How to speak to your mechanic

By Kijiji Autos
Mechanic at work on a car tire

You want to provide the best information possible, but you also don’t want to sound clueless. To simplify your auto troubles, start by learning how to speak your mechanic’s language.


Brakes should provide a great response to pressure and should do so silently. Does the act of braking feel slower than before? Is the pedal spongy or unresponsive, requiring more force than before? Are there noises occurring when you’re beginning to, or are in the act of, braking? Describing brake issues to your mechanic should mean telling them how it feels when you brake and what types of noises you hear when you do.


Your car isn’t starting. This type of issue can come from a whole host of scenarios. What happened the last time you started the car successfully? Think about your car as the scene of a crime: The mechanic is the detective who is going to figure it out for you. Do any lights on the dash come on? Does the engine make any noise when it’s trying to turn? Being specific as possible helps them figure out where they should turn their attention to first.


Keeping track of some common information, such as your last alignment and rotation, makes sharing information about your wheels less complicated. Tires have ratings and require these services to give you every kilometer you pay for, but don’t try to play it cool. There are simple tests your mechanic can perform to determine if your tires were treated right. Let them know if the car is floating to one side as you drive or if you have to fill the air up more frequently on one tire than another.


Your computer speaks in a coded language, one that technicians are able to decode with special readers. For most of us, we’ll see a check-engine light on our dashboard and assume the worst. Telling the mechanic which lights are coming on and when they’re appearing (intermittent or constant) gives them a better initial understanding of what might be happening. They’re then able to use their code readers to reset the computer (yes, sometimes this can fix the issue!) and determine if there are additional problems.


Oil, coolant, steering … your car consumes more fluids than someone on a juice cleanse! Keeping your car’s fluids clean means having them replaced at regular intervals. However, if you’re forgetting to take the car in regularly, it could lead to other major issues with your car. There’s also the opportunity for leaking (think spots or stains on the driveway as you back out). Stating the date of your last oil change or coolant top off gives the mechanic a guide. The color, frequency, and size of any stains are worth noting too.

There are other ways that you can help a technician – photos and videos. With the advent phones that double as cameras, recording (when you’re not driving; please ask the passenger for help!) what’s going on provides actual examples of your car’s issues. Bumps, knocks, or screeches might feel like great ways to describe what’s happening, and they are, but wouldn’t it be better if the mechanic is actually able to hear it?

Be honest about your vehicle’s maintenance history. Don’t fudge information to make it sound like you’ve taken better care of your wheels than you actually have. Your mechanic will know.

Mechanics aren’t there to judge you. They’re working for you to help make your car run right again. By following these tips, you’ll be able to give them the necessary information to help make that happen.

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