Knowing Your Stuff

By Sharon Naylor

April 3, 2015 5 min read

When you bring your car in to your mechanic for maintenance or a repair, it's important to bring along some essential information so that your mechanic can more easily see what your car needs -- and so that you may have a better chance of not paying (or not paying as much) for those repairs. A recent Consumer Reports survey says that car owners are postponing repair and maintenance work on their cars in an effort to save money, an unwise decision since unchecked car problems can lead to safety threats and pricier repairs in the future. If you're among those who have put off car maintenance, it's even more important to bring as much information and detail to your next appointment.

Here are some important documents and details to bring to your mechanic appointment:

--Maintenance records. While your car dealership will have your car's maintenance records on file, you should bring copies of any service records from any work you had done on your car by an independent mechanic. Your mechanic needs the full picture of what's been done to your car, so that he or she can unravel the problem your car is having now. Don't be embarrassed about having sought out car repairs elsewhere on your owned car. (Note: Outside repair work done on your leased car may void your warranty.)

--Warranty documents. Your current warranty will reveal what is covered and not covered for your car's repairs, so it's best to have your warranty information on you. Be aware that the Federal Trade Commission says there's no "standard warranty" on repairs, so be sure you understand what is covered and what is not covered, and know about your warranty's limitations -- such as mileage limits, age-of-car limits and businesses authorized to perform warranty-covered work, so that you have enough money in your account to cover any repair costs should they not be covered.

--Your license and registration. These documents serve as proof that you own your car and that it's registered -- two details many mechanics need to know before working on your car.

--Your car insurance information. In some cases, damage to your car may be covered by your car insurance policy, and thus, your mechanic can provide information to help you file your claim.

--Descriptions, photos and video of the problem. According to the experts at, your mechanic needs a detailed description of your car's issues, such as what kind of noise it's making. You could try to make the same sound or you could play a recording of it that you took on your smartphone's video camera. Write down how the car was performing before the issue began and if there were any strange sounds or smells coming from the car. These pieces of evidence help your mechanic diagnose and fix the problem.

--Brand names of products you've used. If you added fluids to your car on your own recently, have the brand names and product descriptions ready to share with your mechanic. The problem may be that you used the wrong type of additive.

--A valet key to your car. It's just easier to have the mechanic use that extra key to move your car during its service as you wait than to hand over your big keychain with all of your home and other keys, or struggle to free your car key from your keychain.

It's also good form to clean your car out before your mechanic appointment. That means removing all the soccer equipment from your trunk and all coffee cups, gym bags and other items from your car's interior. You may not realize that your mechanic has to access parts of your car through the trunk, and having to remove your belongings is aggravating and time-consuming.

When you call to make your mechanic appointment, ask what else they wish for you to bring. It's better to know their preferred list of details ahead of time than to have to drive home and search for maintenance records and other documents. If you don't have the documents ready, you may not be able to have your car fixed at all on that day, forcing you to wait for a new appointment to become available.

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