Sunday, January 23, 2011

Does my car really need all these repairs?

Does my car really need all this work?

You take your car in for an oil change and all of a sudden, here comes the service adviser or quick lube tech, waving the repair order with the most worried look on his face; “Mr/Mrs Jones, we found some things wrong with your car…” and you think to yourself “here we go again!” They proceed to tell you about all the things they found wrong, maybe show you some fluid samples or tell you how unsafe your car is to drive. Now you’re faced with a decision. Do I trust this person? Is all this work really needed? Do I need to do all of this now?

It’s a scenario I’ve seen and heard of many times, and unfortunately, many people are pressured into doing something they just don’t understand. Maybe they needed the work, maybe not. The good news is you don't have to know a lot about cars to make these decisions. Let me give you some practical advice on how to make an educated choice.

There are basically two different kinds of repairs; maintenance and mechanical failures. Maintenance is preformed to prevent mechanical failures and prolong the life of your vehicle. Mechanical failures are just that, a part that is worn out or broken that needs to be replaced or repaired. Let’s start with maintenance.

Maintenance would cover things like changing your air filter, transmission fluid, engine coolant, doing tire rotations, tune-up's and of course, oil changes. All car manufactures have maintenance schedules listed in the owner’s manual. This is what the people who made your car recommend having done to get the best life out of your vehicle, and in many instances, need to do to maintain your warranty! If you believe in, and follow these schedules 90% of your questions would disappear. Let me give you an example; you’re having your oil changed at a quick lube place and the adviser says you need your transmission fluid changed because it’s “burnt” and your air filter should be replaced because it's dirty, you have 67,000 miles on your car. In reply, you whip out your owner’s manual and tell him that at 60,000 miles you had your scheduled maintenance done which included a new air filter and transmission fluid change, AND it says it’s not due again until 90,000 miles. It’s hard to argue with that. By simply keeping track of what's been done you can avoid doing unnecessary repairs.

Now maintenance schedules are not bullet proof, that's were the other 10% comes in. There are special considerations for, let’s say, driving in a real dusty environments ( like dirt roads), or extreme temperature changes (like Wisconsin). Most maintenance schedules will have two options, normal and severe service,  I think Wisconsin falls somewhere in the middle. Newer cars can be simpler by having an indicator on your dash that will tell you what service needs to be done, like A1 service is due or B3. Just index it with the chart in your owners manual and it will tell you what’s needed. Don't worry about the schedules asking you to do maintenance that's not needed, they are actually very conservative. Car manufactures want to keep the annual maintenance costs low on there vehicles to appeal to buyers. (it's actually posted on the window stickers of new vehicles). So take a look at those schedules and see where you're at.

Next time I'll talk about mechanical failures, to be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. Very well stated. Most people seem to skip a lot of maintenance and then when they have a failure they wonder why and gripe about it.