They say finding a mechanic is like interviewing a job applicant. Which is a total load of horse dung. Job applicants don’t have a wrench clamped around your… carburettor. And what questions are you going to ask a mechanic that he can’t lie about anyway? Most of us can’t tell a rim clamp from a tampon. So without any training of your own, how can you tell a mechanic is worth his price? Well read on and I’ll reveal the signs…
Auto-shop promotions get more fancy every year.
1. Look At Their Workshops
Serious workshops will never be clean. Short of an investment banker’s lifestyle, you won’t find more dirt anywhere in the country. But while they can’t be spotless, they can be organized. And that’s a visible quality. Just run your eyes across the room:
- Are the tools grouped together, or thrown into a random pile?
- Are all the vehicle parts grouped according to size and type, or scattered across the floor?
- On the tyre racks, are the tyres arranged by size, or does it look like the Michelin Man is having a lie down?
- Do you see any calendars, planners, or whiteboard schedules? Have a look and see what’s written on them.
Experienced mechanics are organized. They arrange things in strict order, because they’re too busy to spend time looking for things. And they’re probably too busy to stop and clean.
2. Pay Attention to Their Receipts
More than any other business, mechanics rely on word-of-mouth. When was the last time you saw a TV ad for an auto workshop? Yeah, never. So most of their promotion comes from reputation. Good mechanics won’t just give you a detailed receipt, they’ll insist on walking you through the items. They’re suffering to get you discounts, and you’re going to sit down and hear about it.
If your receipt is a scribbled, illegible note, and the mechanic is tight lipped, then look out. You may be dealing with someone who doesn’t care if you come back.
"And after he explained every item, he broke into interpretive dance."
3. Look at the Toolbox
Have you seen the tool storage used by serious mechanics? If you murdered a T-Rex you could hide the body in there. Mechanics acquire their (expensive) tools over several years. A veteran mechanic has a collection so huge, Black & Decker probably uses him as their catalogue.
If you see every mechanic sharing out of one or two toolboxes, it’s a sign they haven’t been around too long. Doesn’t mean they’re bad, but they’re probably inexperienced.
4. Test Water First
Before getting a mechanic to do major work, try them out with something small. Have them top up your air-con gas, or change your oil. A professional will not have the inclination (or the time) to suggest adding something to the bill. They’ll do the job, give you a proper receipt, and that’s it.
Watch out for the ones who nag you into buying more services (e.g. “I suspect something is wrong with part XYZ, let me change it since you’re here”) Also note if they added any hidden costs to your bill.
"When changing your tyres I noticed your car is quite boring, so I added an extra service…"
5. Know Their Speciality
Some mechanics specialize in certain brands or parts. If you have a Mercedes or BMW, it’s quite easy to find a specialized mechanic in Singapore. Others may specialize in certain services, like attaching body kits or brake fitting. The best way to find specialists is on car forums. Ask owners of specific models where they go to.
Don’t take the mechanic’s word for it. In many cases, there’s no actual certification to say who specializes in what.
6. Be Sensitive About Your Parts
Note what happens when the mechanic changes your car parts. If a replacement was fitted for you, ask to see the original. Good mechanics don’t even wait to be asked; they’re quick to show you the original and ask if you still want it. Dodgy mechanics may only claim to have replaced parts.
*Special thanks to Mr. Yap Chee Teng, a former mechanic, for his help.
"I usually keep the original parts. But in this case, they were screaming in pain and I couldn't take it any more."
In order to save you the trouble, MoneySmart has located some popular and reliable mechanics. These are:
Monggo Motions – This father and son team (Mt. Tay and James) are passionate about cars. They don’t suggest unnecessary parts, so you won’t have to overhaul your bank account as well. They also have a following of long-term customers, who will testify to that. Go to:
14 Pandan Loop, Pandan Light Ind Pk (Blk K),
GSC Auto Services - This name comes up in local car forums a lot. I’ve only been there once, and that was an emergency. Still, they did a decent job. Overhauling my car air-con (that’s an emergency okay?) was only $115. They even called me a week later and asked if it was working alright (it was). Go to:
Sin Ming Autocare, #02-04, 176 Sin Ming Drive
Huat Lee Batteries & Motor Service - Recommended by a close friend, whom I wouldn’t trust with a funfair bumper car. He’s gone to Huat Lee for each of his spectacular crashes, and apparently their prices are competitive. They specialize in Korean cars, and their turnaround time is fast. Go to:
Kaki Bukit Hose 1
Kaki Bukit Ave 6, BLK C #01-66
Do you have a favourite mechanic? Comment and let us know!
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