Dr. Drip's Tips

A guide to working with your mechanic


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What to Expect from your Mechanic



If your car is still under warranty, check with the manufacturer to see if there are special requirements before you have repairs done. If your car is no longer under warranty, do your homework to find a shop that suits you. Read online reviews or go to the Better Business Bureau. Ask for training certificates and ASE certifications.


Get a second opinion anytime you feel uncomfortable with the situation. However, it pays to do your research first. We encourage you to go to another reputable shop with an ASE certified mechanic.


A service advisor should explain this to you when they present the recommended work list. If everything is “absolutely necessary”, this might be the time for that second opinion.


This depends on the shop. There may be insurance regulations that prevent it, but it never hurts to ask. If they can’t have you in the shop, ask for photo documentation that can be printed out or emailed to you.


By Washington state law (Chapter 46.71 RCW), you are entitled to:

  • A written estimate for all repairs that will cost more than $100, unless you waive that right or give verbal or written approval to proceed with repairs.
  • Inspection or return of all replaced parts, if you ask for them before repairs begin.
  • Give written or verbal approval of any repairs that increase the original estimated cost before taxes by more than 10%.
  • If your vehicle is left at a repair facility without face-to-face contact between you and the facility staff, they must obtain verbal or written approval before beginning work.

Simply put, if the bill causes you discomfort, you can ask to speak to the service advisor or manager about your concern. You should not be shocked when you pay the bill. The total bill including tax should be presented before the work begins, and well before the car is ready to be picked up.


The supply fee is common among repair shops, and often unexpected by customers. This fee covers items such as licensing, insurance, hazardous material disposal, rags, cleaners, etc. This fee ranges per shop and averages from 2-10% of the total bill, depending on the shop.


Pricing is based on the shop’s overhead, which can differ from shop to shop. Technician experience and quality of workmanship and materials can also make a difference in cost. Often times more experienced and efficient technicians may have a higher rate, but the final cost may be lower.


Yes, upselling – or trying to sell you on additional unneeded repairs or services – does occur. An ethical shop, however, has the duty to inform you of all the potential repairs your vehicle may need. As a customer, it is in your best interest to have a comprehensive inspection to identify all possible problems. The repair shop should be able to help you understand and prioritize each of the identified needs, including which are needed soon and which can wait. You have to make the final decision about which repairs are made to your vehicle. If a repair shop insists otherwise, it may be in your best interest to get a second opinion.


Many shops have multiple forms of financing that can be used. This can range from a 90 day finance up to a full 2-3 years loan. Each shop will differ in what they offer, and some may not offer any financing option. As with all financial decisions, be sure to do additional research to make sure your interests are protected. Additional options may be available through your financial institution.


Most shops have some sort of a guarantee. They can vary from as little as 6 months to as long as 3 years. It all depends on what the shop offers. The norm is 12 months or 12,000 miles. Ask your shop how long their guarantee lasts and what it covers.


The first thing you should do is call the shop and let them know what is going on. Most shops take a return visit for a repair issue seriously and will do everything in their power to make the situation right. If the shop owner is unwilling to do anything to resolve the issue, you can contact the Better Business Bureau or use small claims court.


Yes, but make sure you ask the mechanic before they make the repair, not after.


For most leak repairs, new parts are required, such as a gasket or seal, because they are one-time use items. For major component replacements such as engines, transmissions, differentials, transfer cases, etc. you have the option of new or used parts. Just let the mechanic know your preferences before the repair is made. Prices for new parts are generally higher than those for used parts, so this preference may affect your estimate.



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