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Avoid an auto repair scam

What do you do when your windshield wipers stop working, your left taillight burns out, and your brakes give out? Some may opt to fix the problem themselves, but many turn to the services and handiwork of auto repair mechanics. While most auto re...

What do you do when your windshield wipers stop working, your left taillight burns out, and your brakes give out? Some may opt to fix the problem themselves, but many turn to the services and handiwork of auto repair mechanics. While most auto repair businesses are honest and forthcoming, consumers need to be on the lookout for those that are trying to make a quick buck. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) advises consumers to do their research before choosing an auto repair service.

It's important for consumers to be on the lookout for scams like overcharging on repairs, charging for labor that was never performed, and performing shoddy work. In 2010, the BBB received a whopping 12,682 complaints against auto repair mechanics. This year alone, the BBB has already received nearly 11,000 complaints.

"Many times consumers realize that they have been scammed, but they don't have any way of proving it," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. "It's extremely important to get all estimates for parts and labor in writing before authorizing anything."

The BBB recommends the following auto repair service tips:

Get a least three referrals. If you are looking for a qualified mechanic, ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations. Be sure to check with www.bbb.org to see if there have been any complaints filed against the business. Look for shops that display certification. For major work, such as brakes, transmission or engine repair, you need to find a shop employing a specialist.

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Ask as many questions as you need. Don't be embarrassed to request technical definitions. Don't rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called after diagnostics have been completed to discuss a course of action and labor costs before any work begins.

Get everything in writing. Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure that you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where the business can contact you and before you leave, be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.

Do a walk-through with your mechanic. When you pick up your vehicle, get an explanation of all work that was performed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask the technician to point out any major new parts that were installed. Your repair bill should be itemized so if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.

For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org/us/bbb-news .

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