How to Guides

How To Speak With Mechanics

Zaki Moulvi posted this on Jun 4, 2014

As much as we would like to be able to fix all of our cars troubles ourselves, there will come a day when you will have to bring your baby to a professional.  It may just be that you don’t have the right tools for the job or it could be that even your sharp engine mind has been stumped by her symptoms.  Whatever the reason there is no shame in admitting defeat and allowing a certified mechanic take over.

Show Some Respect

A certified mechanic is not just some guy who likes to tinker under the hood.  He has gone through special training and spent tons of money learning all about cars.  Most are even required to do an apprenticeship before they are given certification.  You will just have to accept the fact that unless the guy is working out of his home garage, he probably knows a hell of a lot more about your car and how it runs then you do. 

Give Good Info

Be as specific as possible when describing the issue you are experiencing with the car.  If the noise is grinding, than say grinding.  If the car pulls in one direction, tell him which one.  The more information you offer the quicker he can find and resolve the problem.  Remember, you are most likely paying labor costs per hour.  The quicker the job gets done, the lower the bill.

Descriptive Words

Mechanics have their own speak so to speak and will listen for key words from you while you are explaining the problem.  It is important to be as specific as possible, especially with noises.  Hear is a list of the most common words they are waiting to hear:

  • Backfiring:  This is a loud boom that comes from your engine 
  • Clattering engine:  Think Casper in the attic rattling his chains
  • Hissing engine:  Like a snake
  • Engine knocking:  Pay attention to when this occurs, knowing if it increases as you accelerate is important to the mechanic.
  • Whining engine:  You can’t miss that annoying sound.  It usually means one of the belts needs to be adjusted
  • Moaning: This is most common as you turn the steering wheel
  • Screeching: See whining
  • Roar on acceleration:  You will hear that coming out from the back end of your car

Money Talk

You have a right to ask about an estimated price range once you have explained the problem with the mechanic.  Be polite when doing so and don’t question his judgment.  This is where specifics are important.  The more info you have offered, the more accurate his estimate will be.  Dozens of issues can cause your vehicle to stall, with prices to repair that start lower than a hundred bucks and quickly skyrocket into the thousands.  While you should expect some fluctuation in the estimate, it should not be a huge range.  

Be Clear

If you are only bringing your car in because you hate flushing the radiator yourself, let him know that is all you want done.  If you intend on leaving the shop while he is at work on your car make sure that he has a viable way to reach you quickly in case something comes up that you did not authorize.  During your money talk you were given an estimate.  Be clear with your mechanic that anything not included in the estimate needs to be discussed with you first.  If not, you may walk back into the shop and get slapped with a bill that will put you in a hole for months.

Second Opinion?

You have a right to a second opinion, but get it from another shop.  Questioning your mechanic in front of his peers is demeaning.  If you feel strongly that he is mistaken, simply smile and nod and then bring your car somewhere else.


Mechanics love their job and can get excited when talking about it, forgetting that you might have gotten lost after the first three words.  Don’t just smile and pretend to know what is going on, ask them to explain it again, this time in words a 5 year old can understand.

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