There’s a fairly good chance that before you’re done driving your car, something on it will need to be fixed. Knowing this, how can you keep your repair bill at a manageable level?
Tony Zammit, service manager at Streetsville Hyundai in Mississauga, Ontario, shared some tips for avoiding the shock of a big service bill.
Get Routine Maintenance
Sometimes the best answers are the most obvious ones. Zammit says the biggest thing you can do is just make sure your car gets routine maintenance checks.
“Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for the service intervals is a huge one,” he says. “I find a lot nowadays when people don’t do the regular maintenance and they just go and have oil changes, that’s when all of a sudden something kind of creeps up on them because they haven’t been going somewhere and haven’t been having it checked.”
What Leads to Bigger Bills
The types of repairs and maintenance you can expect to deal with depend quite a bit on factors including not only what you drive, but also your driving style.
As an example, Zammit says one of the more common repairs that has to be done is timing belt replacement. The timing belt controls the firing of the cylinders in the engine. These wear out over time and can cost anywhere from 400 – 1,200 Canadian dollars ($300 – $900) to swap out.
But this is where the age of your car may really come into play. Zammit says manufacturers have gone to more durable chains instead of timing belts on newer models.
Another predictor of the need for increased maintenance and repair? Size.
“The heavier the vehicle, the more repairs that you’ll have,” Zammit says. “If you had something smaller like a Civic, or Corolla or Elantra, you might not go through tires, brakes or suspension components as quick as say a Navigator or an Escalade or something larger. That’s a very, very heavy vehicle that’s having to stop, and it puts a lot of wear and tear on those items.”
Tires are another item that can be expensive to replace, but depending on how long you keep the vehicle and your driving habits, you may not ever have to replace them. For instance, tires and brakes may have more wear and tear if you drive a little more aggressively. The harder you hit the brakes, the more wear and tear you’ll see.
Take It In or Do It Yourself?
If you’re trying to do the work yourself, it’s important to be extremely careful and know your limitations.
Things like oil changes are probably OK if you don’t mind getting under the car. After that, it gets a little more difficult.
“If somebody is tech savvy as far as mechanics go, they can really do anything,” he says. If you’re not comfortable though, it’s probably best to take it in.
Buying Your Own Parts
If you’re looking to save money on a repair, one thing you might be able to do is source the parts online yourself. That way you’re only paying for labor.
You do want to make sure that the shop will install the parts because some don’t want to do it. Call ahead and find out what the policy is on consumer provided materials.
Getting the parts yourself sometimes even comes with special advantages that go beyond any potential savings. A while back, I had to get the shocks replaced on my wheelchair-accessible van. Because of the added weight of the chair, it made more sense to put in heavy-duty truck shocks instead of the ones that came stock from the factory.
Zammit says most places will work with you to install whatever you want if you source the parts; it’s your vehicle.
Where Should You Take Your Car?
It also matters where you take your car for maintenance.
Zammit himself works for a dealership, and he believes it’s better to take your car to a dealership for service.
The technicians at the dealership are factory trained for your vehicle. Technicians that work in independent shops are very knowledgeable, but they could be working on a Jeep one second, a Cadillac the next and a Hyundai after that. They may even be a bit in the dark because of a lack of access to a schematic for your vehicle. However, if you don’t have a particularly specialized job that’s unique to your vehicle, you can often save money by going to an independent shop.
If you’re still unsure of where to go, check out these great tips for picking a trustworthy mechanic. Your car will be back on the road in no time.
Do you have any car repair savings tips? Share them with us in the comments.
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