In the memorable scene from the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” Clark Griswold ran off the end of a road in the middle of nowhere, damaging his car. It was towed to the only repair shop within 100 miles. When it came time to pay for the repairs, Clark asked, “What do I owe you?” One of the repair guys made a disparaging remark to Clark to which Clark responded, “Well, I’m from out of town. What’s the bill?”
Things got serious when the shady mechanic asked, “How much you got?” After a couple back-and-forths between the two, the mechanic, now wielding a wrench, growled, “All of it, boy.” Clark gave the guy everything in his wallet, leaving his family’s vacation plans in jeopardy.
The upcoming holiday season is one of the busiest travel periods every year. It’s not uncommon to see a stranded motorist standing beside their broken-down vehicle at the side of the road. Car troubles and bad service can take the “happy” out of “happy holidays,” so here are a few tips to get you ready for your road trip and keep you from becoming a “Clark Griswold.”
The easiest way to safeguard your road trip is to make sure your car is in good shape before you leave. Have a reputable mechanic give your car the once over a week or two before your trip. Have him inspect everything from fluid levels, tires and lights, to belts and hoses and your brakes. We also suggest you do a check on the mechanic before you do business with them. Ask if they frequently handle your make or model of vehicle. Check the shop’s Business Review at bbb.org for rating status and any complaints that may have been filed.
Before you leave, be sure to put a copy of your car’s warranty, insurance and contact information for emergency car care in your glove box. Many automobiles’ new car warranties have roadside assistance, as do some insurance coverages, or you may belong to an auto care club such as AAA, so make sure you have those emergency contact numbers with you at all times.
If you do have a breakdown on the road, you can also use your smart phone to check BBB’s website for reputable mechanics in that area.
What do you do if your vehicle does need repairs while traveling?
• Be sure you understand what repairs are needed and get estimates. Using your smart phone to perform an online search of the problem can help you assess the difficulty and possible costs of the fix and whether the repair shop you’ve chosen seems credible. Also, be sure to ask if there is a diagnostic fee before getting an estimate.
• When you get an estimate, be sure to get that estimate in writing. If a shop you’ve chosen refuses to furnish a written estimate or warranty on their work, consider taking your car elsewhere. Reputable auto repair shops are happy to furnish you written estimates and warranty info. Before having them perform the work, make sure you give them written permission. They should also be required to get your approval before performing any additional work not already agreed to.
• When picking up your vehicle, make sure to go over the itemized list of work performed with the mechanic. Have them point out the new parts installed in your vehicle, and double check them with the itemized work charges.
Holiday trips are supposed to be fun and relaxing. Taking the proper steps to get your car ready for the long trip and knowing what to do in case there is a breakdown is often the difference between pleasure and misery.
Drive safely, and have a happy holiday season!
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.