Independent repair shops

For reasons of inertia and because the price of routine maintenance has been reasonable, I've had my 2013 Outback serviced at a dealership
since I got it. But now I'm starting to encounter some actual repair needs and am considering switching to an independent repair shop.
AAA has its own repair facility in my area, and they also have some recommended shops. I'm sure that all of those have the equipment to read the computer codes on today's cars, but are there any potential downsides to going somewhere that doesn't specialize in your brand of car? I've gotten the impression over the years that every car has its own unique "gotchas," and I wonder whether a generalist would know about those. If there are certain things to look out for in a 2013 Outback, how likely is it that a shop that only sees a few 2013 Outbacks each year would know about them?
Any thoughts on this, or suggestions of what questions to ask to ensure that a shop will take proper care of my car, including spotting incipient problems?
Patty
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On 6/5/2018 4:34 PM, Patty Winter wrote:

Wife, '08 Forester, and I, '16 Forester, have been sticking with dealer. He has a big new shop, service is prompt, price is reasonable and they even wash the car for free with service.
For a few years back I was taking my '03 Forester to a more convenient place and service was good but could be annoying as when waiting for car they always came out, told me to sit down, and brought a list of extra things to do. I had traded in the car because head gasket was about to go for the 2nd time and their repair would have cost more than when the dealer did it maybe 4 years before.
I thought it was strange that my brother with a Forester like mine got his first service at Jiffy Lube. Might be because dealer is an hour away but he is retired from working with dealers all his life as service writer, service manager, sales manager and car salesman with Chevy dealers and should know better.
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On 6/5/2018 4:34 PM, Patty Winter wrote:

I routinely took my '08 Outback to a local general repair shop mostly for things like oil and filter changes, tire problems, brake pads and the like. Certainly not rocket science and no special knowledge required for most things on a Subie. I surely wouldn't take a vehicle of any sort to Jiffy Lube though.
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On 6/6/2018 5:42 PM, John McGaw wrote:

Up until my last Subaru, I was doing my own oil and filter changes and simple things like wind shield wiper blades. Over the years, the Forester has made oil changes easier and easier. On my '16 you could change the oil and filter without ramps. Cabin air filter can be changed without taking out a bunch of screws. Dealer charged a '13 owner $54 to replace a cabin air filter which you could buy and replace yourself for $15.
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Sure, but what but actual problems, like funny noises?

The AAA-approved shops I was talking about certainly don't include Jiffy Lube! Besides, I mentioned "independent" and JL is a chain.
Patty
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Sorry, typo: "What about actual problems?"
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On 2018-06-07 00:37:52 +0000, Patty Winter said:

You might try https://www.cartalk.com/mechanics-files where you can search by location, car make and model.
Here in Boulder, Colorado we have the excellent SuperRupair which some say is the largest independent Subaru service shop in the U.S.. They have been maintaining our 'ru's for 16 years and some 300,000 miles. With any luck you'll find a shop like that near you.
We've purchased 5 out of our 6 Subaru's new and taken them to SuperRupair when they fell out of warranty. Interestingly, I've recognized ex-staffers from the local Subaru dealership working at SuperRupair; apparently they pay enough -- and the working conditions are good enough -- to lure experienced Subaru techs away.
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On 6/5/2018 4:34 PM, Patty Winter wrote:

I go to a local independent shop for very specific jobs, such as changing tires, or replacing headlights, etc. Stuff that I know exactly what the problem is and what needs to be done. The owner/operator doesn't present me with a bunch of additional things that need fixing, and does exactly the work I asked for. They don't have ultra-modern equipment, so they do these basics. Some other independents might be better equipped, so they ask for money-per-job too.
I have three categories of garages I go to depending on the situation, in order of expense (lowest to highest): (1) is the independent mentioned above, (2) chains such Canadian Tire, Mr. Lube, etc., and (3) dealers of course. I start off with the first category, and take it out to each successively higher category depending on how complicated the job is. If I need something diagnosed like a CEL warning, then I'll usually go to the dealer, everything else will go through the lower-order shops. Even the CEL warnings I can often do those myself, as I have an OBD-II reader Bluetooth module that I can just hook up wirelessly through my laptop or cellphone, and read off the code myself. If the code seems relatively straightforward, I'll go to my independent shop and tell him what the code says and tell him to fix it. If it's more complex then go to the dealer.

I'm sure the AAA-endorsed shops are fine, but they are likely to be much more expensive too. I'd put the AAA shops in my 2nd category, chain shops. Local indies might be just fine too, without the AAA endorsement. Consider giving them the business for more common jobs like wheel and tire, oil changes, etc.

Spotting incipient problems, you'll always have to go to the dealer for that, they are equipped to inspect your car specifically for known-issues which only they will know about, of course. However, before letting them fix those problems too, let them give you a report of the problem areas, and then shop for better prices around town for each of those jobs. You'll find the chains and independents will do the same job for much less.
    Yousuf Khan
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