2008-06-14

Consider using a AAA approved auto repair shop  

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My last article mentioned how AAA approved shops are a great way to find a competent, honest auto repair facility. I wanted to share with others why I feel this way, and illustrate a true story involving AAA and how they resolved a repair issue with a customer's car. Keep in mind that I have no ties at all to AAA, other than being a member.

The requirements to become a AAA approved auto repair shop are pretty stringent. A shop needs to have ASE certified techs in each area of repair. The shop is inspected for the proper equipment and facilities, including cleanliness. Surveys are done of past customers to determine satisfaction. If you do a search for approved shops at AAA.com, you will probably not find that many in your area. I believe this is because there just aren't that many shops able or willing to raise the quality of their business to the level required for AAA approval. If you have a local AAA approved shop near you, I recommend that you at least check it out, and apply my criteria mentioned in my prior blog. I bet you will find that the shop passes all of my tests.

The best part of the AAA deal, in my opinion, is that should anything ever turn ugly, you can go to AAA and they will mediate for you. They have a lot of leverage against their approved shops, and can make things right quickly. That is assuming you are being reasonable, of course. It also assumes you are a AAA member. Keep in mind though, that even if you aren't a AAA member, you can still get the list of AAA approved shops and check them out. You just aren't going to get AAA to go to bat for you if there is a problem.

OK, so here is the story that illustrates my point. Now keep in mind that the shop in question was not a AAA approved auto repair facility, but was a AAA approved towing facility used by AAA. A customer was driving a 1986 Nissan 300ZX. The car dies in Newark, NJ, so he calls AAA for a tow. The tow truck tows the car back to its own shop in Elizabeth, NJ. They diagnose the problem as a bad fuel pump. Unfortunately, the new fuel pump quickly broke, and the customer got a run around from the shop, and got charged for hundreds of dollars worth of additional repairs all in an effort to solve the mysterious fuel pump issue.

Eventually, the customer comes in to my employer's shop with the Nissan and explains the situation. Sure enough, the car has yet another bad fuel pump, so we install a new fuel pump and check fuel pressure. We quickly determined that the fuel pressure regulator was stuck closed, forcing the pump to run at max resistance, which will quickly destroy the fuel pump. We ordered up a $36.00 regulator and the problem was solved.

The AAA towing shop refused to offer the customer a refund. The customer presented the case to AAA, and shortly thereafter received a check from the AAA shop for a full refund. Without AAA's leverage here, the customer would have had to go to small claims court to get any type of refund at all.

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