Make the most of your time and repair money with these tips.
Don’t let a visit to the repair shop put a dent in your wallet. Consider these six tips from “The Car Coach,” author and automotive analyst Lauren Fix:
1. Stick to the owner’s manual recommendations. Most manuals lay out a lifetime maintenance plan to keep your vehicle running reliably with minimal repairs and costs. The manual also provides solid information to refer to before you get the car serviced. “It makes it harder for the service writer—who often needs to upsell the customer—to get you to buy more than you actually need,” says Fix.
2. Get several quotes in writing. One quote is not enough. “You’re going to want to get at least two,” Fix says. “Make sure they’re documented so you know what you’re paying for before you take your vehicle in.”
3. Take a hands-on approach. Educate yourself about a needed repair beforehand. Don’t shy away from asking questions. Ask the service person—who should be Automotive Service Excellence certified—to show you the old parts, and show you what work is being done. “Never feel intimidated,” Fix says. “A technician should be able to show you exactly what’s wrong and how to repair it.”
4. Go “indie.” Find an independently owned service center or small chain that you’ll use routinely. If the vehicle isn’t under warranty, you’ll generally pay less there than at a dealership. In exchange for your loyalty, you may also get a few perks, such as preferred appointment times or a discount on routine oil changes.
5. Get it done for free. If there’s been a recall or technical-service bulletin, your repair may be done free at a local dealership. Check the maker’s website for recall notices before you book an appointment at a service center. “Why pay for a repair that can be done at no charge?” Fix says. “The dealer will cover recalls and some technical issues.”
6. Don’t bother with engine or transmission flushes. These techniques are often recommended to clean up dirty engine oil or transmission fluid. But they can cause problems by cutting off fluid. This can result in a lack of needed engine lubrication and faulty shifting in a transmission. “They’re not worth the money,” Fix says. “If you do the maintenance work recommended in your owner’s manual, you won’t need to do this.”
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