“When someone is looking for an automotive shop, it’s important that you have a relationship with them,’’ said Croce, who has owned her shop on 301 Main Ave. in Norwalk for 16 years along with her husband, Tony. "Get recommendations from friends and family,'' she said. “Look to make sure they’re involved in the community. Read reviews. Have a minor maintenance done, like an oil change or a brake inspection or any routine maintenance items to get a feel for the shop. What kind of warranty do they provide? Are the recommendations clearly explained? Handle it like you’re interviewing them for a job, because that’s exactly what you’re doing. You have to be comfortable with them.”
Croce said information found on the internet from reliable sources such as ATRA, The Car Care Council and ASE, can help car owners. She also cautions, however, that only qualified mechanics should be working on vehicles.
“Many vehicle owners have an outdated perception of the industry,’’ she said. “People have a concern about their vehicle and they’ll think it’s something major and they worry about the expense. That’s why it’s important to find someone they can trust. If they feel their shop is a resource or safe zone, they won’t be afraid to get an in-person quote. They’ll know they’re being treated fairly.”
Croce frequently finds car owners who may seek out “codes” at big box stores that help them analyze performance issues. “They don’t realize that the code is just a starting point,’’ Croce said. “You need further diagnosis. People will say this code is this, and can you give a quote over the phone. Shops that give quotes over the phone are doing people a disservice. They’re just throwing out numbers. The vehicle has to be properly evaluated. This can save time and money."
She equates the current automotive repair landscape to visiting a physician. “The doctor has all this experience and will say you need have some tests done, and we all accept that,’’ Croce said. “If you’re not a doctor you don’t want to diagnose yourself. It’s the same with auto repair. Today’s vehicles are complex. You want a professional to do it.”
Furthermore, Croce said, evolving technology has made it harder for weekend mechanics to keep up with changes. Croce’s mechanics take frequent seminars and classes to stay abreast of changes.
“Young men and women coming into the auto industry today are really bright people,’’ she said. “Make it the shop’s responsibility to find out what’s wrong. You don’t want to leave it to guesswork. Some people will go buy a part, replace it, and it doesn’t fix the problem. That code could mean six, seven or even more possible things. It could be even be just a loose wire. It doesn’t always mean a costly major repair. You just don’t know. It can be expensive and time consuming for vehicle owners to guess.”
Croce realizes car owners have different wants and needs when it comes to vehicle value. She also realizes that cars are the lifeblood of just about any American family, which illustrates the importance to work with a shop and mechanic you can trust.
“Whether it’s our shop or another, it’s important to really build that relationship with them,’’ Croce said. “The shop should be looking out for your best interests and empowering you to make informed decisions. That’s what any shop should be doing. We all know we really depend on our vehicles being safe and reliable."
Readers can find links to vehicle safety tips and a car care guide on Croce's website resources page.