How to Communicate Better With Your Mechanic

Learning to properly communicate with a mechanic can spell the difference between getting the problem addressed properly and having to wait while he figures out what’s wrong with your car. Since it is your vehicle, it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with your car so that you can help the technician pinpoint what is wrong. Here are some tips on how to improve your communication with your mechanic so that he can more easily diagnose the problem and get your car back on the road without delay.

  • Know your owner’s manual. The manual should look like your college textbooks, with underlined sentences and dog-eared pages. If you put off reading the manual because you are afraid that it would be difficult to read, try opening it. You might be surprised at how much useful information you could learn from it.
  • Make a habit of writing everything down. The moment you sense that there is something wrong with your car, you should start jotting down symptoms that you notice. Focus on the noises the car is making and how it feels while you’re driving it. If the car stalls, what happened just before it did? In addition, you should also note when the car was most recently brought to the shop since the current problem may be related to the last time it was serviced. You might want to keep a notebook and pen in your glove compartment so you can start taking notes before you forget.
  • Keep all of your service records in order. Put all of these documents in an envelope so that you can take them with you to the shop and show them to the technician. These records can help the mechanic identify what has already been done to your car so that he won’t repeat it, and possibly help him with his diagnosis.

To help you communicate better, here are some terms that you should know which can help you describe common symptoms of car trouble.

  • Backfire: A banging sound that is often mistaken for a gunshot and comes from the tailpipe or engine.
  • Bottoming: Excessive harshness or noise that usually occurs when going over bumps and that you feel through the passenger compartment or steering wheel.
  • Bucking: This happens when the car lurches as a result of the transmission slipping when it changes gears or the engine hesitating.
  • Dieseling: You may notice this symptom when you turn off the car and the engine continues to run momentarily and burn fuel.
  • Hesitation: This happens when your car experiences a brief loss of power after it accelerates.
  • Knocking: This is a rapid rattling noise that happens when you accelerate. It is also known as detonation.
  • Misfire: This is a hesitation that happens when the fuel in at least one of your engine’s cylinders does not ignite property.
  • Shimmy: This describes how the car moves slightly from side-to-side and which you feel through the steering wheel and/or the tires.
  • Sluggish: Describes the feel of the car when it is not accelerating smoothly or strongly enough.
  • Surge: What happens when the engine speed suddenly changes, usually going faster.