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Car Mechanics and my checklists

Whenever I bring my car into a shop for routine maintenance or a repair, I generally give the front desk person a printed checklist of things to have done. I have columns for the item to be worked on, a column labled done, cost estimate for labor, cost for parts, names of parts needed, after market or original, warranty for labor, warranty for parts,

I always ask them to check off the items they have done, and fill in the columns for that item. My independent repair shop is a good one, seems to know their business, has a good reputation, etc. However, they routinely “forget” to mark off items on my list or the list gets lost or is not given to the actual folks who do the work.

I am one of these people who likes detailed explanations of the work that was done, so I can keep my records up to date.

Am I breaking some unwritten rule here by controlling what happens to my car?

If so, how do I get them to complete my checklist??



Seems like a reasonable request to me. Have they ever actually missed an item on the list? Or just forgot to check the list?

Maybe they are expecting YOU to fill in the missing items on the list, not them?

Yes, they do miss an item or two.

I do indicate which items I want done, but warranty/cost, parts info etc. is something I expect them to complete. Their invoice slips are usually very minimalist as to detail, except for the price…

Shop around for a mechanic who shares your appreciation for documentation, Juanita. And at some point the thoroughness of the documentation might require an additional charge.

What seems like a good idea to you, Juanita, is poison for the workers. They have their own policies, their own shop rules. Often the paperwork is divided among two workers, each expected to follow well-practiced procedures. This is how they can reduce the chance of mistakes.

“Am I breaking some unwritten rule here…?” Probably yes.

You might just have a mechanic with an ADHD addled brain like mine. Very good at working on cars but when confronted with simplest paper work, the brain melts (in my case, good at tuning pianos). If your mechanic is good at fixing your car and honest, keep using that shop, but you may have to talk with them and keep up the checklist yourself.

It seems dealers like the check off procedure. That is they like THEIR checklist.

Talk to the mechanic before you have the work done. Explain that YOU like to have a paper list of everything that is done. Explain that the list helps YOU understand what has or has not been done. Any difference between list (your’s or their’s is something to talk with the mechanic/shop to discus.

Some drivers don't want to hear about what is done and why, they just want it done.  Others want to go over the list of what is to be done step by step.  

Neither way is right or wrong, it is just a matter of what you and the shop are comfortable with.  If you don't like the way the mechanic is doing, then find someone who does.   Remember that neither you nor the mechanic is right or wrong, it is a matter of finding a match to mechanic and driver. 

Don't blame the mechanic or the owner.  Some like Coke and others like Pepsi.  Find what works for you.  I like Coke.

I once had a customer just like you Juanita…She had a Volvo and a service manual for the car. She would bring it in once a year for its “annual checkup”…Her carefully prepared laundry list of services to be performed laid out in great detail, all gleaned for various sections of the service manual which she found fascinating but she really did not understand…Things like “check the free-play in the differential carrier bearings” and “check the adjustment of the reverse transmission band” were given great importance…After assuring her that all these items would be carefully tended to, she went away happy and the howls of laughter echoing through the shop would soon die down… If anything out of the ordinary was found, another long phone call would ensue, detailing the repairs and their cost that were needed…A little extra time was devoted to filling out her work-orders and checklists… At the end of the day, she went home happy and we went home happy…

Doubleclutch mentioned ADHD and I will add that over the years I have known and worked with mechanics and craftsmen/women who seem to have an excellent understanding of the work they did but were totally flummoxed by text beyond captions and specifications. My grandfather could mentally calculate the compound angles to add a gabled dormer to a roof but found it difficult to read compound sentences. He once drew a freehand plan for a boat, cut the pieces in the shop and assembled it on the river bank.

I’m not a mechanic and never have been one, but I think Caddy got it. Instead of the multi columns, just a list of what you want done would suffice. Everyone these days has their own computer system for records and work orders and asking them to also work on your report is duplication of effort and a manual one at that instead of an automated one. When the work is done, you’ll get their invoice and you can update your own records from that. Its like going to a bank and having them update your accounting system for you.

I would go through your items verbally, before of after service as applicable. I was a chef for many years, and imagine a customer sending me a checklist for how their meal is prepared, with disdain.

All very enlightening, eye opening comments! Thanks to all for posting!

I would just add that the mechanic field can be fast paced and mind numbing at times. The biggest obstacle that shops and mechanics face day in and day out is time, pure and simple.

Filling out a lengthy form takes time for which the shop and mechanic does not get paid and that could be the reason for balking at doing this.

Just my opinion, but the customer copy of a repair order should state all of the pertinent info about what was done, what is needed, etc. and should also include any info about the diagnosis of a problem.
(In other words, if a compression test was done on an engine to verify a mechanical fault the results of that test should be on the repair order and if space is skimpy then it should be duly noted on the back side of the form.)

Jaunita, you may helping yourself a great deal by making it known that you are aware of auto maintenance more than most to help keep the cheaters and incompetents from selling you unneeded service or omitting service. I suggest that you add three items to your list as follows: 1. The work that you (Jaunita) suggest is not needed because… 2. We suggest that you also have … done because… 3. Provide a place for the mechanic to initial or else sign his/her name to indicate that the work has been done rather than a check mark. A checkmark is too easy to make. Initials or signatures can make one think before getting into falsification of documents.

Who cares if you are breaking or bending rules? You are asking for only a minute or two of the shop’s time. It’s your car and your money. You are contracting out work to be done. Contracts need documentation!

Wha Who, I appreciate your comments and suggestions a great deal.

I am a poor people’s lawyer and must document EVERY minute of time I work in order to be paid, and must submit a detailed bill as required by the gov’mint and state ethics rules of which about 50% gets cut. It irks me that other service providers whose hourly rates are double of what I am allowed to charge get by with a minimalsist statement or invoice. I have had the same experience with plumbers. It irks me that I cannot get several appliances repaired by a general appliance repairman on one trip but must schedule separate trips that each have their own initial service charge.

Since I am still taking my Toyota in to the dealer (close by and cheap oil changes) I jot down those things that need to be done according to the manual. If I don’t, they will use the DEALER’S long list of expensive and unneeded stuff. I also write “nothing else” at the bottom of the list, and to call me if there is something uncovered that need immediate attention.

So far, so good.

I am a poor people’s lawyer and must document EVERY minute of time I work in order to be paid,

Do you feel this is a value added exercise? Or would your time be better served helping people with their problems?

In my business, we deal with government contracts too. All of the paperwork that is required is usually non-value added IN OUR EYES but was meant to control abuse. Anyone can forge paperwork so it does a poor job on all accounts.

It irks me that other service providers whose hourly rates are double of what I am allowed to charge get by with a minimalsist statement or invoice

This says a lot to me about what is really grinding your gears. How come I have to do this but they do not (and they make more than I do, doing it).

Bringing your expectations of detailed documentation to the retail service industry is going to get the type of reception you’ve experienced. If you’re lucky enough to find some place willing to fill this out, you’re probably paying for it in more ways than one.

Your form (especially initialing of tasks being completed as suggested) will smack of distrust and you’re going to get a reaction to that perceived accusation.

Could you post one of these checklists so we can see what we’re talking about?
I’m reluctant to offer an opinion without first seeing a checklist.

Mr. the same mountainbike:

Here is the unrevised checklist I use.

Same answer I gave before. If you have your car serviced at a dealer though, they’ll do their own checklist and provide it for you advising on any work that needs to be done. That spreadsheet is a little over the top in my view and not very explanatory. For example, why would you want them to check the heater and defroster? You obviously would know if there was a problem with it and could telll them about it. Same goes for engine, and alternator. What do you want them to do to check it? Do you want them to check for trouble codes which you would know if the check engine light went on? Do you want a compression check? A fuel pressure test? An ignition check? Those would all be fairly expensive to do if there were no symptoms. Do you really want to pay an extra hundred or two for the diagnostics when nothing is apparently wrong.

I guess I would leave the list at home unless you have specific issues that need to be dealt with and let them do a general inspection of the car for any potential issues. Like I said, many of those items are too vauge to be useful instructions and really unnecessary without symptoms.