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5 tips to help ensure mechanics fix your car properly

Even before work on your car begins, you should ensure the repair shop is licensed and provides you with a written estimate.

June 03, 2012|By Scott J. Wilson, Los Angeles Times
  • A repair shop must, by law, provide a written estimate before performing any work.
A repair shop must, by law, provide a written estimate before performing… (Mel Melcon, Los Angeles…)

If you need to take your car in for repairs, California laws and services can help keep you from getting ripped off. In some cases, the state will even send an inspector to check the work. Here are five things to know:

•License: Before going to a repair shop, check whether it has a valid license. Go online to the Bureau of Automotive Repair website at http://www.bar.ca.gov and click on Verify a License in the Search and Look Up Tools under the General Information tab or call (800) 952-5210. Records will show the type of work the shop is authorized to do and list any disciplinary actions.

•Estimate: A repair shop must, by law, provide a written estimate before performing any work. The estimate should describe the work to be done, the parts that will be used and the expected price. The shop must stick to the work authorized in the estimate unless you approve changes. Don't sign a blank work order.

•Parts: You have the legal right to have any parts that are replaced returned to you, as long as you request this before work begins. In certain cases, when parts are replaced under warranty, the shop may have to send the old items to the supplier, but you are entitled to see the part first.

•Inspection: If the work involves auto body repair, you can get a free state inspection afterward to check whether the job was done correctly. Call (866) 799-3811 to schedule an appointment and an inspector will come to you. Be sure to have an invoice showing the work. If the inspection reveals a problem, the bureau will contact the repair shop to get the work done properly.

•Complaint: Although the Bureau of Automotive Repair does not offer an inspection program for non-body work repairs, consumers who have problems with a repair can go to the agency's website and file a complaint.

scott.wilson@latimes.com

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