Write Right: Service Writing Basics
May. 09 2017
May. 09 2017

The first “writing” part of the job requires the Service Writer to translate what the Customer is saying or “reporting” into a format that can be easily read and understood by the technician.

Service Writing Basics

The industry standard format to begin writing a symptom is:

“Customer reports…”
“Customer states….”
“Customer requests…”

A symptom should almost always end with:

“Please check and advise.”

Here is an example of a typical verbal customer statement and how a symptom should be written to support their statement on an estimate or repair order.


“Lately, I’ve noticed my car taking a little while longer than usual to turn over. Like, first thing in the morning when I am leaving for work – I’ll start my car and usually it cranks about two times before it starts. Now It takes about 3-5 times. I also notice that my dash lights and gauges dip a little when it is cranking. But – when it finally starts – everything is fine! When I stop for coffee, turn it off and restart it 10 minutes later – it starts right up!
Pretty much – it’s only when I leave it overnight or don’t drive it for a day or two.”


Customer reports hard starting condition after letting the vehicle sit overnight or during an extended period of time. During engine cranking, dash lights and gauges drop slightly. Please check and advise.

Here are a few examples of well-written symptoms. Notice the structure and how there is enough detail to explain to the technician exactly where to start.

  • Customer reports constant illumination of the Check Engine Light during vehicle operation. Please check and advise.
  • Customer reports engine oil leaking from the front (engine area) of the vehicle, during vehicle operation. Please check and advise.
  • Customer reports “mold or mildew” smell emanating from vehicle ventilation system during air conditioner operation. Please check and advise.


The other “writing” part that the Service Writer is responsible for is writing work descriptions.

Work Descriptions are written for the technician as a request to carry out a specific job, once a customer commits to work.

For example, if a customer requests a brake job – it should look something like this:

Remove and replace front brake pads and rotors. Torque and lubricate fasteners and moving parts based on manufacturer’s specifications. Please perform and advise.

The basic format of writing work descriptions in the industry can differ. The goal is to clearly state the work to the vehicle being requested so that the technician will be able to understand what to carry out – without any question. Writing these accurately and in a proper format is important, as the more clear and concise a Work Description – the less interpretation it leaves the reader.

When working on safety related items, such as the example brake work description above, you might also want to consider mentioning “torque and lubricate fasteners and moving parts based on manufacturer’s specifications.” This not only serves as a reminder to the technician performing the work, but also gives peace of mind to the customer that this important item was requested and performed.

A work description begins with something like:

“Customer requests…”
“Remove and replace…”
“Please perform…”

A work description typically ends with:

“Please perform and advise.”


Here are a few example Work Descriptions:

Oil Change

Perform conventional oil change using the correct conventional oil and filter types based on manufacturer’s recommended specification.

Complete Tune-Up

Remove and replace engine oil and filter, air filter, cabin air filter, spark plugs and wire set, PCV valve, and drive belt(s). Inspect all hoses and fluids. Torque and lubricate components based on manufacturer’s recommended procedures and specifications.

Remove and Replace Alternator

Remove and replace Alternator. Torque fasteners to manufacturer’s specifications. Check condition of drive belt and ensure correct operation of alternator.

Writing right solves problems before they begin, it is is the first and most important step in effectively managing your shop.

Want to see how ALLDATA can improve shop efficiency? Check out our suite of products, each designed to contribute to both shop efficiency and productivity.

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