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Finding a Mechanic?

So I just moved to a new area for Med School (New Haven, CT) and I am new to the car maintenance thing (My dad usually does it for me). Money is tight on my end. I have never had a mechanic before… I know how to do my own oil changes… pretty much that is it… I would want to learn more to maintain my car myself without a mechanic.

But in the event I would need a Mechanic, any tips on finding a good one that won’t add on non-essential items to the repair list?

What kind of things should I be doing to maintain my car ('97 Camry, 180kmiles)? Which is easy to do myself (like an oil change every 3k miles) and which should I have a professional do it?

Look for a mechanic at this website under Mechanics Files:

If your dad kept good records he may be able to tell you when to drain and refill transmission fluid (very similar to changing the engine oil), or when you might need new air or fuel filters, or new spark plugs.

You could consult the “Mechanics Files” on the CarTalk home page (lower right corner). I think you can search by zip code, make and model, etc. It’s a good place to start.

Another approach is to ask friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers, fellow students, and anyone else you can think of, for recommendations. Most people who have found a good independent shop are more than happy to recommend them to others.

As far as what you should be doing, the owner’s manual and maintenance schedule that came with the car will tell you all you need to know. Follow the factory maintenance schedule and you can’t go wrong.

If you don’t have these documents, try finding inexpensive used ones at

Thanks for the info ya’ll. I know the transmission fluid haven’t been changed in ages… so I think that is on the list. The air filter and spark plugs I have done recently (Spark plugs burnt out on me!)… Are fuel filters hard to do?

When I lived in Hamden, this is the guy I used. Decent mechanic with good diagnostic skills. Last I was there was in 2006, so hopefully owner is the same. Usually has a few used cars on the front that he sells too. It is across from Hamden High.

Team Auto Center
(203) 248-9752
2111 Dixwell Ave, Hamden, CT

Other than the suggestions about engine oil, trans fluid changes, and knick-knacks such as spark plugs and filters I have 2 suggestions.

One would be consideration for a timing belt job if this has never been done. This repair may be out of your league and may need to be farmed out.

For the second one I would suggest that you set aside a little time on a Sat. or Sunday afternoon about every 2 weeks and go over the car. Check all fluid levels, tire pressure, etc. and give it a general lookover for any noticeable tire wear problems, any fluid leaks underneath, and so on.

You would be surprised at how many automobile unit items (meaning engines, transmissions, etc) fail because someone just flat never checked the fluid levels.
This often leads to a ruined engine, transmission, etc. and in a state of panic or bewilderment they often add oil or fluid thinking that it can be saved.

One additional comment might be to get in the habit of monitoring the engine temperature gauge. If the gauge ever starts showing an overheating problem you should stop immediately instead of motoring on.
Many an engine has been barbecued because of a failed 10 dollar part and the owner continuing on; or attempting to continue in many cases.

Thanks for the comments ya’ll!