Here are a few key automotive fundamentals that every car owner should be aware of:
SKIPPING REGULAR MAINTENANCE
Regularly scheduled maintenance is more important than ever. The key word here is “regular.” It’s no secret that car repair can be expensive and time-consuming, but skipping maintenance actually leads to higher costs and wasted time. Each maintenance step is critical to your car’s longevity and reliability. Oil changes intervals is the basics when it comes to being your own first line of defense, be it 3-5 or 10 months, but don’t forget to have your oil and fluid levels checked in between. Also, let’s not forget tire pressure as they vary with the season and drops over time check and adjust tire pressures as needed.
WHAT TO DO: Get to know your vehicle’s maintenance requirements. Keep track of maintenance, and don’t skip anything. Start with your owners manual and your service interval schedule—(located in the forgotten box-called glove box)
OVERLOOKING WEAR AND TEAR
Tire wear can be hidden in plain sight, perhaps a fatal oversight. Everything wears out over time, from brakes and tires and light bulbs to engine, belts, hoses, transmission, and differential internals. Some wear is obvious, like a blown light bulb or squealing brakes, but not all. Tire wear and low tire pressure can be fatal if ignored. Get into the habit of paying attention to your tires and be diligent. Regular inspections are critical to keeping on top of these before they cause collateral damage or a crash. Its only dangerous if you don’t know!
WHAT TO DO: Get to know your car, ask your repair shop to give you some do’s and don’ts of how to stay on top of things and get into the habit of popping in to have it inspected at least monthly or before any trips. Take care of any needed repairs as soon as possible before they domino into more costly repairs.
IGNORING RECALL NOTICES
Never ignore safety recall notices. They could save your life. Automakers and suppliers spend billions of dollars on research, engineering, and development, but defects can occur. If a defect is serious enough, particularly concerning safety, they’ll announce a safety recall to repair or replace the defect. Ignoring important safety recalls could put you and those around you in danger.
WHAT TO DO: Don’t ignore the safety recall notice in the mail. Check for recalls at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTS) or your dealership. If a recall is applicable to your vehicle, have the repairs completed as soon as possible. When you call in for your appointment, make sure to ask if the recall parts are in stock. Nothing worse then dropping off your vehicle only to find out at the end of the day, you have to comeback.
IGNORING WARNING LIGHTS & MESSAGES
Warning lights mean something is wrong. Fixing it will save you money and keep you safe. Since your vehicle can’t talk, it uses warning lights and messages to tell you about the status of your vehicle. Warning lights for the Tire pressure monitoring system, oil pressure, brake system, and the check engine light might be the only indication you get that your car may be in a failure mode or unsafe to be driven. Driving with warning lights on might lead to higher refueling costs, excessive emissions, vehicle damage, or a crash.
WHAT TO DO: If a warning light comes on, have it checked by a competent professional for identification, diagnosis, and repair. Popping into a parts store to have your code read is ok if you can’t get in to see your repair shop but you need a true diagnosis by a professional mechanic, not a parts counter person.
SAVING ON AUTO REPAIR
If you think experts are expensive, wait until you work with amateurs. Sure, everyone wants to save money, but cheap parts or the cheapest mechanic may not be the best method. Genuine and OEM parts are usually the most expensive, but they’re also made specifically for your vehicle. Aftermarket parts might fit or require adjustment to fit, and they may not work as well as the original. Still, some aftermarket parts are better than the original, so it’s a good idea to check with a trusted mechanic. Competent auto repair shops may charge more, but the training and experience within their walls easily justifies the price.
WHAT TO DO: Pay for the best parts and service you can afford, maybe not the most expensive, but enough to ensure quality repairs and reliable. Focus more on what warranty comes with the repair versus the bottom line. Nothing worse than saving $50.00 or $100.00 only to find out that repair came with a limited warranty that will end up costing you more because you have to pay twice for the same repair.
RELYING ON GOOGLE DIAGNOSIS
Accurate auto repair requires the right training, experience, and tools. Given a check engine light, anyone with a scan tool can read diagnostic trouble codes, but not everyone can diagnose them. There is a big difference between proper auto diagnostics and replacing a sensor because ‘it’s a sensor code’ and you Googled it. Real diagnosis and repair requires training, experience, and diagnostic tools, not a browser.
WHAT TO DO: Educate yourself and follow the manual. If it’s beyond your expertise, don’t waste your time and money throwing parts at the problem, but get a professional diagnosis
No mechanic will take responsibility for someone else’s diagnosis, not even yours. Today’s auto repair technicians spend a significant part of their time educating themselves in auto repair strategies, auto diagnostic methods, and special tools to make them more effective. Telling them what to do is like telling a doctor you’ve self-diagnosed and will only waste everyone’s time.
WHAT TO DO: Let the mechanic diagnose the problem and make the repair—that’s what they’re trained for! If you tell them, “replace the thing,” and it doesn’t work, who’s fault is it? No mechanic will take responsibility for your diagnosis.
Be sure to clearly communicate your concerns to your mechanic. Have open and honest dialogue and be as transparent as you can. Knowing how to communicate car problems can be tricky, especially if not everyone is on the same page. Miscommunication with your mechanic leads to lost time, wasted money, and broken trust. You drive your car every day, but your mechanic may only see it once every six months and deal with up to a dozen cars every day. Vague concerns won’t give them a clear direction to focus their attention, and what they address might not be your concern.
WHAT TO DO: Be clear and precise. Instead of saying you hear “a sound,” note when it happens, on what kind of road, how fast you’re driving, where you hear it, and what it sounds like. If the car is “lacking power,” it’s good to know things like when you refueled last, in what circumstances it acts up, even the temperature and the weather. Also, if a friend or you attempted a DYI, be sure to confess. It will only cost you more in the end if you withhold important and needed information.
Get empowered, and understand automotive fundamentals!