Car services and repairs

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Getting your car serviced

  • Whether new or used, your car should have come with an owner’s manual that sets out scheduled services and required maintenance work at each service.
  • You may be able to have your car serviced by an independent mechanic (rather than a dealership) without affecting the manufacturer's warranty, as long as repairs and parts used are consistent with manufacturer standards
  • Follow the maintenance schedule to keep your car in good condition and to avoid breakdowns or expensive repairs.
  • If the car is still under warranty, check its conditions regarding choice of repairer and manufacturer specifications.
  • If you have a problem with a new car still under warranty, refer to the warranty and speak with the licensed motor car trader who sold you the car.

Finding a mechanic

Ask friends and relatives for the names of reputable mechanics. Find out if any of the suggested mechanics belong to associations such as RACV and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), whose members must follow a code of conduct.

Make sure staff working for the mechanic you choose are qualified and the business has the necessary equipment to do the job. Look around the premises before handing you car over. A clean and well-organised workshop signals a business run efficiently.

Communicating with your mechanic

When you book in your car for a service, clearly explain to your mechanic what type of service you require. Different costs are associated with different types of services. If you do not have an owner's manual or handbook and are not sure what your car needs, ask the mechanic to explain what is involved in each type of service, and its associated cost.

Take note of the following tips:

  • Provide as much information as possible. This will make it easier for the mechanic to identify faults.
  • If there are any specific mechanical problems with your car, tell the mechanic when these occur - for example, on cold mornings or when slowing to a stop.
  • Go for a drive with the mechanic to point out any problems.
  • Point out anything that needs checking - do not assume problems will be found.

Get an estimate of cost

  • Ask for a written estimate before having any work done. The estimate should include:
    • work to be done
    • parts to be supplied
    • estimated time of completion
    • method of payment
    • estimated parts and labour costs.
  • Diagnosing a car’s problems is not always straightforward. Intermittent faults are often difficult to identify. The mechanic may also find other faults before starting repairs. Keep in mind that these problems may not have been included in the original quote.
  • Make it clear you must be called before any work commences on any repair you have not authorised. Be wary of mechanics who ask for up-front payment.
  • After obtaining your estimate, ask the mechanic to let you know of any work that needs to be done on the car in the foreseeable future, so you can develop a maintenance plan.
  • If you sign a job card when leaving your vehicle, make sure it specifies the action to be taken (for example, general service; if repairs are required, the card should specify what types of repairs).
  • If somebody else is taking your car to the mechanic, ensure you explain what you want done. Remember, as your agent, that person will bind you to a contract with the mechanic - but it will be your responsibility to pay.
  • The mechanic is legally required to keep a record of each vehicle that comes in for repair. Therefore, before leaving your car, you should be asked to sign a job card or repair order.
  • Ask about the manufacturer’s warranty on parts and the mechanic’s warranty on work done. Make sure these details are noted on your invoice.

Using second-hand parts

  • Any second-hand airbag used must be one that has not been activated previously.
  • The mechanic must give you any parts removed from your car if you ask for them, except those that must be returned to the manufacturer for warranty claim purposes.
  • If you want the parts, ask the mechanic for them when you leave your car.

Your vehicle must meet construction standards that ensure a minimum level of safety for drivers and passengers. For more information, view the Vehicle standards information page on the VicRoads website.

VicRoads vehicle standards information sheets 19, 21, 25 and 26 particularly relate to the standards that apply to modifications and repairs made to vehicles.

Paying for services and repairs

  • Before you pay, obtain an itemised account listing the work undertaken and how the costs were calculated.
  • Get a receipt and keep it safe, in case of future problems. A clear record of regular servicing and repairs may add to your car’s resale value.
  • If you cannot pay for the work and you have not come to any financial arrangement, the mechanic has the right to keep your car until you can pay. This is called a ‘mechanic’s lien’.
  • In some cases, the mechanic can also charge a storage fee. Your best option may be to try negotiating instalment payments prior to agreeing to the work.

Smash repairs

We recommend you take out insurance on your vehicle. This way, if it gets damaged in an accident, the insurance company will cover some or all of the repair costs, depending on your level of coverage.

The insurance company will also manage much of the process for you (such as dealing with the smash repairer), although you should try to keep as informed as possible about the work being done to your vehicle.

For more information, view our Car insurance page.

If you are not happy with a repair

View the information on our If you are not happy with a car repair page.

Last updated: 20/09/2016

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