Professional Technicians
Timing is everything. Fall is the perfect time to undo the damage done by summer driving and to get your vehicle ready for the tough winter conditions. So it should come as no surprise that October is National Car Care Month.

But given the complexity of today's vehicles, many motorists, including former do-it-yourselfers, are looking for professional auto technicians as "tune-ups" have become "engine performance diagnoses" and on-board computer systems, electronic climate control, anti-lock brakes, digital dash boards, and other advanced systems grow popular.

The following tips from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) should make finding a qualified automotive technician easier.

ASK a number of friends or business associates for recommendations.

BE sure to call your local consumer organization and inquire about the reputation of the place of business in question. Look for a relatively neat, well-organized facility with up-to-date equipment and polite service personnel willing to discuss your repairs and answer your questions. Policies concerning diagnostic fees, labor rates, guarantees, and other policies should be posted.

CHECK around for an auto technician certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. ASE, a national, nonprofit organization, certifies automotive technicians by means of nationally administered tests. Technicians voluntarily take these competency exams in from one to eight automobile specialties, such as Engine Repair or Brakes. There are also exams for medium/heavy truck and collision repair technicians, engine machinists and parts specialists.

Those who pass and fulfill the hands-on work experience requirement are awarded ASE credentials attesting their competency. The certified technicians are then eligible to wear the blue and white ASE shoulder insignia.

Not only are these credentials meaningful to the technician, they are reassuring to his employer, and important to you. They are the extra assurance that your technician knows his or her stuff. All ASE-certified technicians must recertify every five years in order to remain current with technology and to stay in the program.

Currently, there are 425,000 ASE-certified technicians across the country in every kind of repair facility from new car dealerships, service stations, independent garages, to franchised outlets.

Shops that employ these certified technicians often display the blue and white ASE outdoor sign and post their technicians' credentials in the customer service area.

Officials with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence remind motorists that their involvement can help make for a successful automotive repair the first time.

Among ASE's recommendations to consumers:

  • Read your owner's manual.
  • Become familiar with the basic components and systems.
  • Follow the manufacturer's service schedules.
  • Make note of noises, unusual odors, changes in performance, and handling.
  • When describing your vehicle's problem(s), be concrete, but resist the temptation to diagnose.
  • Have small problems repaired before they become major headaches.
  • Keep good maintenance records.

ASE has prepared a brochure, "How to Communicate for Better Automotive Service." For a free copy, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: ASE Communication Brochure, Dept. CCC-R97, 13505 Dulles Technology Drive, Suite 2, Herndon, VA 20171.