Don't Let The Repair Shop Get The Edge
These smart apps and websites take the worry out of auto repair. (debaird, Flickr) by: Reilly Brennan
"No matter how smart you are or how hard you try, you have the feeling you're get taken for a ride, don't you?
For decades, car shoppers had that sinking feeling in their stomachs when they approached the dealership. Even the coolest hostage negotiator felt squeezed by the grip of the car salesman, who either wrangled more money out of the buyer or handed him off to the finance manager for further cash extraction.
In fact, whenever we've run articles here on AOL Autos about how to negotiate the price of a new car, we invariably see comments from buyers who say, "I don't trust 'em."
But the internet changed all that. Now you're able to research beyond the MSRP, finding the exact invoice pricing the dealer paid and even letting the various dealers work against each other as they try to email you their best offers. For new car shopping, the internet has been incredibly helpful to buyers.
The Next Frontier
But one aspect of the automotive experience still leaves people feeling uneasy: car repair. With an inability to know exactly what's wrong (and furthermore, without the proper computer and wires, the ineptitude to actually fix anything), haziness surrounds most transactions. Internal monologues travel from "$600 for a new alternator? Really?" to "I guess this guy knows more than me -- he's wearing a uniform and a nametag."
But finally it seems that the long arm of the internet is catching up with car repair. Now, if you have to get your car fixed, you have real knowledge with which to arm yourself.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to sort out car repair pricing so that you can get the edge, not the repair shop: http://repairpal.com/estimator?checking_cookies=true & http://www.automd.com/diagnose/ & http://www.driverside.com/car-service & http://autos.aol.com/auto-repair/
RepairPal launched just three years ago but has already had a significant impact on the car repair scene. The company provides a price estimator for parts and labor so that you know what's a good deal and what's not.
The 100 or so most common repairs are listed for every car going back for the last 20 years. What's great is that the prices are specific to your location (yep, that alternator that goes for $400 might actually run $600 in other parts of the country). Once you find the estimate for the repair you're looking for, you can see local shops and get reviews on the work they've done. Tech blog TechCrunch calls RepairPal the "Google Health For Cars."
AutoMD is a little older than RepairPal (it started in 2004) but it's one we're continuing to keep our eyes on. The site offers repair estimates so buyers can get the inside scoop.
One interesting part about AutoMD is that it provides not only repair estimates for work done by a shop, but it also gives a pure parts estimate if you're a "shadetree" mechanic. Many common repairs also have how-to guides with photos to walk you through the process.
Because of its attractiveness to do-it-yourselfers, it was no surprise to us when AutoMD was acquired by online parts company US Auto Parts a little over a year ago.
DriverSide covers a little more ground than RepairPal and AutoMD, although it still provides valuable info in order for you in your battle against the car repair shop.
The site (there's no mobile app at this point, although our friends at DriverSide tell us they're working on them) focuses on your specific car, going all the way back to 1946. Once you register your vehicle, you can find a wealth of information, including recall notices, what accessories you might want to think about and tips on servicing. The site has become popular, especially in light of the recession.
Ray rang my door bell early this morning to tell me that his power had kept on going out again last night.
So I knew we had to get outside help. Don, the local electrician's phone number was no longer in service, so I called Jim, the mechanic down the street, to see if he knew where I could find Don, or someone else who was reliable.
The reason we hadn't called an electrician before, is that I didn't want it to be one of those electricians who charges an arm and a leg for a service call, and then says that you need all sorts of things that you don't. Kinda like the distrust we have for car repair places, as above. Electrician's don't have a 'parts and labor charge' site to go by!!
Even though Jim is still getting over his knee replacement, he came on up here, looking very professional wearing an electrician's tool belt. He was a lot more fearless about putting his mitts in a live breaker box than we were, so he found the problem. I was inside while he jiggled the breakers in the outside box, and shouted to him out the window, when they flickered. He narrowed it down to the main breaker, which he took with him. He was going into town anyway, so he picked up a new one, while Ray had some much needed coffee, and watched my TV here.
Once the new breaker was in, Ray had power again. I was going to check the old breaker with my ohmmeter to make sure it was the one that was bad, but it rattled, so we threw it away.
Then Ray and I did a couple of little jobs in my grooming room. We added a pull string to the new shade, as I can't reach it when it's up. The foster cats have a cedar board screwed to the door trim, and they love to scratch at it. They had just about got it 'scratched' through, so we replaced that.
Cats do scratch things if their claws get too long. They are trying to get them whittled down. If you keep their claws tipped off carefully with some toe nail clippers, they won't scratch things, as they have no need to. But if you trim them too short, and nick the blood vessel in there, they won't ever let you do it again. Bobcat has had her nails trimmed by me for years, but Patches won't even let you pick her up, let alone look in her ears, and trim her claws. I am pretty sure that Prime would be alright with it, as she is a very laid back cat, but I have just never tried to trim hers, as she keeps them short on the cedar board.
Tomorrow we will have take another day off, as all this stopped our Wednesday "going to town" day.