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October 03, 2006

Get Your Yearly Check-up!

Amy_with_a_tool_20by Amy Mattinat, Author of "How To Buy A Great Used Car"
Once a year in the month of October, we are reminded that it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In being pro-active with our health, it is a good thing to take our bodies to our primary care physician for an annual exam to make sure we are still healthy. We are prodded, poked and looked over from head to toe. They take some of our fluids and test them to make sure there are no surprises. Sometimes we are hooked up to machines to see what is going on inside. If we have noticed any weird lumps, bumps, squeaks or rattles, now is the time to ask questions. It is best to find out ASAP what is going wrong so it can be righted before it becomes critical to our health and well being. 

Like our bodies, our automobiles need this same annual exam. Because we put ourselves and our loved ones in the heart of our cars, and drive them very fast down the road (alongside many other vehicles) and then need to stop them over and over again, we want to make sure everything is safe and sound. Like the physician, the mechanic prods and pokes them, hooks them up to machines, checks out the fluids, and checks out any weird lumps, bumps, squeaks and rattles. Just like our bodies, if problems are found sooner than later, it can prevent an accident, and be easier and cheaper to fix.

Corvette_zo6_1Vehicles are misdiagnosed all the time and it is not always the shop’s fault. Mechanics are not psychics or mind readers. They need you to communicate to them what seems wrong with the car. The secret to saving the shop and yourself time, money and aggravation is to clearly explain the symptoms of any problems and when they occur. To help you be able to describe the symptoms, use your five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

Eyes Sight: Are any of they fluids leaking? Note where the leak is coming from – front left, front right, middle, rear left, rear right, and what color it is.  Are there any warning lights on in the dashboard of your car? Note which light it is.

Smell: Describe the smell as best you can. Burning rubber, rotten eggs, mildew, gas? Do you smell it inside or outside? Do you smell it before you start the engine, while driving, or after you turn it off?

Hearing: Click click, sputtttterrrr,  rumble rumble, roooaaar, ping ping, squeeaal. If you’re not shy, the best way to describe a noise, is to make it yourself for the service advisor to hear.  You also want to point out where it was coming from, what the driving conditions were, and how often it was made. Nothing is worse then having the shop diagnose a noise and fix it only to find out later they fixed a different noise. Yes, this has happened! This is why at my shop we try to always put the client in the car with one of us to point out what noise they are talking about. Don’t be afraid to ask your service advisor to take a ride with you. Then they will have all the information needed to start diagnosing the right problem.

Cookies Taste: OK, you don’t really want to taste anything on your car, in your car, or anything coming out of your car. But you could get lots of brownie points if you brought along a plate of cookies for the staff to munch on while they are working on your car!

Touch: Describe anything that feels different. Some examples could be: The brake pedal sinks down after the car has come to a stop, the steering wheel shakes at high speeds, the car sputters going up hills, etc. etc.

Mechanicfisherprice_1 Like anything else in life, it all comes down to Communication! The better you can communicate to your mechanic, the better the whole experience will be. Not only do you need to communicate what is going on with your vehicle, but it’s imperative that you leave contact information so they can get a hold of you quickly and easily. Repairing your car can be a 5 step process.
1) Diagnose the problem.
2) Estimate the repair.
3) Get approval from the client.
4) Order parts if needed.
5) Do the repair-work.
Once it’s your turn, you want to be available to discuss the problem, the solution and be able to give approval for the work to be completed. If you’re not around, your car will be pushed aside until they find the time to put you back into the line up.

When you get “the call” regarding what the problem is, don’t be afraid to keep asking questions until you understand what is wrong, what needs to happen to make it right, how long it will take, and how much it will cost.

Amysideways_bookr3_31_2_3 Amy Mattinat is one of Ask Patty's expert women and she is full of helpful tips for you! She has created various "What’s Wrong With My Car" forms that you can download off her website. Click the HELPFUL FORMS AND CHECKLISTS button on the left side, pick out which one you want, and she’ll email or mail you a copy.  Check off the boxes that apply, and bring it with you to your mechanic. It will help you accurately describe the symptoms of your car’s problems! Thank you Amy!

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