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4 auto repair questions to ask a mechanic

Two woman pointing at a monitor to better understand questions for the mechanic

From ordinary oil changes to clanking noises you can’t explain, auto service is a fact of vehicle ownership. These questions can help you navigate mechanic lingo so you can protect your car and your wallet.

What’s your experience with cars similar to mine?

Some repair shops specialize in particular makes and models of vehicles — especially if they’re older, less common or more expensive to repair — while some mechanics take more of an all-make, all-model approach. Ask ahead of time to establish your mechanic’s familiarity with your vehicle.

Do you have references and professional memberships?

The best referrals often come from coworkers, friends and family members who have had a positive vehicle repair experience. Online review sites may also provide some insights. In addition, mechanics may obtain professional certifications such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) seal, which indicates training and testing minimums. Or they may belong to organizations such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA), which encourages members to adhere to a code of ethics.

Use the resources of the State Farm® Select Service® program: It’s a network of vetted auto repair shops that must meet performance standards. Shops within 70 miles of you are listed on the Auto Repair Shop Locator. (The program is not available in all states.)

Can I have a copy of the estimate?

The answer should always be yes. The estimate should be signed by the mechanic and include all parts and labor totals. Ask the repair shop to go through each line item with you and explain it clearly — and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Also find out whether the repairs are recommended or essential.

What are my options for parts, and can I choose what you use?

There are often different price points for some car parts — tires, for example, come in varying ranges according to their material and quality. Some car parts may be made by the manufacturer (often referred to as original equipment manufacturer or OEM parts), while aftermarket parts are made by a different company. And some parts may be covered under a warranty; ask about that, too, and get the details in writing. When it comes to these decisions, you should have a say in what the mechanic uses. In addition, if during the repairs the mechanic runs into something unexpected that wasn’t on the original estimate, they should always get your approval.

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