You take your car in for an oil change and all of a sudden, here comes the service adviser or quick lube tech, waving the repair order with the most worried look on his face; “Mr/Mrs Jones, we found some things wrong with your car…” and you think to yourself “here we go again!” Now you’re faced with a decision. Do I trust this person? Is all this work really needed? Do I need to do all of this now?
It’s a scenario I’ve seen and heard of many times, and unfortunately, many people are pressured into doing something they just don’t understand. Maybe they needed the work, maybe not. Well, let me give you some practical advice on how to make an educated decision.
There are basically two different kinds of repairs; maintenance and mechanical failures. Maintenance is preformed to prevent mechanical failures, and mechanical failures are just that, a part that is worn out or broken and needs to be replaced or repaired. Let’s start with maintenance.
Maintenance would cover things like changing your air filter, transmission fluid, engine coolant, doing tire rotations and of course, oil changes. All car manufactures have maintenance schedules listed in the owner’s manual. This is what the people who made your car recommend having done to get the best life out of your vehicle, and in many instances, need to do to maintain your warranty! If you believe in, and follow these schedules 90% of your questions would disappear. Let me give you an example; you’re having your oil changed at a quick lube place and the adviser says you need your transmission fluid changed because it’s “burnt” and your air filter is dirty, you have 37,000 miles on your car. You whip out your owner’s manual and tell him that at 30,000 miles you had your scheduled maintenance done which included a new air filter and transmission fluid change, AND it says it’s not due again until 60,000 miles. It’s hard to argue with that. Now maintenance schedules are not bullet proof. There are special considerations for, let’s say, driving in a real dusty environment, or extreme temperature changes (like Wisconsin) so most schedules will have a normal and severe service. I think Wisconsin falls somewhere in the middle of those schedules. Newer cars might just have an indicator on your dash that will say A1 service is due or B3. Just index it with the chart in your manual and it will tell you what’s needed.
As for mechanical failures, they happen. Wisconsin is really rough on vehicles. You have extreme temperature changes, pot holes, salt, snow rain and whatever else mother nature will throw at us. If someone tells you your vehicle needs something, like a suspension part replaced, ask to see it. If a shop is not willing to take you back to look at your car then something’s not right, ask questions, and keep asking until you’re convinced it’s needed. You don’t have to completely understand how a system works or what it does, but most people can tell when something is not right. When we bring people back into the shop, they usually get a kick out of it, they get to see the bottom of their car for once, and maybe get a better understanding of how it all works. Ask for your old parts back. Unless it has a core charge, exchange, or warranty you are entitled to your old parts, after all you paid for them. If you’re really not sure get a second opinion. Just remember, you don’t have to be an expert, but you should be comfortable with your decision.