Dealership Mechanics

By Kristen Castillo

September 6, 2018 5 min read

Regular maintenance is important for the short- and long-term health of your car. Vehicles need regular upkeep, including oil changes, clean air filters, new brake pads and more.

Nearly 40 percent of drivers will get the scheduled maintenance suggested in their owners manuals. That's according to a new report from the Auto Care Association, a nonprofit organization representing auto industry professionals.

Drivers have options -- from dealers to auto shops to private mechanics -- on where to get those repairs performed. Traditionally, drivers may have taken their cars to the dealership for maintenance, but that's not necessarily a must anymore. Many repairs can be done by independent mechanics and even some car-savvy owners.


Quality and price are top considerations, with many drivers worrying the dealer mechanic would overcharge for car products and services.

"Taking your car back to the dealership for maintenance is something everyone always warns you about," says Sam Olmsted, a consultant at Superior Honda, a new and pre-owned Honda dealer. "Unfortunately, many times, the reputation of a pushy car salesman gets extended onto the dealership and service people, as well."

He suggests car owners look past that attitude, explaining that the dealer who sold you the vehicle knows the issues associated with it.

Olmsted says there are three reasons to take your car to the dealer for maintenance:

1) Warranty. If you bought the warranty at the time of purchase, you can get free or low-cost simple repairs done. "The service people will get to know your car and can predict what problems may arise," he says.

2) Spare parts. The dealer has the parts your car may need or can easily get them. "Dealers have hundreds of different versions of the same exact car," says Olmstead, describing how the service department will most likely have extra parts in stock.

3) Accountability. "Dealers hold themselves accountable for different issues that arise for new car owners," he says, explaining that if multiple drivers have the same problem, the service department will know the fix and may do it at little or no cost.

*Get It Done

"The bottom line for vehicle maintenance is to get it done when it needs to be done," says John Burkhauser, an auto repair industry specialist with over 30 years of experience, noting consumers should focus on knowing whether when the work gets done, the proper fluids, filters and other products will be used. He says the dealership can perform recall repairs if needed.

It's not necessary to get a vehicle's service done at a dealership to maintain the warranty.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, it's illegal for a dealer to deny your warranty coverage simply because you had routine maintenance -- such as oil changes, tire rotations, fluid checks and flushes -- or repairs performed somewhere other than at the dealership.

Still, Burkhauser says it's smart to keep copies of the services you do get done in case some issue arises. You will need to show documentation of the work done if requested.

*Chains and Independent Shops

Do research before taking your ride to a chain repair shop.

"Be very aware of what is being done to your vehicle," advises Burkhauser, who cautions that many chain store workers have only basic knowledge about repairs and will try to upsell you.

Get to know the owners and employees at independent shops, too. Ask questions. For example, do they use properly certified fluids and filters for your type of vehicle? And do they follow the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, guidelines?

"Like anything else, it's the people and the operations you must check," he says, explaining that OEMs do not recommend most additives or flushes. According to Burkhauser, if a mechanic suggests flushes, he may only be in it for the money.

Burkhauser has new criteria for where to get work done: "Does your shop use digital inspections with pictures and video that can be sent to your phone?"

He says those pictures and videos can show drivers why they need repairs or service.

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