by Jim Kerr

Finding a quality repair shop is not a game of chance. We have all heard horror stories about service work done by “that” repair shop. They may have been small private garages, franchised specialty shops, or even dealerships, but you, the customer, may feel overcharged, not in control, or sometimes even cheated. While the number of repair shops that purposely defraud a customer are very small, they give the whole industry a bad name. The question is: Where do I go to get my car repaired? Do they do quality work? Do they tell me accurately what repairs my car needs? In short, how does one find good repair shop?

Word of mouth is one method, but its not the only way. There is a better way � its called MAP, the Motorist Assurance Program. MAP started in the United States to address consumer concerns about the repair industry’s ethics and methods of doing business. Canada’s MAP program is endorsed by a large segment of the automotive industry, and MAP accredited facilities are a great starting point in finding a good repair shop.

More than just a goodwill measure, the MAP program is designed to ensure car owners will receive consistent, accurate repair information, and quality repairs by trained technicians. Service personnel will tell you if the work to be done on your vehicle is “required” or “suggested”. By MAP definitions, a “required” part or system must have failed, are beyond manufacturer’s specifications, or are unable to perform their normal function. These are a “must do” type of repair. If repair work is “suggested”, the vehicle is still serviceable without repairing it immediately. Only the words “required” or “suggested” are used. The confusing words “recommended repairs” are not used. Providing written estimates are another part of MAP. No work is done on a customer’s vehicle without prior authorization.

The MAP program also sets out inspection standards for the technicians to use. For example, a tire with only 2/32 of tread depth remaining needs to be replaced. This would be a required repair. If there was 4/32 of tread remaining, the technician should “suggest” a repair. While 4/32 tread depth may work fine on good roads, there isn’t enough tread to channel deep water away from the tire surface on wet roads or provide traction on snowy roads. Thus a repair is suggested. By the way, most tires start with about 10/32 to 11/32 of tread depth, depending upon the manufacturer and style of tire.

There are advantages of using one service shop for all your regular maintenance. The shop personnel get to “know” your vehicle, and can inform you of specials or deals that may be offered in the future, saving you money on maintenance. Routine maintenance is not repeated unnecessarily, and trust is built between you and the repair shop because of the continuing relationship. MAP has helped this trust develop.

While your vehicle is in for service, it’s the perfect time to have a comprehensive inspection done. Some may call it a safety inspection; others call it a vehicle inspection, and some shops may call it a buyer’s check. Regardless of the name, a comprehensive inspection covers all the important parts of the automobile: the exhaust, brakes, steering, tires, lights, drive axles, and powertrain.

Two main safety components on our vehicles are brakes and tires. These items need to be inspected often. Fortunately, many shops will inspect the brakes for a minimal cost. As a repeat customer, you may not need the inspections as often because the shop will be able to advise you on when the next inspection is needed.

Tires are the only link between the vehicle and the ground. Don’t skimp on tires. Quality tires may cost more but offer advantages such as better tire life or improved traction. Having tires checked and replaced now avoids that first snowfall panic, and you can do it at your convenience within a budget plan. Those new “ice” or “winter” tires definitely offer more grip so I would recommend switching to them before the snow and ice appears.

A safe vehicle is a reliable vehicle. Help make safety a priority for everyone by ensuring your vehicle is in top operating condition.

For information about the MAP program, see www.motorist.org.

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