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Have any of you come up with any good ways to extend your fuel supplies? Gas is usable in what ever grade you can find but diesel is a bit different. Temperature is a key factor. I am curious what mixtures could be made say of kerosene, jet fuel, and motor oil. Would it be possible to mix some or all of these with diesel fuel to extend supplies?

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Here are some good tips for those times when you cannot do it yourself.

 

Bing: Find a Local Mechanic

 

But how can you tell a good mechanic from a bad one without a lot of trial and error?

 

To find out, we turned to Tony Molla, a spokesman for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and a certified automotive technician who has been "turning wrenches" for more than 40 years, and to Ray Cox, another certified technician who serves as a consultant for AutoMD, a consumer service website that helps people diagnose car problems and find qualified mechanics.

 

Based on what both experts had to say, we came up with seven questions to help you evaluate a mechanic. Simply ask potential candidates each of the following questions, and compare the responses to the right and wrong answers we provide. At the end of the questionnaire, tally the points for each answer to see whether your mechanic is a good bet or a nightmare waiting to happen.

 

Read: Worst Things a Mechanic Can Tell You

 

Can you show me around your shop?

 

Don't expect a garage full of mechanics to drop everything in the middle of a busy morning and give you a grand tour. However, a shop that's proud of its work, employees and equipment should not hesitate to make an appointment for you to come in during a slow period and give you a quick look around. Don't be afraid to ask questions about anything you see. Trust your gut instincts. Does it look clean and well-maintained? "If a shop looks like a salvage yard, then I wouldn't do business with them," Molla says. He also advises that you pay attention to the people. Are they friendly and attentive? Do they sound competent? "If you get one-word answers and you basically feel like you're communicating with a dolphin because all you hear are grunts, clicks and whistles, then you generally want to move on," Molla says.

 

KEEPING SCORE

Right answer: "Sure, come by at 10 a.m. and I'd be happy to show you around."

Score: +2

Wrong answer: "Look pal, we don't have time to tour every client around. You pay us to work on your car, not to chitchat."

Score: -1

 

Can I see the certification credentials of the mechanic who will work on my vehicle?

 

"Would you have your taxes done by an 'uncertified' public accountant?" Molla asks. Of course not. You definitely want an ASE-certified technician working on your vehicle. While Molla might be biased, he's not wrong. You also want to make sure that those credentials are up-to-date and relevant to your vehicle's repair. "Every five years you need to get recertified," Cox says. And just because the technician is certified to work on brakes doesn't mean he's qualified to work on transmissions. "There are eight different disciplines that ASE certifies," Molla says. A technician certified in all eight is called a master technician.

 

Also look for documentation such as membership in the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau, as well as any other training certificates from organizations such as AC Delco or NAPA. "The best shops will go out of their way to post as many of these things as they can, because they want their customers to know just how much they are devoted to doing a good job," Molla says.

 

KEEPING SCORE

Right answer: "Everybody in our shop is ASE-certified. We have specialists in multiple disciplines, and their credentials are posted on the wall."

Score: +2

Wrong answer: "Credentials don't mean anything anyway. You learn by doing, not by taking some fancy classes."

Score: -5

 

Watch Video: Costly Car Mistakes

 

How many years have you been in business?

 

"There's no substitute for experience," Cox says. "Shops that have been in business for many years are proud to say it." The combination of certification and experience should guarantee that the mechanic who works on your vehicle has a deep history with the repair work you need and up-to-date knowledge. The question also shows that the shop has roots in the community. No one wants to upset the neighbors.

 

KEEPING SCORE

Right answer: "Our shop has been in business in this town for over a decade. We have plenty of seasoned pros here, and the new guys work under them until they know the ropes."

Score: +4

Wrong answer: "Look. Those old-timers are old, slow and don't know how to work on a modern car. We're a young shop that will get the job done."

Score: -1

 

Try the new MSN Autos mobile app, available on multiple platforms.

 

What kind of warranty do you have on parts and labor?

 

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Any reputable garage should provide a warranty on its labor; 60 to 90 days is typical, 30 days is the bare minimum. The parts should come with their own warranty from the manufacturer. EBC brake pads, for instance, come with a 12-month, 10,000-mile warranty. It's often a sign of good parts if they come with a longer warranty. If the shop you're visiting won't show you a warranty policy on both parts and labor in writing, that's a red flag. "Obviously, you don't want to take your car into a shop doesn't guarantee its work," Cox says.

 

KEEPING SCORE

Right answer: "We offer 60 days in labor, and we use parts that have anywhere from a six-month to a lifetime warranty."

Score: +1

Wrong answer: "Trust us, the work is solid. You don't need anything in writing, just come back if there's a problem and we'll take care of it."

Score: -2

 

Read: Maintenance Made Easy

 

Can I have my old parts back?

 

You are entitled to get back any parts that are replaced on your vehicle. "In the state of California, for instance, it's law," Cox says. The exception to the rule is with remanufactured parts. According to Cox, sometimes your original parts are surrendered as a "core" charge against a discounted rebuilt part. Essentially, you are buying the remanufactured part, then getting a refund for the cost of your core damaged part. What you pay is the difference between the two parts. This is typically the case for complex items such as pumps and transmissions. Regardless, you can still ask to see the part. Any shop that refuses to show you the part or hand it over could be hiding something.

 

KEEPING SCORE

Right answer: "We'll be happy to return all of your old parts to you after the repair."

Score: +1

Wrong answer: "What do you need a bunch of broken parts for? Those don't typically go back to the customer."

Score: -1

 

Have you ever worked on this model of car or made this repair before?

 

Just as valuable as experience is relevant experience. Not only will those mechanics who have experience working on your model of car know what to look for, but they will also likely have the tools needed to work on your car. "See if there are vehicles similar to your car in the shop when you go in there," Cox says. There are also plenty of resources online to help find a shop that can repair your type of vehicle. Some shops specialize in particular brands and will advertise themselves as such.

 

KEEPING SCORE

Right answer: "We have a guy who specializes in Ford transmissions. He knows Mustangs inside and out."

Score: +3

Wrong answer: "You got one of those foreign jobbies, eh? No matter, I can fix anything."

Score: -2

 

Read: 9 Ways to Save on Car Maintenance

 

Can I get a written estimate before you do any work?

 

This is nonnegotiable. Nobody should put a wrench to your car before giving you an estimate. And once the repair is under way, any work above and beyond that estimate should be cleared with you before it's done.

 

If you don't like the first estimate you get, feel free to shop around. "If a mechanics is confident and knows what he's doing, he should feel totally comfortable with that," Cox says. Just because a shop looks under your hood, you are under no obligation to give them your business.

 

KEEPING SCORE

Right answer: "Here's a written estimate for the cost of the job, broken down into parts and labor. If we find anything else when we're in there, we'll give you a call before we do anything."

Score: +2

Wrong answer: "It's impossible to tell how much it's going to cost before we get in there. It could be anywhere from a loose exhaust pipe to a busted piston."

Score: -4

 

Tallying the final score

 

Now tally the scores for each right or wrong answer to see where your mechanic or shop places on the scale below.

Any shop that scores between 12 and 17 points is a good bet.

Any shop that scores below 10 should probably be avoided.

Any shop that scores negative numbers shouldn't be in business.

 

Sam Foley is a Connecticut-based automotive journalist who has written for GQ, Forbes, USA Today, the New York Post and various other publications

 

Something else you can do is ask the guys at the auto parts store you trade at who they think is good at working on the type of vehicle you have . And you can always check with your local better business office to see if they have complaints against a shop. As in any investment .... due diligence is a must.

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