The road to car repairs can be paved with regret. It can be difficult to know whether a repair has been performed well and pricing can often be hard to get clarity on. For those of us who are not mechanically-minded, it’s important to do your homework to find a reputable and trustworthy mechanic.
Our vehicles are often a major asset, and central to daily life, work, independence and freedom. We want to trust that the maintenance and repairs are managed swiftly and for many of us who are busy working parents or grandparents, we don’t often have the time to second-guess or question the work that has been done. Regardless, there are safeguards that any car owner can take to ensure the quality of work and ethical conduct.
Mechanics in NSW and WA are legally required to be licensed and qualified to undertake repairs. For other states and territories, you can search your relevant fair trading, consumer protection or regulatory services office to find out what documents and certifications are required to ensure your chosen mechanic meets these obligations.
The Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) website also provides a list of contact details for various state motor traders associations and automobile chambers of commerce. Selecting a mechanic who belongs to one of these groups will require them to adhere to a set of standards, principles or code of conduct.
If you have recently switched to an electric vehicle, it is important to ask your mechanic if they have been properly trained to repair and service EVs as there is currently no national standard for maintaining these vehicles.
While many of us have a rudimentary understanding of our car – how to check and add oil, top up coolant, jumpstart or replace batteries – comprehending complex repairs is usually beyond the layperson.
It is recommended that you have the mechanic assess your vehicle and provide a written quote before any work is undertaken. Ensure the quote specifies the actual work to be done, the parts to be replaced and prices for parts and labour. Verbal contracts, whilst legal, are fraught with risks and all parties may not accurately remember what was agreed upon.
It should be noted that often in the course of a repair, mechanics will find other issues that may need attention. In these cases, you can ask the mechanic to call you for confirmation and quote if extra work is required before they proceed.
In the event you are unsatisfied with the work that has been performed or feel that you have been unfairly charged, it is always best to try and find a resolution by going directly to the mechanic in the first instance.
It’s easy to assume the mechanic has done the wrong thing and often liability for previous problems unrelated to the work they have performed, gets attributed to them. Ask questions first to establish any underlying issues that may have been present before you brought your vehicle in and always keep a log of where your car has previously been serviced or repaired.
If no resolution can be found through the mechanic who did the initial repairs, you can contact your relevant fair trading, consumer protection or regulatory services office to find out what your rights are or if you have chosen a mechanic who is a member of a motor trades association or automobile chamber of commerce.
Under the Commonwealth’s Australian Consumer Law, consumers have the legal protection that mechanics who do repair work provide a ‘guarantee’ as to the quality of the services provided and parts used. Included is a guarantee that all due care and skill will be used.
Failure to comply with these guarantees enables and empowers you to seek repairs and or reparations at the mechanics’ own cost, or alternatively have another mechanic repair the work and recover the costs. These legal protections are in addition to the protection under contract law if the work is substandard.
Going to the mechanic shouldn’t be an experience fraught with difficulties. With the right knowledge, the path to repairs need not be so treacherous.
Stephen Jenkins is the General Counsel and Head of Employment Relations for the Moto Traders’ Association of NSW