The Right Mechanic to Ease your Panic

March 25, 2019

CAR mechanics provide a vital service for thousands of consumers. Each day Fijians utilise the services of mechanics who either work in car dealerships or run independent businesses. Consumers spend large amounts of money to buy the car of their dreams and because of this investment, finding a good car mechanic is important.

Many consumers may not necessarily be well versed with the finer technicalities of motor vehicles so when their vehicles do break down, a good mechanic can put their mind at ease. These mechanics will inform consumers of issues with their cars, give a timeline for repairs, and charge a fair price for their labour. 

Unfortunately, there are consumers who have had the misfortune of dealing with mechanics who behave unethically. These mechanics will seek to fleece consumers, prolong deadlines and/or steal vehicle parts for personal use. The Consumer Council of Fiji has received numerous complaints on this regard and has dealt with 142 complaints worth $189,874.12 since 2015. 

Unscrupulous Mechanics

In a recent case reported to the Council, a consumer had been promised by a garage mechanic that his vehicle would be repaired within a month. The consumer’s vehicle had been involved in an accident so the extensive work would cost $3000.   

Having agreed to the costs and the time frame for repairs, the consumer delivered the vehicle to the garage. But repair works had taken longer than promised and the consumer had started to question the mechanic’s credibility. The vehicle was later delivered to his home in his absence and his worst fears were realised. Upon inspection, he noticed that the repairs were poorly done. The air conditioning system, the wheel brace, jack, jack handle and the floor mats were all missing from his vehicle. 

He confronted the mechanics who made no effort to complete the repairs or return the missing parts. The consumer later engaged the services of another mechanic to complete the repairs which cost him an extra $1,000. He then also sought the assistance of the Council.

Upon the Council’s intervention, the garage immediately returned the parts and accessories that were in the vehicle when given for repairs. Although he ended up paying a total of $4,000 for repairs, he remained satisfied as it was less than what other mechanics had quoted him.

Know Your Rights: How to Regain Control When a Car Repair Goes Wrong

Ensuring that you get a good mechanic can be a challenge. Consumers should do thorough research and inquire with relatives and friends, preferably those of prior experience with mechanics, to find out which mechanics have a good reputation and will not rip off your hard-earned money.

Consumers can even check online and on social media for recommendations. They can also check whether mechanic has certification from a reputable institution.

While these tips will help you find a trustworthy mechanic, there may be times when problems still arise. These problems may be regarding quality of work, completion of the job, repair costs and fair compensation. You’ll want to pay the mechanic fairly, but tempers can rise and everyone gets frustrated by a disagreement. So what do you do?

Use the Q&A below to know your rights so that you can assess the situation and make the best strategic move for your car, your wallet and your peace of mind.

Question: How can I spot a bad repair job? 

Answer: Most bad repair jobs fall into one of three categories: fixes that didn’t work, work that wasn’t done at all, and inflated bills. Consumers can use the following tips to ensure getting the best repair job.

  • Get quotes from several mechanics any time you’re facing an expensive repair. Make sure the work includes a warranty or a guarantee on the quality of service. Consumers should always engage in written agreements with any trader or service provider before payments. Written agreements should set out the timeframe for the work, the total amount to be paid, breakdown of costs, and the conditions in place, should the repairs not be completed successfully.
  • When the work is done, compare your final bill to the price you were originally quoted. Review all the line items for surprises before you sign off on the work and pay your bill, and ask for an explanation of anything you didn’t expect or don’t understand.
  • To ensure that your faulty parts really were replaced, ask the shop for your old parts back. This serves as proof that they were removed from your car and that they were actually damaged or worn in the first place.

Question: What can I do when I am not satisfied with the job?

Answer: If you’re disappointed with your service or its price but don’t suspect fraud, your best bet is simply to talk directly to your mechanic or to management. The following tips can help bring about a more productive conversation:

  • Communicate calmly and professionally.
  • Remain assertive but polite. Compare the work that was done to the contract or work order you signed for the repair.
  • Note any discrepancies, and explain exactly why you’re dissatisfied.
  • Specify the outcome you’re hoping for

Remember: If you’re completely dissatisfied with the work and not confident that the mechanic can address your complaints, then you lodge your complaint with the Consumer Council of Fiji on the National Consumer Helpline toll-free number 155.