How to tell a mechanic that you'd like to do a repair yourself?

I have a general question when it comes to DIY car repair vs. having a mechanic do the repair. I do almost all of my own repairs, mainly because I have invested the time and money to acquire many of the proper tools and knowledge (e.g., factory repair manuals, experience, etc.). However, every once in a while I have a problem with a car that truly stumps me. What’s worse is when that happens in the winter, as I don’t want to be out in -10 degree weather in my garage for hours trying to get underneath a car to diagnose an issue. If I knew what the problem was and what needed to be fixed, however, I would most likely do the job myself to save $$$.

Here’s my conundrum. If I take a car to my local mechanic to diagnose an issue, and he identifies it as a relatively simple (albeit possibly expensive) component to replace, what’s the best way to tell him that I’d like to do the job myself? I certainly appreciate the diagnostic skills of a good mechanic, and am willing to pay appropriately, but for the actual parts replacement, is there a way to inform the mechanic that I want to do the job myself without coming off as a know-it-all jerk? Perhaps there is no way to do this, but I’d certainly like to not seem like someone who just takes a car to their mechanic to take advantage of cheap diagnostics - if the mechanic doesn’t typically charge for diagnostics, then that’s his problem, as I would gladly pay full price.

P.S. - I am not including any info about the actual car, as I’m not looking for any diagnosis on here. I was just wondering if any current or past mechanics or others could chime in.

I suppose you could just pay for the diagnostic, then change the part at home. Once it leaves the shop it’s not their problem.

I know that, but what’s a polite way to tell that to the mechanic? It seems to me that just saying, “thanks for your hlep, but I’m going to do the real work myself” is somewhat rude. Maybe I’m wrong though.

Current mechanic here. You pretty well stated how you would like to do things. I’ll just speak for myself. If a customer just wants their problem diagnosed so they can take it home and fix it themselves, I don’t have a problem with that and will charge accordingly. Unfortunately if the car is misdiagnosed or the part you replace is no good, you’re pretty much on your own. So don’t be shy, but don’t be pushy. Be direct, tell them what you want.

Rudeness isn’t about what you say it is about how you say it. You sound like you are being respectful and up front with the mechanic. If this is in fact the case, pay him for the diagnostic work and be on your way. It does not sound like you have any reason to feel guilty.

“Listen, I don’t know if I can afford to do the repair right now, how much would I owe you for the diagnostic work?”

This is not going to be all that much cheaper than letting them do the actual repair. The diagnosis is often the most expensive part and you’re paying top dollar.

Now imagine if they were wrong and you change the expensive part and that’s not the problem…how much money did you save?

Good advice - thanks! I understand about the whole warranty thing, I just wanted to make sure that this wasn’t some secret pet peeve of automotive technicians.

Like others have said, you just ask up front to pay for a diagnosis. Don’t wait to tell them after the diagnosis you want to do it yourself.

That’s a good point, but the only thing I worry about then is that maybe they’re not going to give it their best effort if they know they’re not going to see a penny from the actual repair.

In order to answer this I would have to know exactly what you want diagnoised. Is this a mystery noise or perhaps a drivability concern? Will you want your money back if according to you the diagnosis is incorrect (what will you do, demand the mechanic come to where you have the car torn down and see where he missed the diagnosis?)

No, nothing like that. I would accept the risks of a misdiagnosis. At the same time, I believe that I could describe the problem sufficiently so that any competent mechanic would be able to pinpoint the issue on a lift. I just don’t have the time nor the inclination to huddle on my garage floor for several hours in -10 degree weather (Iowa’s a wee bit cold right now) with a flashlight, because I don’t possess a lift.

Basically, my question was for automotive technicians, if you went to all the hard work of diagnosing an issue, and then the customer said they would fix it themselves, would you be ticked off, assuming they paid for the diagnosis? If so, is there any way to ease the situation, so that you are willing to do business with the customer in the future? Or would you be more likely to dump them, because even though they paid for the diagnosis, you can almost guarantee that you’re never going to see a cent from actual repairs?

It is hard for me to follow the description of what you want to do because the situation is entirely hypothetical( give me a real situation and I can give a real answer) but I think you can rest assured that no one is going to get his feelings hurt if you pay for a diagnosis and won’t hold anyone accountable if the diagnosis wrong.

That being said, it is best to do your own diagnosis.

This is a sticky area and much stickier than it was decades ago because quite often when a problem exists it may not confined to one thing. It could a combination of half a dozen things and diagnosis can be a half an hour or may be several weeks of poking and prodding.
Not every problem is etched in stone nor does every problem automatically set a code and/or turn on the CEL.

My suggestion is to tell the shop upfront that you are concerned about the costs of any repair and have a stopping point for any diagnosis.
It’s not fair to a tech to spend 3 or 4 hours chasing gremlins only to be told he’s not going to be paid at all or will only be paid .5 to an hour for what he’s done.

Think of it as a trip to the emergency room and telling the doctor on call to stop any diagnosis at 1 hour. You may or may not find out what’s wrong.

You CANNOT do it any other way, that would be dishonest. Your problem could require extensive time to diagnose at $60+/hr. Are you saying you would not tell them until after they diagnose the problem? How much would you pay? What if they ask for $500? You would have put yourself, and the shop, in a bad situation. Don’t do it.

Be up front, offer to pay an agreed amount for a diagnosis. If you don’t trust them to do it, you’re at the wrong shop, and shouldn’t trust their diagnosis.

I suggest that you don’t fight this too hard. I know exactly how you feel about this and so I will offer you my settled solution to this situation. Do what you can and farm out the rest. Over time as you gain knowhow from what others do for you, you will farm out less. Occasionally paying a mechanic lessens the impact of spending the money if you can learn something from the situation.

Thanks for the opinions, everyone - I am going to take it to my mechanic now, and not worry about telling him that I plan to do the repairs myself.

What if his diagnosis does not call for any repairs? It seems like you have your mind made up in regards to what the mechanic is going to tell you. If this be the case you don’t need him.

I am going to see what he says first, and then do repairs as necessary. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a garage to work in, but it’s not heated, and I’d rather just throw the car up on a lift to pinpoint the issue I’m looking at (it’s an exhaust leak, I’m fairly certain) than worry about freezing my arse off trying to find it.

Is this one of those “is it an exhaust leak or the beginnings of a rod bearing failure” type of things"?

Seemingly harmless things like this can often snowball into a raging hxxx and you’re already planning to consume the mechanic’s time (for which every single minute is important) without having him do any repairs. Sadly, you’re not alone on this issue.