If you aren’t well-versed on car repairs or car maintenance, you may be your mechanic’s best friend. Sometimes, this is because mechanics like to educate and help drivers find the best solutions. In other instances, it is because there are unscrupulous people out there who make extra money by taking advantage of automotive ignorance.
There are a few things to know to keep yourself out of those situations, common-sense is the most important one of course and you should make sure you don’t fall for these tricks if you have to head to the mechanic.
Don’t Flush Your Money Away
If your mechanic tries to convince you that your coolant and power steering fluids need to be flushed in order to fix a problem, what he’s actually saying is that the cost of the repair isn’t high enough and flushing fluids can help pad the estimate.
According to Jerry Edgerton with CBS News Money Watch, coolant flushes are only necessary in vehicles with very high miles. Michael Calkins of AAA told Edgerton that coolant in newer cars should last up to 100,000 miles (at least).
By that same token, transmission flushes are another way to run up the bill and are almost never necessary. In fact, most manufacturers don’t recommend them.
Converting Free Into Expensive
If you hear the word Catalytic Converter, do some homework before agreeing to the pricey repair. Mechanics know that these repairs can be costly and will be good for their bottom line.
That being said, many issues with catalytic converters have to be covered by the manufacturer at no charge. It depends on the age of the car and the specific malfunction, but don’t sign off until you get a second opinion and contact the manufacturer.
Blank Forms Are Blank Checks
Get an estimate before any actual work starts, and don’t sign forms that are missing the details of the repair plans. Blank estimates are basically blank checks, and you want to make sure that your mechanic has every intention of being honest and informing you of the work that is being done prior to running up your bill.
A reliable diagnostic test and thorough once over should happen before any work is agreed upon, and you should set the expectation that the mechanic will alert you if there are any problems or fees that arise without notice.
DIY Car Repairs
You may not have the skills to replace a failing transmission, but there are certain car repairs that are simple enough that just about anyone can do them. A mechanic might tell you that you need them done every time that you’re in, but if you know how to fix simple issues on your own, you can double check their work and decline if they’re trying to beef up the bill.
Remember that if you’ve had an accident and made an insurance claim, your insurance company, if you have coverage that is, will pay for the cost of the repairs to your vehicle.
One simple repair that doesn’t require much technical knowledge is replacing the air filter. Parts can be purchased at just about any automotive store, and in many cases, employees at the stores will show you how to do the switch.
Also, a dead battery may not be something that you want to change yourself, but you don’t have to pay a mechanic a huge amount to do it with an up charge for the battery.
Local automotive stores will often change out your battery for free after you purchase the replacement, and they’ll recycle the old one for you as well. If it’s just an issue with the battery, you only need to get a jump that will last long enough to get you to the store.
Do Your Vehicle Homework
Not knowing how to rebuild a car from scratch does not mean that you have to be taken advantage of should there be an issue with your vehicle. Disreputable mechanics may try to pray on your limited vehicle understanding.
Don’t be scared to get a second opinion of that’s an option, and make sure to verify estimates so you don’t get taken for a ride in your own car.