Finding an Honest Mechanic in Chicago

April 15th, 2015

guaranteed1. Research before you need it

Find a mechanic before you need one. If you wait until your car breaks down, you’ll be rushed into making a decision – and it might be the wrong one. Start by verifying any warranties or service records you have on your vehicle to get an idea of what you’ll need in the future and what’s covered by warranties. Then use the tips below to gather a list of Chicago mechanics in your neighborhood and narrow it down to the perfect place.

2. Skip the dealership

If your car is still under warranty and the service you need is free or deeply discounted, then head to the dealership. If not, head to an independent shop – they’re cheaper. On average, AutoMD says drivers save up to $300 a year by using an independent auto shop over a dealership.

4. Ignore the tow truck driver

Or anyone else with a monetary interest in where you take your car. More often than not, they’re in it for the money, not for you. When my car died in a parking lot, I called for a tow. As soon as the tow truck driver arrived, he suggested (repeatedly) that I take my car to a “great mechanic I know.” When I refused, he gave me the mechanic’s card and insisted I call later. When I got home, I looked up the “great mechanic.” Not only did he get horrible reviews, but he was partnered with the tow truck company – a fact the driver failed to mention.

5. Read reviews

Read a few reviews on every mechanic you consider. There’s plenty out there. For example:

6. Look for certifications and memberships

  • ASE certification – Mechanics must pass knowledge tests to obtain an ASE (or Automotive Service Excellence) certification.
  • ASA membersAutomotive Service Association members must pledge to uphold certain ethics – like having excellent customer service and performing high-quality service.
  • AAA – To join the American Automotive Association’s list of repair shops, mechanics must offer a 12-month-or-12,000-mile warranty. (You don’t need a membership to view the list.)

7. Find an auto shop with the right equipment

Modern cars have advanced computer systems that need special tools to diagnose problems. Make sure the shop you use has the right equipment for your vehicle. Otherwise, the mechanic may not fix the problem correctly and you might find yourself back in the shop. Ask the mechanic what equipment he plans to use on your car and if that equipment is specific to the make and model. Then ask if you can see the equipment in person. Some less-than-honest mechanics will tell you they have something when they don’t.

8. Don’t shop price alone

I had a hard time following this advice when I was shopping for a mechanic, but resist the urge to go with the cheapest estimate. You don’t need to pay top dollar to get great service, but you can’t base your decision all on price, either. The mechanic may be cheap for a reason. If the work isn’t done right, you’ll end up with bigger problems later on. Take all of the other tips into account first. Once you find three or more mechanics that meet other requirements, then compare price. This way, you’ll find a great mechanic and save money.

9. Ask about parts

Ask what brand or type of parts the mechanic uses and why. Some mechanics only use factory parts, but they’re more expensive than aftermarket parts – and they aren’t always needed. A good mechanic uses factory parts when he has to and aftermarket parts the rest of the time to save his customers money.

10. Ask about shop supplies

In “Confessions of a Car Dealership Service Manager”, Popular Mechanics asked an anonymous service manager for an example of a popular tactic used to pad the bill. The answer: charging for “shop supplies.” When a shop charges for shop supplies, they’re charging you to use the stuff they already have to buy to keep their business running. The service manager admitted he’s seen shops add $30 to a bill for the use of three towels. So ask if the mechanic charges for supplies – and don’t trust one that does.

11. Find a mechanic that specializes in your car

All cars are different. If you own an SUV, don’t take it to a mechanic that specializes in sports cars. You’ll get better service if you find a mechanic that works on your type of car. When talking to the mechanic, ask if he specializes in a certain make or type of car. Many do. If not, ask what cars he has worked on recently or what type he works on the most.

12. Check the shop’s hours

If the shop doesn’t have convenient hours, you won’t be satisfied, and it might end up costing you. When I was searching, I found a great mechanic, but he closed at 3 p.m. and wasn’t open on Tuesdays. I don’t have the time to take off in the middle of the day to check on my car, so I went with someone else.

13. Stake out the shop

Want to see how the mechanic really works? Pause outside the shop. If you see customers leaving angry, he’s lacking customer service skills. If the shop bay is dirty and littered with parts, he’s not being professional. Move on.

14. Do an honesty check

My auto enthusiast friend suggests doing a little recon before you pick a mechanic. Take your car to the mechanic when you know nothing is wrong – but tell him you think there’s a problem. An honest mechanic will tell you there isn’t one. A dishonest mechanic will come back with a laundry list of needed repairs.

15. Start with a small job

Test drive a new mechanic with a small job like an oil change or air filter replacement. If the mechanic can’t do small jobs well, do you really trust him to rebuild your engine or replace your brakes?

16. Ask questions

Ask every question you can think of. The mechanic should answer all of them in layman’s terms and without attitude. If the mechanic blows you off, acts put out by talking to you, or doesn’t break down complicated concepts, don’t give him your business. It’s your money, you need to know where it’s going and why.

How does cold weather affect your car?

February 18th, 2015

Winter Street Northwest ChicagoIf you own a car and live in Chicago, it is safe to say you will have some concerns as the winter months ramp up. It is important to know how your car is affected by cold weather, as this can go a long way in helping you make the right decisions in terms of protection.

Here are three ways cold weather can affect a car:

1. Motor oil will thicken. As a result of this, your engine may take a bit longer to turn over. For this reason, it is best to let your car warm up before you throw it in drive and take off.

2. Windshields will be difficult to clear. Can you think of anything worse than snow and ice accumulating on your windshield? In the most severe of cases you will find it a challenge to clear the windshield before hitting the road.

Warning: using hot water to clear an icy windshield could cause it to crack.

3. Greater fuel consumption. Even with low gas prices, nobody wants to hear that they will consume more fuel during the winter months. However, this is typically true. There isn’t much you can do about this, outside of waiting for warmer weather to come to Chicago.

These are just a few of the ways that cold weather can affect a car. The best thing you can do is keep your car protected, such as in a garage, as often as possible. This can help you avoid some of the most common concerns.

Seven Car Hacks To Instantly Improve Every Drive

January 20th, 2015

CommuterAt Car Fix Auto Center, we’re always looking for ways to make your life more convenient. Our knowledgeable, ASE-certified technicians pooled their resources and years of experience into seven car hacks that can instantly improve every drive. 

1. Clean cloudy headlights with toothpaste

It turns out toothpaste (especially whitening toothpaste) is a great way to clean cloudy headlights! Squirt some toothpaste onto a clean, dry cloth and rub it all over the headlight’s plastic lens cover. Then, simply rinse off the toothpaste with water and let dry!

2. Remove an old registration sticker with a wet newspaper

Have you ever been frustrated with stuck-on adhesive from an expired registration sticker? Luckily, removing that mess is quick and easy! Wet a newspaper in warm water and leave sitting on the sticker for 10 minutes. When the time is up, the sticker should come off clean!

3. Sick of cold pizza? Use your seat warmer to keep it hot!

Unfortunately, this tip only applies to drivers with built-in seat warmers. If you do have this capability, simply put the pizza in the passenger seat, turn on the warmer and enjoy your hot pizza!

4. Use an app to find your car

Do you lose your car easily? Sick of wandering around crowded parking lots to find your car? There’s an app for that! iParkedHere will help you find your car when you need it. According to the iParkedHere iTunes description, “iParkedHere will tell you exactly where your car is, no matter where you parked it. It will even notify you when you need to return to your car!”

5. During the winter, park your car facing east to prevent frost

You know the sun rises in the east, but have you ever considered using this to your advantage? If you park your car facing east at night, the sun’s morning warmth will help thaw a frosted vehicle.

6. Save gas by rolling down your windows

Auto experts have always claimed using your AC on a hot day is more fuel-efficient than rolling down your windows (at least at faster speeds), but the Mythbusters recently proved the opposite. According to Adam and Jamie, rolling down your windows improves gas mileage, regardless of speed.

7. Increase the range of your car remote by holding it against your head

If your car’s key fob lacks the range needed, you can increase its usefulness by holding the remote under your chin. As strange as it sounds, this hack actually works! It’s the same reason old TV’s “rabbit ear” antennas held better reception while being touched.

Driving can be stressful

Fortunately, these 7 car hacks should help your life become a little easier. If you have any questions over these life hacks, or general car maintenance questions, please call Car Fix Auto Center in Chicago.

Important Car Fluids to Check Regularly

December 18th, 2014

Cleaning Supplies 007It doesn’t matter what type of car you own, nothing changes the fact that there are fluids essential to its performance and longevity. As a car owner in Chicago, even if you don’t do your own auto repair work, you should be familiar with the many fluids that keep your car running.

1. Motor oil. This is the lifeblood of your car’s engine. In short, motor oil lubricates the engine, which reduces friction and keeps your engine from getting too hot. If you don’t change your oil as recommended by the manufacturer, you are taking a big risk with the overall health of your vehicle.

2. Transmission fluid. This acts in much the same way as motor oil, keeping your transmission cool and lubricated. This fluid does not need to be changed nearly as often as motor oil, but there will come a time when this is required.

3. Antifreeze. Not only does this help prevent freezing during cold weather months, but it protects your engine against overheating.

4. Brake fluid. How are you going to stop your car if your brakes aren’t in good working condition? If your brake fluid needs to be changed, don’t delay in doing so. This will keep you safer while on the road.

5. Washer fluid. This has nothing to do with how your car performs, but a lot to do with safety. Make sure you always have enough washer fluid, as you will need this if your windshield gets dirty.

Do you need to change one or more of these fluids? Are you unsure of whether or not your car’s systems are working as they should? Contact Car Fix Auto Center to setup a tune up appointment. We are here to answer all your questions while providing top notch service.

Roadside Emergency Kit

November 7th, 2014

Two bollardsA roadside emergency can happen anytime or anywhere. It doesn’t matter if your car is old or new. A roadside emergency just might happen. With that in mind, it is important to be prepared, which means getting together a roadside emergency kit.

What exactly goes in an emergency kit? What do I really need when I am stuck on the side of the road? The answer begins with the purpose of a roadside emergency kit. An emergency kit is supposed to help you get assistance and alert other drivers to your presence.

When putting your emergency kit together, go over this checklist:

  • Jumper cables

  • Flashlight

  • First-aid kit

  • Tire gauge

  • GPS navigation system

  • Roadside flares

  • Duct tape

  • Screwdrivers, wrench, and pliers

  • Pocketknife

  • An ice scraper

  • Roadside emergency car

  • Blanket

  • Granola or energy bars

Safety always comes first. If you are planning on going on a long-distance trip, make sure you check and even double-check your emergency kit. We also recommend bringing your car into Car Fix Auto Center for a tune up. Like the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry!

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