This year's winner of RepairPal's ASE Master Automobile Technician of the Year is Gary Sharits. We sat down with Gary and asked him to talk with us about some important questions that many car owners are probably wondering, but don’t think to ask their mechanics.
What are the most important questions customers should ask their mechanic before taking their car into the repair shop?
It’s important for customers to have a discussion about their vehicle and what they expect their mechanic to help them get out of it. The idea is to have a realistic expectation of what type of performance and longevity you should be able to get from your vehicle, then ask for ideas on how you can work with the shop to reach those goals.
But be realistic; don't ask them to help you get 20 years of service and 30 mpg out of your Hummer for $200.00.
A good mechanic can help their customer come up with a plan to get more out of their vehicle by performing reasonable maintenance services. That is really the key. You may need some repair work to get your vehicle back on the road, but a good shop will follow that up with common sense maintenance services to help prevent it from breaking down again in the near future.
I strongly encourage any prospective customer to trust their instincts, as well. If you don't feel comfortable, don't be afraid to try somewhere else.
What are some ways customers can verify an auto repair shop is trustworthy and their work is reliable before taking their car in for service?
Years ago, the best way to find a good shop was to ask the locals who they like and trust. With a simple internet search, customers can now get the same information. While it's true that this isn't a 100% foolproof way to find a good shop, it’s pretty reliable.
What do you think keeps your customers coming back to your shop to get their car taken care of?
Truthfully, I believe that they continue to come back because we show a genuine interest in taking care of their property; that includes their car AND their wallet. We never try to make decisions for our customers. We simply evaluate their vehicle’s needs, educate them about our findings, and then work with them to get them back on the road. We honestly try to treat the customer like we want to be treated. We never forget that they own the vehicle, and we respect their decisions.
What makes a repair shop trustworthy?
It starts with the shop owner. He or she leads the way. If a shop is going to be trustworthy, the ownership must expect good and honest behavior from every employee. The employees need to feel comfortable enough to immediately approach the owner when a mistake is made or an accident occurs, so that it can be corrected as swiftly as possible and the customer suffers the least amount of inconvenience.
Let's face it, no one is perfect, but I’ve learned that proper, honest, and swift handling of these kinds of mistakes and accidents can often build more trust than a relatively uneventful repair.
What three pieces of advice do you have for car owners who are looking for a reliable auto repair shop?
Don't shop price. When you try to compare shops by price, you often end up with a job you're not happy with. I'm not saying that the price doesn't matter. You have to be able to pay for the repair. But your focus should be on getting the repair/service performed by the right shop so that it's done correctly. Let's face it, if the job isn't performed properly, it really doesn't matter how low the price was.
Pay attention to the shop’s credentials as well as the technician's credentials. You can compare them from shop to shop as those are standard "measuring sticks" created just for that purpose.
Trust your instincts. Once you've done all of the research you can do, pay attention to the shop or technician that you feel the most comfortable leaving your car with. Cars aren't cheap and any shop or technician that values you as a customer will take pains to take good care of your car.
Gary Sharits is an important member of the RepairPal Certified Shop Network. He is employed by Christian Brothers Automotive, owned by Larry and Cindy Giannone, in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. We chose Gary as the winner because of his outstanding performance on ASE tests, in addition to other RepairPal criteria. Congratulations, Gary, on this accomplishment!