & belts: he told me most Japanese OEM hoses were way better than replacements, and, aside from timing belt chsnges, just to keep an eye on things. Who does that?

Once I called from home: our ‘93 Civic had been making a hideous noise last few hundred yards into the driveway. He told me to go in the garage & start it up. Taking my cordless phone with me, I did. Shut it off! he yelled. Sounds like a bad distributor. Have it towed here, he said.

And he was right. Anyone that can diagnose a car problem in a few seconds over a cordless phone has my business.

I used to shoot the bull with him. He referred me to a great alignment guy, 50 years in the business, only does alignments. Also fun to talk to.

Just a year or two ago, he retired & sold the business to his employee, who was also a pretty good mechanic but did not like owning a business much.

A year ago my wife found a job she loved a few hours away and we moved. So I have to find a good mechanic up here, in addition to a good dentist & doctor.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
21 days ago
Reply to  Autopizen

“So I have to find a good mechanic up here, in addition to a good dentist & doctor.”

I dunno, play your cards right and you might get all three in one!

Geo Metro Mike
Geo Metro Mike
21 days ago
Reply to  Autopizen

This sounds soo familiar! Was this shop in lakewood?

Autopizen
Autopizen
21 days ago
Reply to  Geo Metro Mike

Sorry, no.

Geo Metro Mike
Geo Metro Mike
21 days ago
Reply to  Autopizen

Figured it was a long shot. This guy I met by accident years ago. Had an unmarked shop in the lot behind the main street businesses doing Honda/Toyota work. He knew his stuff, the shop was clean, well lit, charged 1/2 the price and had a waiting room with cool artwork and beer in the fridge. The only mechanic I’ve known that would compliment his customers’ cars when they showed up.

I ended up hanging out with him a few times after work talking Hondas and such. A pretty intense fellow, liked racing street bikes. Tried getting a position there as an apprentice but I don’t think he was interested in someone inexperienced. When I moved out of state I lost contact but remember him mentioning retirement and selling the biz in a few years.

Miss him and will probably never find another mechanic like that again.

EXL500
EXL500
21 days ago
Reply to  Autopizen

My guy is like that. I call him the Car Whisperer. He’s told me several times I don’t need this or that.

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