How to Find the Best Auto Repair in Sonoma, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Santa Rosa CA
When you're looking for the auto repair in Sonoma County, you want honest car mechanics you can trust. Identifying good car repair shops in Sonoma, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Santa Rosa CA is easier with the information in the following articles. Some mobile auto repair services in Sonoma County may even be willing to come to you. Whether you need specialists like Santa Rosa BMW repair shops, muscle car repair shops to restore that '78 Chevy Chevelle or GTO to top running condition, or the most affordable car repair for old clunkers you need to keep running, here you'll learn what to expect. The following research by The Prime Buyer's Report identifies the best auto repair shops in Sonoma County and issues related to hiring them.
Updated October 23, 2016
|European Sales & Service|
Send an email to this Company
920 Petaluma Hill Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
BAR License #AB145194
Areas Served: Santa Rosa area including Santa Rosa CA, Windsor CA, Mark West CA, Fulton CA, ...
Services: Exclusively Mercedes Benz repair & Smart Car repair, Mercedes Benz engine overhaul, ...
Key Brands: Bilstein Automotive Shocks, Bosch, Laso Original Spare Auto Parts, Lemforder Auto ...
|Windsor Truck & Auto Service|
Send an email to this Company
7763 Conde Lane
Windsor, CA 95492
BAR License #258963
Areas Served: Santa Rosa CA, Windsor CA, Roseland CA, Fulton CA, Kenwood CA, Mark West CA, ...
Services: auto repair, truck repair, engine repair, all car repair services
Key Brands: NAPA Auto Parts, Motocraft, ACDelco, OEM parts
|Glen Ellen Automotive|
15195 Arnold Dr
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
70 W North St # F
Healdsburg, CA 95448
|Hot Rods Healdburg|
1444 Grove St
Healdsburg, CA 95448
|Petaluma Auto Works|
1308 Dynamic St # 1
Petaluma, CA 94954
|Petaluma Auto Craft|
619 Petaluma Blvd S
Petaluma, CA 94952
How to Find the Best Auto Repair in Sonoma, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Santa Rosa CA
Auto repair shops in Sonoma County CA must be licensed by the State Bureau of Automotive Repair as protection for consumers. They are not required by law to have liability insurance; however, all auto repair shops bearing The Prime Buyer's Report—TOP 10 symbol have liability insurance coverage to reimburse you in the event of any damage to your vehicle, in addition to passing all other requirements for certification as Prime Buyer's Report—TOP 10 such as our survey phone calls to their previous customers, hiring only documented workers, verified license, clean complaint record, and more.
Auto repair shops do everything from routine maintenance including the scheduled maintenance recommended by the manufacturer (30K/60K/90K), diagnostics including the use of sophisticated modern computers, car winterization, major engine overhauls, suspension work and fleet service for local businesses like taxi companies, rental companies, trucking companies, etc. But some shops are better than others. Some have more investment in the latest diagnostic equipment, have more bays and lifts to reduce waiting time and increase turn around time, higher education and qualification levels of their mechanics. Some have more comprehensive experience and technical capability allowing them to perform all aspects in-house while others may have to send your car out to a specialist for certain aspects of the work.
If your car has started exhibiting symptoms like a lit check engine light, engine stumbling, trouble idling, lack of power, difficulty starting, or a number of related issues, you may need a mechanic who can perform a full auto diagnostic scan to find the exact problem. Most auto repair shops should be able to perform general auto repairs including tune ups, belt replacements, car radiator service and engine hose replacement. The best car repair services will also be able to do more complicated auto repairs like fuel injection and carburetor service, ignition and battery checks, suspension sales and service, performance add-ons and aftermarket accessory installations, engine overhauls, valve jobs, head gasket replacement, and even full engine replacements.
Check Engine Light / Free Check Engine Light Diagnosis
A trip to the mechanic is often preceded by a check engine light warning. A check engine light can be due to something as simple as a loose gas cap or the need to add oil. But it can also be an indication of a more serious problem that will get worse the longer it goes unattended. Various national chains have advertised a free check engine light diagnosis in Sonoma County. Bear in mind that free check engine diagnosis probably consists of just a few moments to connect a scanner to your vehicle and get the read out of the trouble codes. The problem with this is that trouble codes are just a starting clue to a technician as to what might be wrong. Some trouble codes will indicate a failed sensor that hasn't really failed. One of the most common trouble codes indicates a misfire and the easiest suggestion by a shop is start with a tune-up and see if that fixes the problem. Then when it doesn't you've paid for a tune-up you didn't need, and wasted time and money. Another code indicates that a new catalytic converter is needed at $2,000 but might really be just the need for an exhaust gasket or O2 sensor. That's why good, honest mechanics will follow up the engine diagnostic and trouble codes by a test drive and a closer look at the engine.
Another issue is the scanner used for that free check engine light diagnostic. Likely it is done with the OBDII scanner, a low cost generic scanner that can cost as little as $35 but it will not display all the information that the appropriate scanner for your make and model would. A model-specific OE scanner can cost as much as $5,000 so usually only an auto repair shop that regularly services your make and model is likely to use it. Before undertaking that free check engine light diagnosis, ask if the generic OBDII scanner will be used or one specific to your vehicle and if you will get written documentation rather than a recommendation only. Often, a mere verbal recommendation is a sign they're just guessing at what's wrong, where getting written documentation means they've done what's necessary to know for sure, such as a test drive or using a scanner specific to your car. The documentation prior to undertaking repair work gives you potential recourse for a refund for that work if the solution proscribed in writing turns out to be wrong, which is usually not the case if you spend for services based on a verbal recommendation.
The following tips will also help you to choose and communicate with a local car repair service.
With so many different types of cars, trucks and SUVs, auto repair shops can fill many different niches, from BMW repair only to the most affordable for that old get-around car. There are a few basic steps you can take when looking for a place you can be confident about.
Don't wait until you have a car repair emergency. Shop around for good car repair shops and auto mechanics in Sonoma County before you really need them. You'll likely make a better decision when you're not rushed by having to deal immediately with a breakdown or major car repairs, so it pays to do some research ahead of time. Choosing a good auto repair shop with honest mechanics now for regular maintenance is also the best way to avoid major car repairs by keeping your vehicle in top running condition.
Plan ahead. If you can, arrange for a ride before you take your car or truck in for repairs. This way, you won't need to pick a shop just because it's closer to home.
Do a test run with a shop. It's a good idea to work with a car repair shop on small repairs before trusting their mechanics to handle a major car repair. Call ahead and schedule a basic service such as a tune-up. Usually, customers with appointments have priority over walk-ins. This will give you a chance to see how they operate and experience their customer service. Are they busy? Do they get your work done quickly? Are the other customer vehicles in their parking lot the same make or same value as your car or truck? Note how clean and organized the office and shop are. Pay special attention to the attitude of the car mechanics and the staff.
Understand the basics. Mechanics should be able to answer your questions and make time to discuss your concerns. The best auto repair shops in Sonoma County have professional staff. Make sure they answer your questions and give you the information you need to make a good decision. Some shops specialize in certain makes of car or in certain repairs. It is important to know an auto repair shop is able to work on your car and handle your particular car repairs.
Pricing. If your vehicle is still under warranty, make sure they will honor the warranty. Find out how they price auto repairs—is there a flat rate for each type of repair job or are prices based on parts and labor? Get in writing a detailed estimate and contract before going ahead with any car repairs. But remember—price shouldn't be the only factor. Cheap rates can mean lower standards, cheap knock-off parts or less-experienced mechanics. Look for shops with both fair pricing, experienced repair technicians, and quality parts.
Warranties & Guarantees. Find out if the car repair shop is backed by a national warranty plan, especially if you travel out of the local area frequently in your car. Such national warranty plans typically cover parts and labor on your vehicle anywhere in the country for 12 months or 12,000 miles.
Get it in writing. Policies such as guarantees, labor rates, accepted methods of payment and business hours will be posted in good auto repair shops. You should also be able to get in writing quotes for specific services, detailed estimates and exact warranty coverage for your car's repairs. Keep all paperwork the shop gives you. Even though they keep customer files, it is a good idea to keep your own records.
Discuss any problems. If you are unhappy with the service, give them a chance to make it right. Communication is important, so talk with the owner. The management at good shops will listen to your concerns and work to fix the problem. They have a personal interest in making you happy and keeping your business. Honest auto repair shops in Sonoma County will take responsibility for their work.
Some Auto Repair Shops in Sonoma County Are Much Better Than Others
The Prime Buyer's Report lists these auto repair shops in Sonoma County: European Sales & Service, Windsor Truck & Auto Service, Glen Ellen Automotive, Import Motorworks, Hot Rods Healdburg, Petaluma Auto Works, Petaluma Auto Craft, . Others car repair shops in Sonoma, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Santa Rosa CA that might still be in business include: , , , Truck-Tech Auto & Smog. Didn't find what you wanted with the TOP 10 Auto Repair Shops in Sonoma County? Then click here to see additional companies in this category.
Step 1: How To Describe Your Need
First, know the make, model and engine type of your car. Your owners' manual will have all of this information. Be consistent in the way you explain the information to each shop so that each one will have an opportunity to diagnose the same job. If you are experiencing car problems, make sure you have a good idea of what the symptoms are and when they occur (e.g. vibration when idling, metallic noise when in gear, difficulty tracking at highway speeds, etc.). Some might suggest they need to see the car first before saying anything, but if your description is specific enough, good mechanics can make an educated guess about the problem and the car repairs that might be needed.
Step 2: Ask & Answer
Take note of what questions the auto mechanics have about your car's problem. How detailed are the questions? Do they exhibit a firm grasp of the details of your problem or just seem to want to get you in and out?
If possible, speak with the owner or most senior auto mechanic at the car repair shop. Ask these questions about the abilities, experience, and credentials and write down their answers:
• How long have they been in business?
• Do they charge inspection fees or diagnostic charges to assess car repair problems?
• Can they give you names and numbers of customers you can call as references? (All auto repair shops bearing the Prime Buyer's Report—TOP 10 symbol have already had their customer references called by research staff at The Prime Buyer's Report so you don't have to.)
• How do they determine pricing? Do they charge a flat fee or base the price on hours worked?
• Will the put the initial estimate in writing?
• How often do they do repairs on your exact car make and model?
• Do they have OE diagnostic equipment specific to your make and model? An OBDII scanner is a generic low-cost scanner that will not return all the possible trouble codes. A make/model specific scanner, also referred to as an OE scanner (Original Equipment), is made specifically for a certain make of car and is pricier to buy, so not every shop will have it.
• Will they provide you with written documentation prior to you undertaking the repairs? Written documentation is their assessment of what work is required and it's protection for you. In case they're wrong about what the problem was, you might be able to get a refund or the necessary additional repair at no cost. A verbal recommendation on what they think you should do does not provide the same protection for you. Get it in writing.
• Have they had other instances of this type of car needing the exact service you're asking about?
• Do they specialize in the car repairs you've described?
• Do they use OEM parts (original equipment manufacturer) or instead, lower quality aftermarket parts, used auto parts or salvage auto parts? Those lower quality options might be cheaper, but a good shop should only use them when they explained it to you as an option and let you weigh the risk versus the short term cost savings. The best shops use OEM parts and cheap auto repair shops will use the low-quality substitutes without your knowledge, which is how the shop appears cheaper when it really isn't.
• Do they have garagekeeper's liability insurance to protect you in the event of damage to your car while it's in their possession or as a result of the repair work? (All car repair shops bearing the Prime Buyer's Report—TOP 10 symbol have already had proof of insurance verified by our research staff so you don't have to.)
• Will the work performed by the shop affect your manufacturer's warranty?
• Will they honor your car warranty?• What kind of warranty do they give on their car repairs?
• How long should it take to complete your car repairs?
• Do they provide a loaner car while they are repairing yours?
• What action would the auto mechanic take personally if this was his car?
When you've chosen the best car repair shop for your needs, make sure they are properly licensed with the State of California . (All auto repair shops bearing the Prime Buyer's Report—TOP 10 symbol have already had their state license verified by research staff at The Prime Buyer's Report.)
Step 3: Making the Final Decision
Once there, ask for an itemized, written estimate for the car repairs to be done. You have the right to a detailed breakdown of every auto repair service listed in the estimate. This will help avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings about what car repairs are to be done and what the price will be for each. Ask them to provide a written and signed pricing, timing, quality, and warranty agreement. Always ask to see damaged or worn parts they claim they replaced.
SIGN AN AUTHORIZATION FORM PRIOR TO ANY DIAGNOSIS OR INSPECTION
Get a written authorization to sign which authorizes the auto repair shop to inspect and diagnose the problem, and which itemizes all costs for the diagnosis, any extra costs that you incur if you do not have them do the repairs, and in what state your car will be returned (assembled or disassembled). You do so because some car repair shops agree to what they say is a free diagnosis, but after the car has been taken apart, they tell you about an exorbitant charge to have your car put back together.
GET ESTIMATES IN WRITING, IN DETAIL, EVEN IF THEY ALREADY TOLD YOU VERBALLY
Get the estimate itemized in writing, even if they already told it to you verbally. The written estimate can prevent disputes later, and having it written in detail can remind you of something to ask, add, or remove that you might have overlooked. You are not troubling the shop by asking them to put it in writing. A professional repair shop will be used to doing so.
REVIEW THE WRITTEN ESTIMATE CAREFULLY
Verify the written estimate includes all charges, i.e. labor, towing, parts, storage, rental car, or any other charge.
GET ALL DETAILS ABOUT THE AUTO PARTS
If the work involves replacing parts, ensure the estimate states whether the parts are brand new or instead are used/refurbished, and if they are OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or not. OEM parts are those made by the same company who supplies the parts to the auto maker and which your car was built with by the factory. Non-OEM parts, referred to as aftermarket parts, are usually cheaper but will not last as long. That can be okay with you depending on your plans for the car but you deserve to make an informed decision and give your consent either way.
HAVE ONE POINT OF CONTACT WITH THE AUTO REPAIR SHOP
Don't let someone else like your boyfriend, child, or sibling also get involved with the shop during the process of getting the estimate. Dishonest auto repair shops will use that as an excuse later by claiming you owe for repairs the other person supposedly said okay to.
GET THE AUTHORIZATION FORM IN WRITING TO SIGN BEFORE ANY WORK BEGINS
Make sure the written authorization form itemizes all charges, states that the only charges are those outlined in the form, and includes the date by which the work will be completed and your car returned to you. Tell the car repair shop to put there in writing that you are to be given all old parts that were replaced, along with the box the new parts came in. This gives some assurance that the new parts you paid for really were installed. Some auto repair shops have been caught defrauding people by charging for parts that were never installed.
DON'T REFUSE TO PAY THE BILL, EVEN IF THERE'S A DISPUTE
It will only make things worse for you. If there's a disagreement with the auto repair shop which you can't resolve, don't refuse to pay the bill. They have the legal right to keep your car until you pay, and can add daily storage charges that run to thousands of dollars. So pay but put in writing that you don't agree with the charges and are paying under protest. Then pursue a complaint with the California State Attorney General's office and/or a civil suit such as in small claims court. Don't pay with a check with the intent to cancel the check once you have your car back, because the shop can legally repossess your car as a result.
Common Auto Repair Terms and Definitions
Active suspensions / active suspension systems - Also called a computer-controlled suspension system. A computerized vehicle system able to control body roll, body pitch, brake dive, acceleration squat and ride height. Suspension systems are controlled by double-acting hydraulic cylinders or solenoids (actuators) mounted at each wheel. Actuators support the vehicle's weight, instead of conventional springs or air springs.
Axle / Front axle / Rear axle - A cross member supporting a vehicle on which one or more wheels are mounted. Can also refer to a pair of wheels on a vehicle.
British Car Repair Shops - Are those that specialize in British car repairs for popular models such as Jaguar and Mini Cooper repair services, and also luxury british cars with Bentley and Rolls Royce repair services. Sporty models like like MG, MGB, and the Triumph are no longer in production but British car repair specialists in Sonoma County are more familiar with car repairs on these British car models than average car repair shops. The same is true for Austin Healey and Aston Martin repairs in Sonoma County.
Check Engine Light - A warning light, usually located on the instrument cluster. When lit, it indicates possible engine problems or system problems that require engine repair or other auto repair services.
Cylinder - The round holes inside an engine block that make space for the pistons.
Cylinder Block - The basic framework of an engine. All other parts and assemblies are installed or attached to the cylinder block.
Cylinder Head - The part of the engine that covers cylinders and pistons.
Detroit Diesel Two-Stroke Engines - A type of engine where air enters the cylinder through cylinder liner ports
Diesel Engine - A compression-ignition engine that runs on diesel fuel. Many popular German auto brands are known for their diesel engines, such as Mercedes Benz and BMW (Bavarian Motor Works). The popularity of diesel engines for German cars and European cars generally has several reasons. A diesel engine is cheaper to run than a gasoline engine, since diesel fuel is less expensive. Next, diesel fuel has 20% more energy per gallon than gas, and almost double that of ethanol. Diesel engine repair shops in Santa Rosa including Mercedes & BMW repair shops in Sonoma County will repair diesel cars, but may also repair diesel trucks and buses, bulldozers, tractors and other large vehicles.
Engine - The device within cars and trucks that burns fuel to produce mechanical power. It converts heat energy into mechanical energy.
Engine Overhaul - To perform engine repairs on an auto that are more than simple repairs but not as extensive as an engine rebuild.
Engine Rebuild - To perform an extensive engine repair including machining, reboring, and honing to factory-stock specifications. This is a much more extensive process than an engine overhaul.
Flooding the Engine - When too much gasoline is metered into an engine for combustion.
Front Suspension - The system that supports the weight of the front of the vehicle. Most cars have an independent front suspension.
Front-Wheel Drive - A drive system that transmits power from the engine through the front wheels. The rear wheels do not power the vehicle.
Gasoline Engine - An engine that runs on gasoline, a liquid blend of hydrocarbons used as automotive fuel and processed from crude oil.
Hot Rod Repair Shops - Car repair shops that specialize in hot rod repair in Sonoma County are servicing typically American cars with big engines modified for high speed. These are often older models like Ford, Mercury, Chevy models from the 1920's to 1960's. These can include heavily modified hot rod models like the Ford Model T, Ford Model A, Ford Coupe, Chevy Master Deluxe, Hudson Hornet but also more modern and foreign makes like Volkswagen Beetles or Fiat. Hot rod repair shops in Sonoma County are familiar with highly modified, large, high performance engines.
Italian Auto Repair Shops - These are Italian car repair services Sonoma County that specialize in Italian cars like Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Maserati, Lancia, Fiat, Bugatti, DeTomaso, and others.
Muscle Cars / Muscle Car Repair Shops - American made rear wheel drive cars of the late 1960's to mid 1970's that were 'small' cars (compared to their engines) which came with large powerful V8 engines and sold as everyday cars for regular street use. Common examples still being serviced by muscle car specialists in Sonoma County are the Plymouth Road Runner, Pontiac GTO, Chevy Chevelle, Dodge Charger, Ford Gran Torino, Oldsmobile 442, Mercury Montego, AMC AMX, Plymouth GTX, AMC Rebel, Chevy Nova, Chevy Malibu, Dodge Demon, Ford Cobra, Plymouth Duster, Oldsmobile Cutlass. These muscle cars were mass-marketed, but the automakers understood that they would attract customers interested in what was essentially a turn-key racing machine. Although sales were modest, they were considered prestige cars for the automakers. Muscle car repair shops in Sonoma County will be very familiar repairing & restoring the Hemi engines and other large V8 engines found in American muscle cars. A sub-set of the muscle cars are known as "pony cars" and include smaller-sized large-engine cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro and Plymouth Barracuda. There are muscle car repair experts in Sonoma County who specialize in Ford Mustang repair, and repair of other pony cars.
Radiator - A heat exchanger that removes heat from the cooling system coolant, containing a vertical-finned or horizontal-finned tubing section connected between two tanks.
Rear-Wheel Drive - Autos powered by the engine through the rear wheels.
Turbo Charger Repair (Turbocharger Repair) - A turbochargers purpose is to boost horsepower. A turbo charger should last as long as the engine but it's possible for debris to get into the turbine or compressor. Turbo charger repairs may also be needed if the lubricant is dirty or too low, or if the exhaust gas temperatures from the injection system are too high. There are some turbocharger repair shops and turbo charger repair experts in Sonoma County who can perform a turbo charger inspection. If turbo charger repair services in Santa Rosa or Sonoma County cannot repair the turbo, then they can install a new or refurbished turbocharger. While you might attempt turbocharger repairs yourself, you're best off finding a turbo charger repair expert in Sonoma County.
Winding the Engine - Running the engine at top RPM (Revolutions Per Minute).
Licensing & Trade Associations Related to Car Repair in Sonoma County CA
AAAM Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine www.carcrash.org
AAIA Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association www.aftermarket.org
AASP Alliance Of Automotive Service Providers www.autoserviceproviders.com
ACA Automotive Composites Alliance www.autocomposites.org
ADS Association of Diesel Specialists www.diesel.org
AERA Engine Builders Association www.aera.org
AIAG Automotive Industry Action Group www.aiag.org
ASA Automotive Service Association www.asashop.org
ASCCA Automotive Service Council of California www.ascca.com
ASE National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence www.asecert.org
BAR California Bureau of Automotive Repair www.autorepair.ca.gov
BBB The Better Business Bureau www.bbb.com)
CSSARA California Service Station and Automotive Repair Association www.cssara.org
Diamond Certified www.diamondcertified.org
NARSA National Automotive Radiator Service Association www.narsa.org
NATEF National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation www.natef.org
SAE Society of Automotive Engineers automobile.sae.org
SEMA Specialty Equipment Market Association www.sema.org
Magazines/Media Related to Auto Repair in Sonoma County CA
Car and Driver
Road & Track
Sport Compact Car
Turbo And High Performance Magazine
Turbo And High Tech Performance
US Auto News
The Prime Buyer's Report provides information for the TOP 10 Auto Repair in Sonoma County CA within the following zip codes:
95472, 95402, 95471, 95412, 95480, 95444, 95441, 95439, 94928, 95492, 94999, 95448, 94954, 94975, 95476, 94955, 95473, 95403, 94972, 95450, 95425, 94931, 95407, 95416, 94952, 95406, 95446, 95421, 95431, 95433, 94951, 95497, 95404, 95462, 95487, 94953, 95430, 95409, 95486, 95408, 94922, 95452, 95401, 94923, 95442, 95436, 94927, 95465, 95419 and 95405
The Prime Buyer's Report provides information for the TOP 10 Car Repair in Sonoma County CA within the following cities:
Mark West, Cazadero, Alexander Valley, Kenwood, Temelec, Cloverdale, Camp Meeker, Occidental, Forestville, Rohnert Park, Penngrove, Bodega, The Sea Ranch, Healdsburg, Fort Ross, Russian River Mdws, Sonoma, Annapolis, Geyserville, Cotati, Santa Rosa, Roseland, Glen Ellen, Vineburg, Fetters Hot Springs, Guernewood, Guerneville, Schellville, Fulton, Lytton, Asti, El Verano, Russian River, Rio Nido, Freestone, Windsor, Villa Grande, Graton, Duncans Mills, Monte Rio, Sebastopol, Petaluma, Boyes Hot Springs, Sheridan, Bloomfield, Bodega Bay, Larkfield, Salmon Creek, Stewarts Point Rancheria, Agua Caliente, Two Rock, The Geysers, Lakeville, Valley Ford, Eldridge, Jenner and Fallon