This is a post by staff writer Yazmin Cruz.
The October issue of Shopsmart magazine shares tips to help you save money on car repairs by revealing telltale signs that a mechanic is trying to take you for a ride. Learn how to avoid potential rip-offs especially if you don’t understand what’s going on underneath your car’s hood. I summarize their tips below.
- Read your car’s owner’s manual – Boring, I know. But this is the one of the best ways to save money. The manual spells out when your car needs oil changes, tire rotations, and other maintenance. Make sure to reference the manual when you take your car in for routine maintenance. Once at the mechanic, only get the maintenance needed. Shopsmart suggests to be skeptical about pitches to do extra work.
- Know your warranty – You don’t necessarily have to get your car serviced at a specific shop, but shady dealerships may suggest it. Independent shops are usually less expensive. Julia saved $3,100 on car repairs after learning this from two readers.
- Shop around – A few minutes on the phone can save you a bundle. Get a quote from dealers and independent shops. Then do your homework and check for reviews or complaints. Once you’re informed, make a decision.
- Don’t shell out for do-overs – If the first solution did nothing for your car, and your mechanic wants more money to fix the same problem — ask for a refund. Your car probably didn’t need whatever was done in the first place.
- Avoid expensive parts and needless repairs – If you’re told your car has broken parts that need to be repaired ask the mechanic to show them to you. My father has taught me to get a second opinion to confirm the problem and the solution. Always ask to see the parts you are paying for. Some shady shops will make you pay for the expensive part and install the cheap one.
- Get a quote in writing – It’s wise to get everything in writing to avoid surprises in the end. Also make sure the mechanic knows you will not be paying more than what was quoted and if unforeseen expenses come up you’ll need to approve them.
- Take notes – Giving your mechanic all the symptoms will help them solve the problem the first time. Don’t quite know how to describe what’s going on? Bobbi lets you know how to talk to your mechanic.
- Buy a code reader – These things cost as little as $35 at auto-part stores. You plug the device into your car’s diagnostic port, under the dash, and a code will pop up. The code indicates what the problem is. So when you take your car in, and a mechanic tells you it’s time to have the transmission fluid flushed you can know whether he’s telling you the truth. Note that having fluids flushed from the engine or transmission is usually a way to up your bill. Shopsmart indicates that automakers even recommend against flushing the engine.
- Keep good records – Log all services so you know when it’s time to deal again with oil changes, tire rotations, and more. Keeping good records will save you money as you’ll be able to prove proper maintenance in case you need to make a warranty claim.
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Most Autozone stores nationwide provide code reader diagnostic test results at no cost.