Communicating Problems To Your Mechanic
If you’re a proud car owner, you probably spend a significant amount of time driving your car every day. You drive to work, get stuck in a traffic jam, then drive around to wherever you need to be like to dinner with friends, perhaps even to the gym, until you finally drive home at the end of the day.
After awhile, your car almost seems to become like an extension of your own body. You start to ‘become one with the car’, and almost as if you’ve developed a sixth sense, you are able to know when something just isn’t quite right. You can tell by a slight noise your car makes, or even by how it feels just a little different when you’re driving it down the same road you’ve driven on many times before.
Unfortunately, when you take your car in to the workshop for a mechanic to examine it, you may be at a loss for words on how to describe the problem that you just know you car is struggling with. You don’t know what words to use to describe it to them, or even worse, you don’t even know how to start the conversation!
To make these types of situations just a little bit clearer for everyone to understand, here are a few pointers to think about:
Be as descriptive as possible
Taking your car to be examined by a mechanic is almost the same as going to a clinic to see a doctor when you’re not feeling well. The first and most important thing to do is to be as descriptive as possible. Some might even say that its better to provide ‘too much’ information about the problem rather than too little; at least then the mechanic will be able to decide what information helps them diagnose the problem, and what doesn’t.
Under what driving conditions do you notice the problem? Does it happen only while accelerating, or only while decelerating? Do you notice it happening right after you turn on your air conditioner? Or perhaps you hear a weird noise but only when you’re turning around corners. Which part of the car do you think you hear the noise coming from?
Equally important is that you are honest when describing the issue to the mechanic. Did the problem start a long time ago (and you’re only bringing it to the workshop now)? Did you notice it after you made a small mistake and perhaps ran over a pothole on the road? Don’t worry, nobody’s going to judge you! Just make sure you tell the mechanic what they need to know.
By describing the conditions under which you notice the problem, you are essentially painting a more complete picture for the mechanic. You are ‘contextualizing’ the problem so that he can apply his own knowledge and experience to troubleshoot the issue and find the solution you need.
Take a test drive (with your mechanic)
If you’re unable to describe the issue clearly enough for the mechanic to figure out what’s going on, perhaps it would be better if you could ask the mechanic to take your car on a little test drive with you.
Sometimes, certain kinds of problems are difficult to troubleshoot when the car is sitting still in the workshop and can only be recreated under regular driving conditions. With the mechanic in the driver’s seat, it would make it much easier for them to troubleshoot the issue and see/hear it for themselves.
Talk about costs and timeframes
Once the problem has been identified and the mechanic knows what needs to be done, then comes the time to start discussing how much it may cost and how long it will take. It’s important to establish these estimates upfront in order to manage your expectations, not only to ensure that you actually have the budget for those repairs, but also to ensure that you’ll have your car back when you need it.
Depending on how severe the issue is, you may need to plan alternative transportation options for your daily commute to and from work. To minimize the disruption to your regular schedules and plan around it, you need to ask your mechanic for a very clear estimate.
Ask about alternatives
Know all your options! Don’t be afraid to ask your mechanic questions to carefully understand all the options that are at your disposal. Perhaps there are alternative repairs or spare parts that can suit your budget, or perhaps the repair itself is not too urgent and can be scheduled at a much more convenient time for you later.
Remember, as the car owner you’re the decision maker here, and for you to make informed decisions you must first have all the right information!
Do a ‘review’ at the end
At the final stage of your interaction with your mechanic, which is after the repairs are done and you’re there picking up the car, this would be a good time to do sort of a ‘review’ with them. This is the point where you can ask questions about what was done and perhaps even about what caused the problem in the first place.
Good mechanics typically have no problem explaining the issue to you and helping you understand its causes so that you can avoid them in the future. Most of them also take the time to show you whatever damaged spare parts they remove from your car so that you can see the faults for yourself.
As with most things in life, learning to talk to a mechanic about car problems becomes easier with experience. Through your experiences of discussing with your mechanics and just knowing your own car well enough, you’ll be able to better understand your car’s needs and can therefore take better care of it for as long as you own it. Remember: mechanics are human beings like any other, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and show an interest in your own car. After all, the best way to learn anything is by talking to the experts directly.