Cars need to be maintained on a regular basis in order to run properly. If you own one that is past its warranty, there’s a good chance you’ll use a local repair shop. These facilities are often cheaper than the dealership; however, not all mechanics are reputable, and some auto shops do whatever they can to make a buck.
To avoid spending more money than necessary, there are some things you should know before dropping your vehicle off at the garage down the street. Check out the following advice from experts in the industry.
Not All Mechanics Are Top Notch
Do your research when looking for a reputable repair shop. It can be hard to find a good mechanic, so you may need to shop around a bit before you settle. You can also ask friends, family members, and locals for advice.
You know a mechanic is good if he or she thoroughly explains the repairs required and has some options for you to consider. Don’t just go to the closest shop because it may not be the best one in your town.
Some Services Aren’t Necessary
Have you ever gone for an oil change at a quick lube shop only to be pressed to do a coolant flush or power steering flush? These are big moneymakers for these types of shops, and they’re not always necessary. The best thing to do is to check your owner’s manual.
These days, many vehicles can go 100,000 miles using a particular fluid. Also, avoid getting the fuel injectors cleaned because you can purchase additives to do the job.
You Can Change Your Own Oil
It’s not too hard to change your own oil. And since it’s one of the most common maintenance procedures, it’s worth considering. While many auto shops try to get you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, many modern vehicles can go 10,000 miles or more without needing a change. It’s just one way a shop makes fast money.
If you have some extra time and don’t mind getting a little dirty (or finding a place to dispose of the old oil), you can easily change your own and save some money in the long run.
That Check Engine Light Is Probably Not Critical
Some people get really stressed out when the check engine light pops up on the dashboard, but there’s a good chance that it’s merely letting you know that a minor issue is occurring, such as a problem with the exhaust system. It’s okay if you don’t address it right away unless you have a really old car.
Eventually, you’ll have to get it checked out, but it’s usually not a big deal if you can’t do it expeditiously. However, if the check engine light starts flashing make sure you get it checked out ASAP.
You’ll Save Money If You Buff Out Blemishes Yourself
Body shops make a lot of money because they repair cosmetic damage on all kinds of vehicles, which is something the average consumer has no interest, or experience, doing. Even minor dents and blemishes can cost $1,000 or more to fix. But you can fight back by doing your own touch ups.
If you have a scratch or scuff that needs repair, simply buy some products on your own to take care of the problem. While it may not quite as professional looking as what a body shop can do, it can still produce reasonable results.
Installing New Brakes Is Not That Hard To Do
If you have even a tiny bit of mechanical know-how, you can change your own brake pads and motors. Auto shops make a lot of money from these types of jobs. That’s because while the task itself isn’t very hard to do it can be time-consuming. Therefore, they make a lot of money due to labor costs.
You can use a jack, but it will take a few hours even if you’re only changing the brake pads. The job is much easier and quicker to do if you have a hydraulic lift.
Inexpensive Tires May Be Old Stock
Depending on what type of vehicle you drive, tires can be expensive. That means it can be hard to pass up a good deal when you see one. However, you need to make sure that the tires you get are good quality. When you visit a shop, ask to see the “build date” of the tire.
That good deal may apply to tires that are several years old. This can be dangerous, particularly if you’re buying snow tires. While saving money is important, safety is even more important.
A Lifetime Muffler Deal Isn’t Really A Bargain
Some shops promote deals such as mufflers that will last a lifetime. That sounds like a bargain, right? But it’s not. The problem is that while the shop will repair and replace the muffler for free, it’s not including other parts.
The muffler is only one part of the exhaust system. If you need to have the pipes repaired, then you’re responsible for their cost and probably the labor as well. Don’t get sucked into deals that seem too good to be true because they probably are.
There are Some Jobs A Dealer Should Always Do
Once a car moves out of the bumper-to-bumper/powertrain warranty period, many people avoid the dealership like the plague. The biggest reason is because dealerships tend to be more expensive than local repair shops. However, some jobs should always be carried out by the official manufacturer.
This includes work on a catalytic converter or emissions parts. Consult with the dealer first because these components often have long warranty periods. Also, federal law requires that they are replaced for free. It’s worth double-checking just in case.
Never Bring Your Car In For Repairs On A Friday Afternoon
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you need repairs on your vehicle, schedule an appointment but don’t make it on a Friday afternoon. That’s because, just like you, the mechanics often want to finish quickly so they can get on with the weekend.
As a result, they may rush the job and won’t do it as thoroughly. The best time to take your car in for repairs is earlier in the workweek. The employees won’t feel as stressed to finish the job.
Mechanics Don’t Catch Every Little Thing, Particularly If They’re In A Rush
Nobody’s perfect, not even mechanics. This is particularly true if an employee is working on your vehicle and has a time limit. He or she may miss something or forget to do something simple such as lubricate a hinge or other mechanism. While little things like this may not matter in the moment, they may affect performance over time.
The best thing to do is make sure that every little thing has been completed before you drive away from the shop. That way, you have peace of mind knowing your vehicle has been completely checked over.
Not All Tires Need To Be Replaced
It’s important that you familiarize yourself with your vehicle before you take it into the shop. That includes the tires. Don’t buy new ones unless you know you need them. A bad mechanic may try to sell you tires when the ones you have can last a few miles more.
Check the tread specifications yourself, and make sure the mechanic measures the tread with a gauge. That way, you know for sure that the tires are either ready for replacement or fine for another season.
A Good Shop Won’t Try To Scam You
You’re right to be suspicious if an auto shop advises you “not to drive your vehicle another mile.” This is one scam some mechanics may try to pull if they think they can get more money out of you. If you feel like you’re being pressured to do certain repairs, take your car to another shop.
Also, check to see if the facility has one of the following certifications: ASE, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or AAA (America Automobile Association). In addition, make sure it has a state license. Good auto shops will display this information.
High-Tech Devices Are Not Their Shtick
Many newer vehicles come with fairly complicated infotainment systems that can include an audio system and Bluetooth technology. Some mechanics can work on these types of devices, but most concentrate on issues with the engine, transmission, and drivetrain, not anything screen-related.
If you’re having a problem with your car’s in-dash system, it’s probably better to take the vehicle to the dealer. They are more experienced in dealing with those types of issues. Plus, you don’t want a mechanic who’s unfamiliar with the technology to make things worse.
Inferior Chinese Parts May Be Installed Instead Of Brand Names
Like other businesses, auto shops do what they can to save money. Unfortunately, some of their cost-saving procedures can adversely affect you and your vehicle. When you need a part replaced on your car or truck, ask for a brand name.
The problem is that some shops use cheap parts from China if they can get away with it. These parts are often inferior in quality and not as durable as more established brands. Make sure the mechanic uses high-quality components, and ask to see the box to ensure that the part was actually installed.
You Should Mimic The Weird Noise Your Car Is Making Rather Than Describe It
Don’t be embarrassed when talking to your mechanic. If your vehicle is making odd noises, you need to do whatever you can to get the point across–including mimicking the noise to the best of your ability. It’s often a lot easier and quicker for you to try to make the sound yourself rather than describe it.
Your description may not make any sense to the mechanic, but the funny noise you emit may actually help them better determine the cause of the problem.
Working On Cars Can Be Dangerous
It’s not always easy being a mechanic, and it’s certainly not the cleanest job in the industry. While most mechanics don’t experience severe injuries on the job, they do get a little banged up now and again.
It’s not uncommon for employees in an auto shop to experience hot oil spills or to drop heavy tools on the feet. They also get scrapes and bruises from working on vehicles and have occasionally been bumped by cars.
Some Local Auto Shops Lack The Resources Dealerships Have
Many people prefer taking their vehicles to local shops because they want to support small businesses. However, not all of these shops have the resources to work on all types of makes and models. Independent shops may not have all the tools that a dealership does because they’re very costly.
So, before you take your slightly used BMW or other import to a local repair shop, make sure it has the tools to repair it. Otherwise you can waste a lot of time.
Tacky Add-Ons Are Just That: Tacky
If you want to soup up your vehicle, you have every right to do so. But you might want to think twice about adding that racing stripe to your Honda Civic. Many auto shops have no problem boosting the look of your car with aftermarket accessories, including spoilers, strange wheels, and exotic paint.
Since it’s not really hard for them to do these jobs, a lot of auto shops will simply take your money and carry out your request. But a good mechanic or auto guy will be honest about any tacky requests and suggest more attractive alternatives.
There Are Times When Investing In A New Car Is The Best Thing To Do
Many people cringe at the thought of buying a new car because it can cost a lot of money upfront. But there are many advantages. Typically, new cars run really well the first few years of service life, and if something does go wrong it’s almost always covered under the warranty.
Plus, new cars provide the latest and greatest in technology. Local mechanics, of course, work largely on used cars. They won’t make as much (or any) money if you’re driving something new.