Regular maintenance, trusted technicians will save money
Finding a mechanic may not be fun, but it is great way to keep your car bills down. And with gas prices expected to reach — or exceed — record highs this year, now’s as good a time as any for keeping your vehicle in good working condition.
Your wallet will thank you.
These days everyone has to stay on top of the repairs and routine maintenance if we want to save on gas. And never ignore that silly check-engine light. You may think it is no big deal, but it could mean an oxygen or fuel emission sensor has gone bad and your car’s computer is sending more fuel to the engine, more than it needs.
Some forecasters expect gas prices to reach $4 a gallon or more later this year, a price point reached for the first time in June 2008. Even if prices don’t get that high, there still is no good reason to waste money on gas or car repairs for that matter, experts say.
Make sure you do research before you select your car repair technician, and going for the cheapest option might not be the smart way to do it.
And make sure to provide any pertinent information to your shop before repairs are done. Mention oil leaks, unusual noises or engine flutters, for instance, which will help guide your mechanic as your automobile is inspected. The more information you give the technician, the better he can do his job.
AutoMD.com, one of the largest and most comprehensive consumer watchdog websites, recently released a set of tips to help U.S. consumers put a dent in the estimated $40 billion they spend annually on collision repairs. They include:
Keep a close eye on all estimates and repair bills. Many auto repair shops charge less for body repairs than for mechanical repairs, so inquire about the rates before you drop your car off. And look over each item to be sure you are not paying too much. Often shops post rates online, if not don’t be shy about asking.
Consider paintless dent repair. If damage to your vehicle is minimal, consider paintless dent repair — also known as PDR work. Skilled technicians can often repair dents without sanding, body filler or painting — and with no trace that a repair was made. And before you head to the shop, call your insurance company to find out if you can get a discount or waive your deductible if you go for PDR.
Don’t be afraid to tackle small jobs yourself. You may be surprised how easily you can fix scratches and chips with touch-up paint. Your car often has a paint color code pasted to the door jamb to help you get chose the correct paint. Experts also suggest using a combination of ultra fine 2000-grit sandpaper and soapy water to remove minor scratches. Then finish up with a rubbing compound to blend the finish. If you can wash and wax a car, you likely have enough skill to pull this off.
Consider replacement parts over repairs. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a new part than to have it worked on, such as bumpers or fenders, so make sure to ask your technician to list the cost for both options. It may even make sense — and save dollars — to order the part and replace if yourself if you know your way around a tool box and car.
It’s also a good idea to keep your car running smoothly with routine maintenance, as recommended by your owner’s manual. Safety and saving money are the best reasons to regularly maintain your car and have it checked out before long road trips.