We Just Don’t Communicate: 3 Tips for Talking to Your Mechanic

Posted on Posted in Auto Maintenance, Auto Repair

Author: John A. Smith

Your beloved car is making an ungentlemanly noise—or worse, smell.  Or it’s behaving badly: pulling to one side, stalling, not starting, steering imprecisely, and so on.  Something’s just not right, and you’re beginning to think this relationship may be over.  But parting ways is expensive, so perhaps with the wise counsel of a good mechanic, things can be, ahem, aligned between you and Mr. Wheels again.

So you take it into the shop for the ministrations of the kind man with the greasy fingers—precisely the kind of man you need right now.  Remember, however, that despite the numerous diagnostic features built into today’s cars, you are still the prime source of data for diagnosing the ailment.
For a quick and final fix, be prepared with some good information.


First, turn to the owner’s manual.  If there is a feature on the car that is not working properly, call it by the manufacturer’s term.  This is important if you are taking the car to the dealer for service because they will most likely be used to using that term.  (Also, you may even find that you don’t need service after all because the feature that you thought wasn’t working was actually designed that way.  For example, the auto stop-start feature on most new cars will not work if the car’s wheels are turned a certain number of degrees.)


Second, try to be as specific as possible as to when and where the problem occurs.  Is it only during left turns?  Does the problem occur more often over rough roads?  At what speed is that vibration most prominent?  Does the rough running happen mostly in rainy weather?  This information can be vital to a mechanic because many problems that seem to “go away” are merely in remission due to a change in weather conditions, for example.


Last, if your mechanic makes communication a two-way street by offering to explain the problem, show you what is not working properly under the hood, or even take you under the lift to show problems or potential problem areas, don’t be shy.  He or she is attempting to build your trust.  By communicating with you, your mechanic is displaying one of the signs of an honest mechanic, and in the process, giving you the chance to learn a thing or two for the next time.

Lack of communication has doomed many relationships.  Don’t part ways with your car unnecessarily.  Even though new cars have myriad diagnostic sensors built in, the most important interface is still face-to-face.  

About the Author
John Smith is a retired college English instructor and lifelong automobile enthusiast who likes to think that he can turn both a wrench and a phrase (which may be a delusion, but a happy one).  John has published a bit of academic stuff, written some fiction, and is currently working—slowly—on a science fiction novel.  One of his proudest achievements was winning the 2007 Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs high-speed autocross championship in the B Race class in his modified 1990 BMW M3.  John is at a point in his life where he can pursue practical prose for pleasure (and alliteration!).