The Ethics of Automotive Repair and Servicing

April 4th, 2022

Today we’re going to be talking about the ethics of automotive repair.

Unfortunately, every industry or profession contains some bad characters who’s actions and business methods can hurt the reputation of everyone else. In the automotive world, industry associations and professional licensing organizations are committed to high ethical standards.

Yet some people remain uncomfortable and suspicious with automotive service and repair. It may be the fact that our vehicles are a big investment and we rely on them for so much in our lives. That alone guarantees our attention along with how well we understand the recommendations being made to us, really impact our comfort level.

If we understand what’s being recommended and the benefits of taking care of the work versus the pitfalls of putting it off then we’ll have more trust in the recommendation. So communication is key. It’s like going to the doctor; If your doctor is using medical jargon and they take a lot of their basic medical knowledge for granted, we will have a hard time following their train of thought. It can be like that with your service advisor too. They’re so familiar with all things automotive, he may forget you don’t know your PCV from an EGT.

If you don’t understand what your doctor’s talking about: ask some questions. If you don’t understand what your automotive advisor’s talking about: ask some questions.

Let’s go back to those ethical standards; when we hear a repair recommendation, the first thing that we always ask ourselves, “Is this really necessary?” Well, here’s the industry standard:

If a technician tells you that a repair or replacement is required it must meet the following criteria:

  1. The part no longer performs its intended purpose
  2. The part does not meet a design specification
  3. The part is missing

For example, it you take your car in for a grinding noise when you step on the brakes, you may just think that you need new brake pads. After the inspection, the technician informs you that you have a cracked rotor and need to replace it.

If you tried to get him to simply put new pads on, he would say that if you didn’t want to replace the rotor; then they would ethically have to refuse the repair.

To just put pads on a cracked rotor would have been very wrong. The brakes could have failed at anytime and needed to be repaired correctly and not just have a band-aid slapped on them.

Now, looking at something not so serious, the technician may suggest repair or replacement if:

  1. The part is close to the end of its useful life – just above discard specifications or likely to fail soon
  2. To address a customer need or request – like for better ride or increased performance
  3. To comply with maintenance recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer
  4. Based on the technician’s informed experience

Of course, the technician has the burden of making ethical recommendations and properly educating their customers. For the customer, if you are uncomfortable with a recommendation, ask some questions. More information is always a good thing.

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