Buying a car is not like buying a new water bottle or a kitchen table—you can’t shut your wallet after the initial purchase. Once you buy the car, you have to keep paying for its upkeep. Car maintenance and repairs get pricey, so here are nine things to avoid to keep auto repair shop bills as low as possible.
Not Getting a Second Opinion
According to cartalk.com, dealerships charge an average of 15% more than an independent mechanic. Unless your car is still on warranty and you can get repairs done at little or no cost, an independent mechanic is the more economical choice.
When you decide to visit an independent mechanic, you have two additional options: a repair shop chain or a privately-owned garage. When in doubt, get a quote from a dealership, a repair chain, and an independent, privately-owned garage, and pick the one that fits your budget.
Not Asking for Your Parts Back
If you need to get a part in your car replaced, ask the mechanic to put the old part in the new part’s box and return it to you. That way you can be sure the replacement actually happened.
Ignoring the Little Things
Oil changes, tire rotations, seasonal tune-ups, and emissions tests are time consuming, expensive, and easy to ignore. Many drivers have the mindset of, “if it’s not making a strange noise or breaking down, the car is fine.” Ignoring the little maintenance services will lead to bigger, more expensive problems.
If you have a hard time remembering what services your car needs, start a “car calendar” or download an app to help you manage your car’s scheduled maintenance needs.
Leaving Everything Up to the Mechanic
Learn simple repairs or maintenance services to save money in the long run. The internet is full of car-repair tutorials. Pick the repairs you are comfortable with performing, like oil changes or light bulb replacements, and you won’t have to pay a mechanic to help you with the small stuff.
Leaving Nothing Up to the Mechanic
Don’t diagnose the car problem yourself and then tell your mechanic what to fix. Let the professionals with the tools and know-how decide what’s wrong with your car so you don’t waste money on repairs that won’t actually solve the problem.
Not Getting a Written Warranty
If a mechanic installs a new spark plug that stops working after two weeks, you’ll have to pay for a second repair unless the first spark plug installation came with a written warranty. It’s not enough to hear a mechanic say he will back up his repairs—as they say: get it in writing!
Failing to Communicate
If you don’t go to the same mechanic for every repair, keep your own record of repairs to show to the next mechanic you visit. Just like a doctor can learn more about you by looking at your medical charts, a mechanic can better understand how to fix a car when he sees what work has previously been done.
Ignoring Warning Signals
Smells, sounds, and warning lights should not be ignored. You should not smell burning rubber when you drive down a canyon. You should not hear a grinding noise when your car shifts gears. And that check engine light? It’s not supposed to be on.
Like physical human ailments, car problems are best handled with early detection. The longer you drive a car that needs an alignment, for example, the more unnecessary wear your tires will suffer. Pay attention to what your car is telling you. When in doubt, ask a mechanic. Many garages, such as Speedy Apollo, a location for auto repair in Calgary, welcome walk-ins during their business hours.
Not Giving your Tires Regular Attention
It’s easy to forget that tires need maintenance too, until you have to fork out hundreds of dollars to replace them. To increase the life of your tires, make sure you rotate them, get their alignment checked, and monitor their air pressure regularly.
You typically only need a tire rotation about once a year, and you only need an alignment if there’s a problem. However, you need to check the air pressure in your tires every time the seasons change. Air contracts in cold temperatures and expands in hot temperatures, so you may need to add air or let air out during the year to keep your tires running at their best.
The way you treat your car has a lot to do with how much you have to spend on repairs and maintenance. Avoid these nine mistakes and your car will run smoother longer.