How to Avoid Auto Repair Ripoffs

Auto repair is like any other business-there are some unscrupulous cheats out to take your money. But you can avoid getting ripped off for auto repairs if you keep your wits about you. Here's how to do it.

First, get a referral to a reliable, trustworthy mechanic. Friends are a good source for referrals. Ask them who they've had good experiences with, and who they would avoid. That's probably the best way to find a winner.

But don't simply take a friend's word for it. Check out your mechanic! You can call the Better Business Bureau to see if he's had any complaints. Look for certifications like an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) seal, which means he's at least met some minimum standards for skills and service.

Before you get any work done, ask about labor prices and prices for parts and supplies. Not asking means you really have no right to be shocked if they pad your bill. And be sure to find out about the warranty on parts and labor (don't forget the labor piece of the puzzle).

Most important, get everything in writing. That means the estimate for the work, the details of the warranty on parts and labor, everything. If a mechanic won't give a written estimate, he's either too lazy to do it, or he's leaving the door open for fraud. You don't want to play either game. And once you're armed with the price and warranty information, don't be afraid to shop around to see if you can lower your cost.

If your problem is a little out of the ordinary, such as those annoying intermittent rattles most cars experience from time to time, take a test drive with the mechanic beforehand to show him exactly what you need addressed. Don't make him guess. If you can show him the problem, he might know exactly what to target, which will save you labor cost, and probably save him from making unnecessary repairs.

Before you pay the bill, go for a test drive to make sure the car is fixed to your satisfaction. If it is not right, ask the mechanic to make it right. Even great, honest mechanics who pay attention to detail can miss things. A test drive can bring those misses to light, and probably save you a hassle later.

And speaking of the bill, read it. Check it over carefully. Ask about anything you don't understand, or that does not sound right. If you just pay the bill without checking, it's like signing a mortgage document without reading it. Silly, right?

Finally, pay your bill with a credit card if you can. That gives you maximum flexibility to protect yourself from fraud. If something goes wrong, you can call the credit card company and dispute the charge. Many cards also offer some fraud protection, so you might have another line defense.

As with most things, you can avoid getting ripped off for auto repairs by being informed, and by being careful. If you will do a little work up front to prepare, and take small steps to protect yourself, you can save yourself aggravation and expense.

Auto Body Repair 101

Most cars will need some type of auto body repair in their lifetimes. Whether its from a major collision or just a small dent from every day use, there’s a good chance your vehicle will need to visit the auto body repair shop at least once. If you do experience some damage to your car, it is crucial that you take it to a professional body shop for the repairs. Though most damage is easily visible, in some accidents, it is possible to have damage that is hidden. To get it done correctly and safely, it must be done by a professional.

The first step in the auto body repair process is to take your car in for a consultation. The repair specialist will assess the damage and prepare a detailed estimate. The estimate should be very detailed and list the cost for each part and the amount of labor charged. Original equipment (OEM), used, or after market parts may be used – it is important to know exactly which type of part they are planning to use in your repair. Auto body shops are also accustomed to working with insurance companies – they can handle your claim for you and contact the insurance company when needed.

Sometimes additional repairs are needed after they begin working on your vehicle. This shouldn’t happen often, but it is a possibility, even with a reputable and trusted repair shop. The shop manager should call you and explain in detail why the new repair is needed and why it wasn’t found during the original inspection and estimate. They should also offer to contact your insurance company with this new information and a revised estimate of the cost.

The final step in the auto body repair process is the paint job. A poor paint job will make even good repairs look bad. If you need only small areas painted, the auto body shop will carefully blend the new area with the old paint. Having only a small area painted saves big money, but you must have a professional do the job. Poorly matched paint will not blend with the rest of the car and affect the overall appearance of the vehicle.

Though we don’t usually think of auto body repair as important to the safety of the vehicle as we do when we think of engine repair. However, shoddy repair work can definitely affect the safety of the vehicle. Make sure to have your work done at a professional shop. Getting a referral is the best way to find a good auto body repair shop, but it also helps to look online for reviews and testimonials when selecting a auto body shop to do the repairs on your vehicle. Get the job done right and you’ll have many happy hours and safe hours of driving!

Totaled Car or Not – 5 Tips so Your Carrier Declares a Total Loss

Your totaled car is sitting in the backyard when you get a

telephone call from your insurance adjuster. They will fix your car! In many

occasions this is good news, but when your car is nearly destroyed, and the

insurance company wants to patch it together and give it back to you, then

you’ve got a problem.

Think about it. The car will never be the same. If you want

to trade it in or sell it, you will probably have to take a substantial

reduction in price to be able to get rid of it. You also need to consider the

safety aspect of the car. Will your car ever be as safe as it was before the


In most accidents, cars can be fixed with no major

problems, but when you have a totaled car (or you are almost there) and the

insurance company will repair it and return it to you, you can be faced with an

uphill battle.

Insurance adjusters decide if you have a totaled car or a

fixable car. They need to first determine the value of the car and then

determine if the repair estimate is less than 70, 80, or even 90% of the car’s

value. So how do you protect yourself? Here are five simple tips.

Tip # 1: Ask for the repair estimate. Getting the

repair estimate will show you what the insurance company thinks is wrong with

your car. Review the estimate. Make sure the car will be painted and that all

the necessary parts to fix it are accounted for. If you do not know mechanics

that well, take that estimate to another shop and ask them to review it. You

will be surprised when other shops will tell you that your car should not be


Tip # 2: Make sure you have the insurance company

account for all the cost associated with fixing the car before they start

working in your car. Have them account for all the parts and the shipping cost.

Make sure that the parts they are buying are actually in inventory. In many

cases, insurance adjusters price a part, but cannot find it. This will make you

wait longer and they would have to pay for more rental.

Tip # 3: Ask for a “tear down” so you know that

there is not a totaled car but a car that can be properly fixed. When insurance

adjusters and body shops write estimates, the do not get under the damaged

parts. They only look and estimate the damage that is visible. A tear down is

the process of taking off all the damage parts and looking to see if the parts

below are also damaged. More often than not, hidden damage will appear, and this

will make the estimate of damages higher and taking you closer to a totaled car.

Insurance companies do not want to pay for this tear down.

But if you insist, they will pay for it. This is a good idea anyway for two

reasons. The tear down will most likely than not increase the repair estimate.

You will also know if the integrity of the frame and chassis were compromised in

the impact.

There is no question that the body shop can put the car

back together. The question is if a fixed totaled car will be safe to be on the

road. Make sure some one looks at the mechanical and structural integrity of the


Tip # 4: Use the rental expense to your advantage.

If your totaled car is going to get repaired, then it is likely that it will

take 20 to 30 days before your vehicle again. That is only counting body work

and paint and that all parts are on hand at the time the mechanics start

working. It will take longer if you have mechanical problems.

The insurance company will be looking at a rental bill that

could be over $1,000, depending on the limits of your policy. We have seen

rental bills of $2,000. If you have a totaled car, then the insurance company

will only have to pay up to three days of rental (sometime less, depending on

your state). They will be saving significantly if they do declare a total loss.

Tip # 5: Research your state law for

diminished or diminution of value claims. If you are making a claim against

your own insurance company, some states will allow you to ask for the difference

between what the car was worth before the accident, and what it worth after it

is repaired. Many states do not allow for first party claims like this one.

However, the restrictions only apply to first party claims. If you are making

this claim against the insurance company of the person that hit you, then the

claim will be allowed. Also, if you are making a uninsured property damage claim

against your own carrier. The claim will be allowed.

Click here for more tips on how to handle a totaled car claim.

Auto Body Repair Estimates Demystified – The 5 Most Common Items on a Repair Estimate

So you’ve decided to get an estimate from a local body shop. These days, most body shops will use a computerized estimating software to write your estimate. If the shop you have chosen does not use a computer to write your estimate that should be cause for concern. This is not meant as a jab at those long time owners and technicians and I am not implying they are “backward” or “luddites” or ignorant. Its more for accountability. Computerized software is now standard in our industry and insures a more uniform, unbiased and accurate appraisal for how long things take to repair. For instance, I was talking to a shop owner just a couple days ago who was remembering with fondness the good old days when he would routinely get 15+ labor hours to repair frames on cars that nowadays he only gets 4-5 hours on. The truth is however that 4-5 is the more accurate and fair rate (depending on the job of course it could be more or less). And since consumers and insurance companies are billed by the hours on an estimate the old days of falsely inflating hours are gone.

When it comes to auto body repair the vast majority of line items on an estimate will be one of 5 things:

1. R & I. This is shorthand for “remove and install” and means to take something off your car and then to re-install it later. Parts that are not damaged may need to be temporarily removed to access another part that was damaged or more often so the panel it is taken off of can painted properly. For instance, say your electric motor for your window stops working. The interior trim panel will need to be temporarily removed for to gain access to the motor to see if it can be repaired (not likely!) or replaced. Or perhaps a molding needs to be removed from your door before it is painted only to be put back on later when the paint dries. One caution here is that if panels are being painted and you’re not being charged for R & I the shop may be taping them up which can actually cause peeling or flaking months or years later. So don’t be surprised if for instance a headlight needs to be removed to properly paint a fender. You should actually be more concerned if its not. FYI: R & I times are typically set to industry standards by estimating software and are not discretionary.

2. Repair. Repair (aka ‘Rpr’) is the most discretionary item on an estimate and typically the amount of time it takes to repair something will be underlined or asterisk-ed (*) to indicate this. This is where an insurance adjuster might say a dent will take 3 hours to fix and a technician might say it will take 4. There’s no hard and fast rule here and this needs to be negotiated between insurance adjusters, shop estimators and possibly even the technicians doing the job. My dad who has been in the industry almost 40 years taught me a long time ago that a dent which is about the size of a man’s fist should take about 3 hours to repair. From there you can adjust up or done for various things like a body line that runs through the dent (add an hour) or the dent has no creases and is accessible from the inside and therefore can be mostly popped out (subtract time). The reason these times are so important is that insurance companies are paying shops based on the number of hours on the estimate.

3. Replace. Replacing parts, sometimes shorthanded to ‘repl,’ is not a discretionary item on an estimate and is governed by industry standards or what shop folks call “book time.” If the book/software says it takes 3.5 hours to replace that bumper then that is what the insurance company will pay. No more and no less. It is pretty well standardized with only slight variations depending on which software is used and then it only differs by very little.

4. Sublet. Sometimes there are things that an auto body shop will send to someone else (typically a mechanic who takes care of more under the hood items) to perform and this is categorized as sublet. Popular things for shops to sublet out are air conditioner recharging and 4 wheel alignments when the suspension is damaged. The reason this is sent out typically is that the equipment and space required for these operations are not cost effective for a body shop. And when it comes to deeper engine repair, oil and paint don’t mix! Oil and grease can quickly ruin a paint job. So, shops that say they can do “everything” typically can’t do everything well.

5. Miscellaneous. Under this category will go small charges like “hazardous waste removal” (about once a month we pay someone to pick up and dispose of our hazardous waste in the safest way possible) and “car cover for overspray” which pays for paper, tape and plastic to cover the vehicle during the painting process so paint over spray doesn’t go all over the windows or adjacent panels.

A Great Looking Vehicle Can Bring You Comfort and Respect – Your Local Car Electronics Shop Can Help

Protect your vehicle from the elements and from ridicule! Call your local auto customization shop today to learn about glass replacement, car detailing, custom car audio video, and more vehicle enhancements!Has something like this happened to you before? You’re standing at the coffeemaker during lunch break when Greg, the office loudmouth from accounts payable, comes into the room and bellows: “Get a load of this! I was driving on I-95 this weekend and I saw this loser with his convertible roof stuck halfway open! And it was raining! Hahahaha…”You offer a playful response and a stiff smile, but as Greg’s laughter echoes through your brain, you can feel your insides churn with embarrassment. You know that the person with the challenged convertible roof was you. Not only that, but as a result of that faulty roof, your entire interior is now smelly, moist, and more reminiscent of a bed of moss than car upholstery.You shouldn’t have to fret about the condition of your vehicle’s interior or put up with jabs from workplace jerks. If you need quick repairs and enhancements to improve your vehicle’s aesthetics, make your time in the car more comfortable and make yourself feel like the boss of the highway–call your local auto support shop. The dedicated professionals at your local shop will keep those raindrops from falling on your head with convertible roof repair, sun roof repair, and even auto glass replacement for dinged and cracked windshields and windows.When your vehicle can once again boast a functional roof and intact windows, it’s time to address your car’s interior. If your interior requires serious attention, call your local auto customization shop to ask about their car detailing services. They’ll have every inch of your vehicle vacuumed, scrubbed, and shined, looking just like it did the day the car rolled off of the assembly line!Once your vehicle is looking great inside and out, it’s time to start the real fun! Ask your local auto customization shop about their mobile video and car audio installations, and discover a whole new way to enjoy your daily commutes and road trips. After a visit to the shop, you’ll be able to bring Sylvester Stallone with you wherever you go! Make your entire office shake with your pumping new bass, and show that Greg character who the loser really is! With the help of your auto customization shop, you’ll never be the laughingstock of the road again. After all, your vehicle is like a second home. Treat it with respect, and you’ll be respected in turn.

How to Detail Your Car The Right Way – The Necessities

When it comes to making sure your car lasts as long as possible, you need to not only take care of the engine and all the components under the hood, but you’ll also have to consider a variety of different things that will help you move forward. The other options you’ll have to take note of are the interior, exterior, and much more. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what exactly a detailing job should entail, consider the following options to consider. The following will help give you the necessities to get moving ahead of the curve.
Wheels – Your wheels are important, they keep you rolling forward, and when detailing they need to be a focal point. Regardless of whether or not you have a set of rims on your car or not, you need to make sure that you’re polishing the wheels and the interiors as well. This will require a heavy brush if you have chrome and a moderately stiff brush if you’re brushing hubcaps. The wheels then require a treatment of sorts that will not only clean but also protect the tire from sun damage. Look at any automotive store for tire treatment options.
Interiors – The interior of your vehicle needs care as well as the outside. You will need to not only vacuum your floor mats and interior, you’ll need to add treatment to a variety of different areas. For instance, you’ll need to ensure that if you have leather seats, to treat them with a spray that cleans and protects from the sun. If you have cloth seats, consider using a light carpet shampoo to clean off any stains and then dry them completely for the best results. The dashboard requires treatment as well, so make sure that you properly dust then treat it with special cleaning solutions that can be purchased at any automotive store. Each piece of the interior should get care, painstakingly even, to ensure high quality detailing.
Wax – The outer paint job of your car will require more than just a wash and dry. You’ll want to make sure that you’re moving forward with waxing. Without waxing the exterior, you’ll miss out on the beauty of your paint job. Make sure you invest in a wax that is not too quick drying, and an option that leaves no major buffing or streaks when applied to the paint. If you’re going for a liquid wax or something thinner than average, make sure to apply two coats to make sure that you get the best looking car possible. This will take some time, so make sure not to be in a hurry in applying the wax.
Glass – The mirrors, windshield and back of your car require care, so make sure that you find a good glass cleaner that applies easily and leaves no streaks. You want to make sure all glass is cleaned properly, so do not skimp on this option. Glass cleaners are not all the same; make sure that you invest properly to get the best clarity from your glass.
Lights – With so many options on the market for the exterior of your car, it’s no wonder that people are starting to include the lights in the detailing of their cars. You’ll want to make sure that you’re cleaning the shields of your lights so that when you turn them on in darkness, letting you see comfortably. You’ll find that there are some products that give you absolute clarity, go with them for the ultimate clean and clear detail.The above tips are just a handful of things that you’ll need to consider if you’re looking to move forward with detailing the right way. You want to be meticulous when you’re dealing with your car, so make sure that you not only invest in the right types of products, but you also invest the proper time it takes to make everything work the way it should. Take your time when cleaning up all aspects of your vehicle, and it will support you back throughout the years.The average detailing job should take the average person several hours, so make sure you commission a good part of your day to doing it right.

Operating a Mobile Car Wash and Auto Detailing Company in Chandler AZ

Obviously, mobile detailing and mobile auto services such as on-site car washing are alive and well in Arizona. Phoenix is the largest city in Arizona, and it is amazing sometimes how many people are operating these mobile service businesses. Of course, the big money tends to be in the outlining suburban areas around the city. One of those suburban areas is Chandler Arizona, and it is a most excellent place to run a mobile car wash. Okay so, let’s talk about this and let me explain why.Before retirement, we did have a franchisee in Chandler Arizona, and they always did quite well. For instance on Chandler Boulevard there are two extremely large corporations with thousands of employees where we washed cars; Intel and Motorola. Further down the street is an Airpark, where wealthy individuals actually park their airplanes in their garage/hangar and live at their own private airport. They always need their aircraft detailed, and they also own high-end antique and exotic automobiles.When people think about mobile car washing they also think about car dealerships. Along I-10 there is a huge Auto Mall, which sells nearly every popular brand of car. There is competition for lot washing, but new and used car detailing is also a significant business. These are very busy auto dealerships, and they have an abundance of work, and challenges with a shortage of labor in the area at times.Speaking of labor, what about now during the economic recovery? Is there decent labor available? Yes there is, and that’s a good thing, but in the heat of the summer, in the off-season, it is harder to find people who wish to work outside on days when the temperature is 110 to 115-degrees Fahrenheit, and even in the evenings or the middle of the night the temperature some days does not get less than 100 in the pitch black of night.There are also many industrial areas in and around Chandler Arizona, and it isn’t hard to get into these companies and talk with the owners or the executives running them, and one can get a list from the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, or the Business Journal’s “book of lists” to find out whom to talk to at each company.Lastly, there is a nice little suburban area on one side of Chandler which is where more wealthy folks live. Ahwatukee is also a smart place to clean and detail cars. High end shopping, classy small office parks and office buildings, even medical centers – plus not more than a few miles away are huge corporate buildings with 100s of employees.According to WikiPedia “Ahwatukee is an L-shaped neighborhood of Phoenix, Arizona bordered on the north by South Mountain Park and Baseline Road, on the east by Interstate 10,” but it is so much more than that really, it’s a whole community and solid middle class neighborhood. If you’re going to wash and detail cars in Chandler, you definitely want to do business in this neighborhood as well. We always did well there ourselves. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on.