WHEN I first got into cars many years ago, there were car shops that would specialize on certain brands, so the Mercedes guy would go to shop X while the japanese car guy would goto shop Y. At that time the technology in cars was not advancing in the same way as it is now. What the mechanic learned in vocational school is enough knowledge and skill to address most of the car problems. The brand specialization was more due to the tooling of the shop and not the technolgy involved. Mercedes, for example, needed a lot of special tools for it to be serviced, so a shop that would cater to Japanese cars would not service one not because
they do not understand, but simply because they do not have the tools.
Today, car repair and maintenance is very different. Technology is changing very fast with the advent of electronics and computers being integrated into our cars. Car specialists now are differentiated by technology and brand. To find out whether or not a car shop is capable of being a competent shop is first to look at the diagnostic equipment it has. It is not necessary that a car shop has the most modern diagnostic equipment. What is important is the car shop has the proper diagnostic equipment for your car. There are generic car diagnostics computers know as OBD1 and OBD2. Cars from 1996 onward are OBD2. Generic car diagnostics can read only engine parameters and sensors and fault codes that are common to all cars. These parameters are mandated by some legislation abroad, which car manufacturers chose to follow. Then there are the car specific diagnostics computers that read all other parameters in the car in addition to the engine parameters. Thus, when an ABS warning light goes on, an OBD2 scanner will not be able to see the fault, so the car specific scanner will be needed.
The next thing to check are the technicians of the car shop. It is important that a car shop has a technician who has been properly trained to use and analyze the data from the diagnostic system. Notice I used the word technicians instead of mechanics, as modern cars need technicians.
Cars of today are like humans in a way when they are sick. The shop is the hospital and the technician is the doctor. The diagnostic equipment is the lab. When a car has a symptom, like for example a rough running engine and the diagnostic scanner says “cam timing overadvanced”. What it does is it tells the technician what is wrong, but it cannot tell what is the cause.
Finding the cause now rests on the skill of the technician. In, this case it could be one or more parts that is the cause of the problem. A skilled technician would fix this easily and a moron can screw it up just as easily.
With modern technology, why do I still hear of a lot of complaints in car repair? Even dealers have their fare share of complaints for incompetence. I have heard and seen a lot of horror car repair stories. I have also seen and heard alleged car repair failures that were really not failures.
There are difficult repairs and easy maintenance repairs. For the difficult repairs, it is usually a combination of faults in the car and there are times not all faults could be seen, thus, there can be problems after the repair. Difficult problems should be viewed by the customer as an ongoing process until all is solved, especially with the way cars have become complicated nowadays. A screw up for simple maintenace like changing a sparkplug should be unforgivable.