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Confessions Of A Service Writer

Dec 10, 2023Dec 10, 2023

Here's the skinny on what happens behind closed repair shop doors

A little over a year ago when I joined the Carscoops team, I told you that my history included a few years of running an automotive repair/service shop. Today, I’m going to open up a little bit and let you all know what the repair shop business is like. Here are just a few confessions from a now-former service writer/advisor.

1. Yes, Lots Of Shops Are Shady

In my experience, unsavory behavior is a real problem in the repair shop world. To be clear, it's a problem in lots of segments of business. But it's especially tough to handle in the repair shop world because most people can't tell if they’re being swindled. Regardless of whether you take your vehicle to a corporately run place or a small local business, shady stuff could be going on.

Here's just one example. One customer brought me a lengthy service estimate from another place in town. It said that the vehicle in question needed sway bar end links, a tie rod, two control arms, and a new set of tires.

More: What's The Best Repair Shop Experience You’ve Had?

The total for all of that was north of $2,500. The customer rightly wanted a second opinion. We found zero evidence of any issues other than noisy end links. And I had three different techs with over a decade of experience diagnosing similar problems. There's no question that the other shop tried to sell this person (and many others I’ve met) parts they didn't need.

2. Signs Of A Good Repair Shop

So how does one find a good shop when they’ve moved somewhere new or perhaps their old shop is shut down? Here are just a few things to look for. First, how clean is the shop? A clean shop really does tell you a great deal about how it's run. It indicates a diligent team and good management. That makes it more likely that they’ll adhere to promised quotes and wait times too.

Secondly, how do they handle expensive quotes? Are they open about showing you the problems? There's no reason that in today's day and age that a reputable shop can't send photos or videos of the issues that they find. That's a great indication that it's honest because if they’re lying, then they’ve given you evidence of it.

Thirdly, how do they treat you? It might seem obvious, but cordial, kind, and straightforward care is rarer and rarer these days. Shops that like to get’em in and get’em out won't take as much time to actually communicate with care. That means that they’ll be less likely to treat your car with care, too.

3. Never Lie

Finally, never ever lie to your service advisor. We get it: the reason you’re now at the shop might be really embarrassing. In fact, it's possible that you might feel the urge to lie or hide information because you’re concerned that it’ll make your bill go up. Still, lying to your advisor just isn't a great idea.

First, there's a great chance that the shop is going to figure out the truth one way or another. Evidence of what's happened to the car is often clear and obvious. In those cases, there's a good chance that the shop employees are just going to end up laughing at you for trying to hide what's really gone on. Shady shops might even jack up the bill due to this.

Secondly, in the rare instances that we don't figure out what's really happened, there's a decent chance that something important gets missed. Just be real with your service advisor. Then you’re most likely to get the best service at the best price.

Was this peek behind the repair shop garage door interesting? Many of you know these things but perhaps this article is a good one to share with friends and family that are a little less car-savvy. What would you like to know about what happens after you drop your car off for service? Let us know in the comments below! We might even turn this into a small series if you lot like it.

1. Yes, Lots Of Shops Are Shady More: What's The Best Repair Shop Experience You’ve Had? 2. Signs Of A Good Repair Shop 3. Never Lie