Never ignore your Check Engine Light, thinking the car is running fine. Your MPG could be reduced by as much as 30 percent. A blinking Check Engine light indicates a severe misfire that could damage your car's expensive catalytic converter. Ignoring the oil and temperature lights can result in an engine replacement meaning thousands of dollars out of your pocket. Bottom Line: Pay attention to all your car's symptoms, including warning lights.
Mistake No. 5: Telling your mechanic what parts to replace. Cost: Double your $$ (or more.) Today's vehicles are extremely complex, and while it is a good idea to do your research, some vehicle symptoms can be misleading. For example, you may be convinced that your car needs new spark plugs or an engine tune-up, when you really need the MAF sensor cleaned. If you tell your mechanic to replace the spark plugs instead of asking him to diagnose the problem, he will do it and charge you for it, leaving you with the same unresolved issue.Bottom Line: Be informed, but listen to the experts, otherwise you could end up paying for an unnecessary repair, while the original issue remains unresolved.
Mistake No. 6: Not doing simple repairs yourself. Cost: Up to $200. Rather than spending time and money at the repair shop, try doing some of the easiest repairs yourself, such as replacing wiper blades, replacing a light bulb, even replacing a fuse and an air filter. Reference your owner's manual and go online for videos and how to guides (AutoMD.com's how-to guides provide step by step instructions for these repairs). And, these jobs just may provide a stepping stone and the courage you need to attempt even more of your own car repairs, which can lead to more savings.Bottom Line: Doing simple repairs yourself could actually save you time, as well as money.
Mistake No. 7: Failing to properly communicate your repair issue. Cost: Time and $$ at the repair shop: Labor rate is $40-$200-plus/hour. If you can't describe the problem effectively, your mechanic will spend more time diagnosing (meaning more labor costs) and may come to the wrong conclusion! Write down what you hear, feel, see, and smell before you arrive and keep a log of exactly when the symptoms occur (for instance, when you're braking or when you're driving over a certain speed), and share this with your mechanic. Also, note the location and frequency of the symptoms, and if any repairs were done on the vehicle recently - sometimes a problem is related to the last repair. You can also go online to get help diagnosing your car's problem - AutoMD.com has an easy-to-use diagnostic tool that provides a list of questions your mechanic might ask, as well as assistance to help you troubleshoot the problem(s) yourself. Bottom Line: Describing your repair issue accurately will save time, money and headaches.
Mistake #8: Driving on fumes. Cost: $225-plus. Most cars on the road today have electric fuel pumps mounted inside the fuel tank. Back in the 70s and 80s, when cars had carburetors, you could drive until all the gas was gone, re-fuel, and drive again with no problem. However, most of today's vehicles have fuel-injected engines that rely on in-tank electric pumps that use gas to cool and lubricate its components. Driving your fuel injected engine frequently on fumes could cause the pump to fail, leading to a repair costing hundreds of dollars. Bottom Line: Keep the fuel level above a quarter tank to extend the life of your fuel pump and ... avoid running out of gas!
Mistake No. 9: Visiting the dealership for every repair/maintenance issue. Cost: An extra $300 per year. Car owners can save an estimated $300+ a year on average by opting for their local independent repair shop versus the car dealership. In some cases, the dealership service center can make more sense than the local repair shop for recalls, warranty work or very complex repair issues. However, for many jobs, if you do your research and find the right independent repair shop, a repair can be done by an expert mechanic at a savings of potentially hundreds of dollars. Bottom Line: Compare prices on routine jobs, find out how much the dealership versus your local repair shop charges.
Mistake No. 10: Accepting the first repair shop quote. Cost: 14 percent or more $$$ When it comes to a major auto repair, get a second opinion ... and a third and fourth one. Comparing shops and prices can also help you avoid being charged for unnecessary repairs. Before authorizing work, go online to research various repair shops, read reviews, get ratings, etc., and be sure to call to get several quotes over the phone. In a nationwide analysis of repair shops by AutoMD.com, mystery shoppers were able to shave an average of nearly 14 percent from the quoted estimate given by the majority of the shops by countering with online information: i.e., specific, 'fair' job estimate based on labor rates and labor hours required, as well as true parts cost. Bottom Line: Shop around, check online, save money.
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