We’ve all experienced that fateful day when something in our engine started to clunk, the rear brake squealed, a strange whining came from somewhere or — horror of all horrors — the “check engine” light came on. Yup, we’ve all had to take our cars to the garage at some point. And even if you aren’t big on checkups and frequent fluid checks, there’s no denying your car some attention when it starts making strange noises or emitting strange odors. Perhaps even more dreaded than the orange light on your dash is the very first trip to the garage.

Bringing your car to a mechanic can be a harrowing experience; you are handing your rather large purchase over to someone you don’t know in the hopes that he will be able to read your car’s signs of distress and fix the issue without charging you too much. So, there’s a certain amount of distrust that inevitably builds between a car owner and his mechanic.

You love your car and he loves working on your car; you have more in common than you think. Mechanics are extremely skilled individuals and a successful first encounter is based almost entirely on trust and respect for his knowledge of the situation — although, that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer your opinion or make observations about your own vehicle.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when going to a mechanic for the first time. They will help you avoid toppling the scale and getting on your mechanic’s bad side. Remember: He has access to your brake lines.

Respect the Profession

A mechanic is more than just a grease monkey; he’s a working professional — do not forget that. No one likes to be considered inadequate at their job, especially not after years of undergoing specialty training, schooling and experience.

You may not realize it, but mechanics aren’t just guys off the street who like to explore the underside of the hood. More than just having a passion for vehicles, mechanics are extremely knowledgeable about their craft. Schooling and internships are required, and if a mechanic wishes to specialize in a specific manufacturer, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMW or Mercedes, even more training and in-depth research on their part is required. It’s time to look past the garage jumpsuit exterior and see the mechanical genius underneath.

More on how to talk to your mechanic and how to get a second opinion without getting blacklisted.

Do your research

You want to help your mechanic as much as possible when it comes to fixing your car, so any detailed information you can provide him is beneficial. For example, if you hear a high-pitched screeching coming from your engine, take the time to research the problem. With such a wealth of information right at our fingertips on the internet, this should not prove a difficult task and it could help you a great deal in the end. Use search engines like Google and Yahoo to find websites directly related to your problem. Browsing web forums will also give you a chance to post messages and interact with other people who may have advice about similar occurrences.

Don’t ask his coworker for a second opinion

The one thing even more insulting than not respecting a mechanic’s profession is not accepting his expert diagnosis of your vehicle. An even bigger blow below the belt is questioning your mechanic’s diagnosis actions to his coworkers. Not only will you anger your mechanic, you are sure to turn the entire garage against you. It’ll be time to look for another automotive establishment all together; you’ll get blacklisted.

If you truly think there is an issue with the work that’s been done on your car, simply smile, get a receipt for the work done, and bring your car to another garage for a second opinion.

Question the cost politely

We can all agree that the most aggravating part about bringing your car to the garage is the surprise bill at the end. A simple job often becomes something much more complicated and expensive. While it might be a shocking total at the end, try to refrain from any unnecessary outbursts. There is no need to go ballistic on your mechanic and refuse payment because you think the total is too high. There’s more behind that cost than you think. And there is a nice way to ask about it.

Don’t automatically assume that you’ve been overcharged. That’s definitely starting on the wrong foot. Most garages will provide a detailed printout of the work done, the parts used and the labor costs. If your garage does not do this or if there is something on the bill you don’t understand, don’t assume the unknown is a scam to take all your money. Question the cost pleasantly. Ask your mechanic to talk you through the procedure, the parts needed and the costs of each. Only if he’s reluctant to divulge his secrets should you start to wonder.

Question what you don’t understand

We can’t stress this point enough: question, question, question. Nodding and grinning as your mechanic gives a detailed explanation about how and why he changed the spark plugs, where they are located and what to do in the future if the same problem should occur, while not understanding a single word of it is never a good thing.

Gaining knowledge about your car is important, so embrace the opportunity to learn about your vehicle and forge a stronger bond with your mechanic. By asking relevant questions about your car and its inner-workings you are showing respect for his profession and his opinions about your automobile.

Ask the mechanic to physically show you what he’s talking about as he’s explaining, if he has the time. Visual aids help most people to understand and this will also make you feel more comfortable around your car to investigate future problems if there is a need.

Show interest in your car

Last but not least, show that you care. Throwing your keys at the attending mechanic as you hurry off without even explaining the problem, or knowing the problem for that matter, and not caring about the price or the procedure will not make your mechanic want to work with you or for you.

By showing interest in your vehicle and its needs you will, in turn, be more attentive to problems and less likely to question your mechanic’s work when the time comes.

Making nice with the mechanic

A trip to the garage doesn’t have to be a horror show. Mechanics are only human, and they really do want the best for you and your car — after all, it’s their job. And just like you and us, they get frustrated at their jobs and sometimes have bad days thanks to unruly customers. Use the above tips to make the visit a lot gentler on both of you. There really is no need to aggravate the guy who’ll be holding your lug nuts.