MOTORING: Should you trust your mechanic?

MOTORING: Should you trust your mechanic?

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | I recently had to send my car to the mechanic – and things did not go according to plan; mainly because this was not my usual mechanic but one supplied by the car dealership in the Banda neighbourhood of Kampala city. I suspect this mechanic is used for ease of access – because he is located just a minute from the car dealers.

Anyway, I got this creepy feeling as soon I entered the premises. I, however, hoped the crew had not noticed and proceeded to play along. Meanwhile, I googled about how to spot a mechanic you should trust to share with my Motoring Guru.

The best article I caught just sent my heart racing because, according to the writer, rule number of assessing whether to trust a mechanic or not is to ensure that the mechanic is a specialist in a certain brand of vehicle. He/She will be up-to-date with the latest developments and changes on that vehicle brand. My man scored zero on cars of my type as there was none in the garage, 30% on small trucks, and 80% on motorcycles which had a whole section.

On the second rule: Take the time to explore the workshop and, in particular, look at the tools and equipment, the functionality and general appearance of the workplace. The place did not have any permanent shed or office. Just open ground, a bench, and a tiny metal sheet shack.

On three: Ask questions on the type of parts generally used and the staff’s experience (certificates). It was not possible but I assumed no certificates because the crew could not speak English.

But it is Rule Four that broke the deal. It says: Look for a workshop that has been accredited by a reputable association. This will ensure you are dealing with a workshop that has been assessed and certified and there is recourse should you not be satisfied with the work carried out. Unfortunately, Uganda does not have many of these for quick jobs. So, many of us are quite comfortable working with roadside mechanics. Even then, we expect some professionalism. I did not sense any when the crew started tinkering.

I am wary of mechanics who dive in without getting the case history first. Today’s vehicles are mainly electronic and diagnosing a problem can be complex even with the onboard computer. So I was not taking chances. I ordered a stop and called the supplier. Was I over-reacting? Should I have let the guys carry on? May be.

But the online article consoled me. According to it, I am not alone in distrusting mechanics. It cited a survey in which it polled readers on the question: “How do you feel about mechanics in South Africa?” Out of 20, 198 votes, up to 5,203 said mechanics are “dodgy, the lot of them” and only 1,370 reported ever “having a great experience with mechanics”. The majority, 8,770 said “a few bad apples ruin it for the rest” and 3,206 said they “sometimes receive good service”. Only 1649 vote that “SA has qualified, profession technicians. I wondered what the figures for Uganda would be.

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