published Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Consumer Watch: Pre-arranging mechanic helps avoid problems

By Ellen Phillips

I have some of the smartest readers on the face of the planet. Following my recent column about auto repair rip-offs, I received an email from local resident Ray Cherry who added a great tip to those I suggested. Mr. Cherry has made life much easier over the years for his wife with respect to vehicles out of warranty and how to fix those bugaboos that pop up.

After thorough investigation, he came up with a list of trusted shops and mechanics that cater to various issues that arise - suddenly, all too often - within moments after the warranty expires. (While Mr. Cherry has compiled a personal list pursuant to his own family's needs, I think it's a great idea for readers to create their own individualized one.) The list works especially well if Ray is out of town or can't be reached when the problem occurs. To get to the head of the class, each shop must convince him it knows best and can be trusted to deliver the goods with the least expensive out-of-pocket repair (if possible). So not only do these different shops (transmission, brakes, engine, or so forth) provide evaluations and repair within pre-arranged monetary limits, our protective husband has also given Wifey the name and contact person at a local towing company in the event the car isn't drivable. To clarify, though, if she encounters a major engine overhaul, then the mechanic holds onto the vehicle until able to contact Ray. (Of course, one of the prior arrangements he made was the services of a car rental agency to provide his wife with a loaner.) The list, which she keeps in her auto, includes the name of the repair shop, its address, phone number, and the contact person with whom Mr. Cherry has pre-arranged repair.

When the Mrs. purchases a new car with a brand-new warranty, Hubby carries it a step further and buys an extended maintenance program for that new baby. When she receives updates about service offers that may take a while to complete or the manufacturer sends out recall notices about defects that also might take extra time to fix, she knows where to go and with whom to speak.

One of the joys of writing this column is hearing from my consumer friends who've originated ideas to save - or salvage - money and time.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. She may be reached at consumer watch@timesfreepress.com.

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