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I am a new student in the US. I bought a used car and it seems it needs a strut change. But I don't know how things work here or how to find a good (and affordable) mechanic near me.

Should I buy the part before going there?

How much should I pay a mechanic to inspect my car and find parts I must change?

Should get an appointment before going there?

I live in CA.

2 Answers 2

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I don't know how the things work here and how can I find a good(also affordable) mechanic near me?

The best way to find a "good" mechanic is word of mouth. Ask your friends/relatives/work associates/etc. Everyone has a mechanic. Do NOT limit yourself to a dealership. It's probably the most expensive way to get your vehicle fixed.

I also don't know should I buy the part before going there?

Most places don't like you to buy the parts before going there. There's several reasons for this, but mainly because they can't mark the price up on you.

There are other reasons you may not want to purchase your own part, mainly having to do with you picking the right parts to buy. Unless you are really comfortable in knowing exactly what you need, leave it to the experts. I suspect since you are asking the question, you aren't completely knowledgeable in finding the parts in the first place or where to find the best deals on those parts. Realistically, this is just one of those things you'll have to put up with paying for to get someone else's expertise.

Another reason to let them get the parts for you is, they will most likely provide a warranty on the part as well as the labor involved if something goes wrong with that part. If you bring it in yourself, you won't get either of those things, except from wherever you're getting the parts from.

How much should I pay to a mechanic to inspect my car and find the parts I must change?

Any shop worth their salt (at least here in the States) is going to charge by the book hour. They'll have the rate posted. If you take a vehicle in to only have the problem diagnosed, you can expect they will charge you an hour or less of book rate charges for diagnostics. The only time I'd suggest it may be different is for electrical issues, because they can be truly difficult to diagnose.

If the shop doesn't show their book rates or don't have an idea how many book hours they are going to charge, pass on that shop and go someplace else. Also, if you take it there to get work done, most places will include diagnostics as part of the repair process. Again, the only exception I can think of here is if it's electrical.

Should get an appointment before going there?

That depends on the shop, but most places I've had experience with you can just drive in. Some places will deal with appointments, but more than likely they are going to expect you to leave it to get fixed. There may be other things going on where you live with regards to any COVID stuff or what have you. If you have any questions about it, just call them. They should be more than willing to tell you what their procedures are.

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    In UK, there is one type of workshop with an open front and visible bays where no appointment is needed (typically). They usually do tyres, brakes, exhaust (muffler) and suspension parts. Otherwise, most repair shops need you to make an appointment. As said, try to avoid the main dealer. Nov 1, 2021 at 17:44
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    @WeatherVane - Thanks for the "across the pond" add ... much appreciated. Nov 1, 2021 at 17:45
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    @WeatherVane In the US we have similar no-appointment places. There's also shops that pretty much just do oil changes, again no-appointment. Also, for those of us that need smog checks it's no-appointment even if the place wants appointments for other things. Nov 2, 2021 at 3:35
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    Re: "doesn't show their book rates", in my experience most shops don't unless you ask! The biggest key to being a smart customer and making sure you don't get cheated is first asking for an hours estimate rather than a price estimate, along with their hourly rate. That's because "it'll cost $5000" doesn't scream scam to folks who don't know what to expect, but "it'll take 30 hours" does. Nov 2, 2021 at 8:39
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    @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE - By "showing", that's what I mean. If they aren't going to tell you the book rates (ie: show when asked), they aren't worth dealing with. Nov 2, 2021 at 9:33
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I'm probably going to offer some very different advice than most others, by suggesting you find local groups of car enthusiasts, and car clubs. After that, just plan to and attend one of their car shows, or meet and greets. Car enthusiasts almost always have informal get togethers, often at a local business with big parking lots. They're usually held in the evenings, or on weekends. These get togethers gives owner's the opportunity to show off their cars, and talk to others car lovers, who share the same passion for cars. Most all communities will have something like I'm describing, whether it's in a big city, or a small town. Because, in the U.S., you're always going to have car enthusiasts, and they like nothing more than talking about their love of cars. This is so common, in fact, many movies have been written around love of the hobby. I personally have owned many old ”muscle cars” from the 1950's through the 1970's, and a couple of high performance import's, like my current Porsche Cayman S. So, I can promise you that once you find a group like I've described, you can ask almost anyone, or everyone, for their opinions about the best mechanics in town, and you'll probably get more advice, and information than you could've ever hoped for. And, most importantly it's from a group of very well informed locals. Also, even if you don't find this type of group before you repair your cars current problem, don't give up, because one thing I know for sure, is you'll always need a good mechanic as long as you own a car. Or, at the very least, until you learn how to do it yourself. BTW, these days we have YouTube, where you can learn to do about anything you set your mind to. Plus, it's a good idea to learn about car repairs, so you don't get taken advantage of when you finally do take your car in for those repairs. 🙂 Good Luck!!

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