Last updated: August 24. 2013 8:58PM - 165 Views

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Anyone who owns an automobile knows that keeping it maintained and in good working order is a full-time job, requiring diligence, forethought and money.

Experienced drivers have learned, sometimes the hard way, that it is easy to become victims of either shoddy mechanical work or out-and-out swindling.

While most auto dealers and repair shops in the region are honest and above board, there are a few exceptions.

Certain age groups are susceptible to the kind of underhanded skulduggery they practice: the young, inexperienced car owner and men and women of any age who are just not “car savvy.” This can make it easy for those who are apt to prey on the unsuspecting car owner, to ply their trade.

I grew up in an age that required any male person to know about cars, how they worked, what could go wrong and how to fix it or get it fixed. Unfortunately, in this day and age of very complex automobiles, this in no longer the case unless you are a highly skilled and trained mechanic.

Take for example my older son. Recently married, going to school with a part-time job, he found he needed two new tires. He took it to the first place he saw, did not ask questions and told them to replace the tires, which were reasonably priced. He also asked to have the oil changed (because I’d told him to do this on a regular basis).

When he got the bill, it was about $900, and he complained to me that seemed a little high. Well, yeah.

“What did they do besides change the oil and two tires?” I asked.

He replied, “They checked all the fluids.”

“Did you get an estimate?”

“No,” he confessed.

“Did you ask for one?”

The answer was “no.”

I told him those guys saw you coming, a young person who is not car savvy and too reticent to ask questions.

There are some hard fast rules for customers and repair shops alike:

1. Always get a written estimate before any major repair that is off the warranty.

2. Make sure you clearly understand what is covered by the guarantee and its limitations.

3. Be very clear what it will take to repair or service your vehicle.

4. Understand how long it will take to get your car back in service and why.

5. Be firm with the repair shop that you want to be told if they discover any other work that may be required before they do it.

The law in Ohio is clear about any work being done over and above what is covered in the original estimate. It cannot exceed 10 percent of the total estimate without your expressed permission.

Always ask questions such as “why do you need to do this," "what will it cost" and "is it covered by the warranty and how?”

All this will help you be sure you are getting your money’s worth and a car that runs well.

Neil Winget is the president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.

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