Feel Confident About Car Repairs

March 9, 2009

Have you ever taken your car in to be serviced only to find yourself walking out with a lighter wallet, wondering if you really needed that rear alignment, coolant flush, and a new power steering pump? While ignoring your mechanic’s advice to replace your paper-thin brake pads probably isn’t wise, there are a few areas where you can save money and gain confidence.

Read Your Car’s Manual
Remember the phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Your grandmother may have been talking about your health, but she could just as easily been referring to your car. Whether it’s maintaining your power steering fluid, having your drive belts inspected, or just keeping an eye on your tire pressure, following your car’s recommended service schedule can save you hundreds down the road. 

All About Tires
You may want to think twice before dropping more than $25 on a tire rotation. Yes, rotating your tires increases their lifetime, but spend more than $25 and you’ve blown any money you would have saved. Another option is to ask your mechanic to rotate your tires when they’re off for another service. You shouldn’t have to pay extra.

If you need to replace one tire, you may be told to buy a whole set to work best with your car’s suspension. But in most situations, buying a pair is just fine. Don’t replace only the problem tire: go with a pair to avoid difficult, even dangerous, handling.

Know Your Engine Type
Just the words “timing belt” can cause a shudder; and with good reason. Many engines have been severely damaged by a broken timing belt. Many interference engines, that is. Being stuck on the side of the road is about the worst that can happen in a car with a non-interference engine. While you should change the timing belt when recommended to avoid being stranded, find out which kind of engine you have before prematurely replacing it. 

The recommendation for a tune-up traditionally has been every two years or every 30,000 miles. But a full “tune-up” is becoming outdated. Most modern cars have computers that regulate engine performance—some even let you know when it’s time for regular servicing. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for monitoring service needs, though. Check your manual for maintenance schedules. 

Be Informed and Be Smart
Having a mechanic that you trust is one of the best ways to avoid wondering whether the wool is being pulled over your eyes. Ask friends for advice when choosing a mechanic. Make sure that anyone who touches your car is ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified in all areas. Always ask a lot of questions, and look closely at your bill to make sure it’s not being padded. And require everything in writing BEFORE work begins.

Written by our friends at DivineCaroline and CarTango.

About the Author

Divine Caroline is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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