Friday, December 14, 2012

How not to get fleeced at workshops

An article that extract from The Star newspaper for sharing.


HOW often has this happened? You take your car to the workshop (for either a tiny maintenance job or to fit back that loose, hanging fender after an accident) only to come out with the problem fixed, but also a bill as long as the Nile!
Look around
Many times, if you don’t have a regular mechanic, you’re bound to end up looking for or going to one when you desperately need something fixed.
“When that happens, you end up searching for a mechanic based on impulse. You’re not thinking long-term. You’re willing to fork out any amount of cash just to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible,” says seasoned mechanic Baskar Subramaniam.
“You’re not thinking about whether the job that mechanic is offering you is really even necessary, or if there are other workshops that can offer a lower price for the same repair work.”
Baskar says one should always look around first and try to “find the best deal” before deciding on a suitable mechanic.
Get recommendations
If you don’t already take your car for maintenance to a regular service centre, or a trusty workshop for your old jalopy, then it’s time to source for a workshop!
“The easiest way to look for a good workshop or honest mechanic is through word of mouth,” says Eddie Wong, who owns two cars and he has been taking to “his mechanic” for the past 15 years.
“Ask your friends or working colleagues where they take their cars to, and how much different maintenance or repair jobs cost,” he adds.
Janet Khoo, who openly admits that she used to get fleeced, says she found a decent mechanic after doing some research online.
“I frequent blogs quite often and decided to ask around about finding a mechanic near where I stayed. I got a lot of good references and through trial and error, found one that doesn’t perform daylight robbery,” she says.

Keeping the mechanic honest
When sending your car to the workshop or service centre, it’s always best to get a quote beforehand on how much the job will cost.
“There are actually people out there who never ask for a quote, taking it for granted that it will cost a certain amount,” says Baskar.
Wong says it’s only fair to the customer to know how much a job will cost.
“It’s only fair to ask and get a quote. It’s one way of keeping the mechanic honest and ensuring you don’t get cheated,” he says.
Johari Raslan, who says he’s been going to the same mechanic “for the longest time ever,” believes it’s a big help if the customer has some basic know-how of “how a car works.”
“If you know how basic things work, like maybe the braking system or internal combustion system, for instance, then you would be able to tell if the mechanic wants you to install a part that isn’t actually required.
“If you know your car well enough to be able to even diagnose the problem (see do-it-yourself below), you should already know what needs to be fixed and how much it would cost even before taking the vehicle to the workshop,” he says.
Safety first
Don’t be doing cartwheels just yet if you’ve managed to find a mechanic that offers cheap labour.
“Find out the reason why the bill isn’t as high as the other mechanics you compared with. Are the parts genuine? Is he using second-hand parts? Is he cutting corners? Of course, it’s good to get something done at a low price, but never compromise on safety,” advises Baskar.
“It’s good if you can check with other customers on the kind of work the mechanic does. Of course, these customers might be fine with him cutting corners and using used parts, but that doesn’t mean you should too,” he adds.
Johari says one should check if the mechanic is qualified to do the job.
“Visit the premises. What does it look like? It might not be clean, but is the safety of the mechanic, his workers and even the customers an issue? It also helps if he has a certificate hanging on his wall.”
This isn’t a very popular option, as not everyone likes to get their hands dirty. However, it does have its benefits, says Wong.
“Knowing how to do tiny maintenance jobs on your car can help you reduce the number of trips to the workshop. However, by taking the initiative to learn a bit more about your car, and knowing how things work, then won’t feel so clueless when you take your car to your mechanic eventually.
“If you know enough, then you would know if the repairs or parts that your mechanic says you require are actually necessary,” he says.

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