- Auto-repair shops and service centers are considered essential services, so many are still open to fix vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In line with various shelter-in-place restrictions around the country, shops have modified their operations to be in compliance and optimize public safety.
- Unless a vehicle has a serious mechanical issue or is unsafe to drive, we recommend people either wait or conduct basic maintenance jobs at home.
The coronavirus pandemic has required most people to reconsider how they conduct day-to-day affairs, and it has also forced many people to rethink how they handle once familiar situations—like the need for a vehicle repair—considering all the unfamiliar rules that are currently in place.
It used to be that when a person's car or truck wasn't running properly, they would simply schedule an appointment with their preferred auto-repair shop or dealer service center. Now that the coronavirus has caused countless shelter-in-place orders to go into effect around the country, some folks are wondering whether or not they are still able to get their vehicle fixed if necessary. The simple answer is yes, but, of course, it's more complicated than that.
What Rules Has the Government Imposed?
Despite the varied coronavirus-related restrictions that have been imposed by state governments, all of them continue to allow essential businesses to remain open. However, the definition of "essential" has been the subject of much debate. The federal government has provided guidance on what it is calling the essential critical infrastructure workforce. The vehicle service and repair industry is on that advisory list, but the feds have stopped short of implementing any nationwide directives or standards. Instead, they suggest that individual jurisdictions use the list to help dictate which businesses are essential. The federal government also encourages smaller governments to add or subtract from that list at their own discretion.
How Have Service and Repair Shops Responded?
So, what does this mean? It means that most people will still be able to get their vehicle fixed despite the different shelter-in-place orders. While we can't speak for every shop in every city in every state, Car and Driver's headquarters is located in southeastern Michigan, which is among the areas in the U.S. that have been hit hardest by the virus. We continue to take in the vehicles in our long-term fleet for service and maintenance, but we have noticed changes to the usual routine. Business hours have fluctuated, staff sizes have shrunk, and drop-off and pickup procedures have been updated to minimize human interaction.
Franchises all over the country such as Discount Tire and Pep Boys have implemented similar operational and safety measures due to the coronavirus. Many dealerships nationwide have adapted to shelter-in-place restrictions and overhauled their typical operations. For example, Longo Toyota, a large dealership in Southern California, has had to close its showroom. However, general manager and president Douglas Eroh said in a statement posted on the dealership's website that their inventory can still be purchased online and delivered directly to customers.
The dealership also continues to operate its service, parts, and collision centers, except now with a slew of new precautions in place. These include some of the aforementioned safeguards as well as mobile service, where their technicians will come to people's homes to service their vehicle. The dealer has also implemented hourly cleaning of areas that are highly touched throughout its facility.
When Should I Take My Car to Get Fixed?
As a result of the government orders—and as a matter of public safety—we recommend that people only schedule a repair if their vehicle is unsafe to drive or if it has a serious mechanical issue that prevents essential activities such as going to work or getting groceries. Since many of us should be limiting our travel at this time, it's all right not to change a car's oil right on schedule or to not have its tires rotated for a while. In fact, this time is a great opportunity for people to learn how to maintain their car during the pandemic. Of course, we understand that there are some issues that can't wait, so we recommend people call their local auto-repair shop or dealer service center to see whether or not their vehicle should be seen by a professional.
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