One of the nastiest surprises one can encounter when visiting the auto repair shop is a higher than expected bill.   Here are a few all-too-common scenarios which usually lead to angry patrons and frustrated mechanics:

  1. You bring your car in because you hear a grinding sound every time you hit the brakes.  It’s been some time since you’ve had your car looked at, and you’ve had a few run-ins with some rough road.  You saw an ad for brakes – 99.00 per set.  You only hear the grinding in the back, so you figure you’ll only be spending about 99.00.  When the mechanic comes out to discuss your car, he tells you that the rotors are worn out in the back, the front brakes need to be done, and one of the calipers is frozen. $ 500.00 later,  you’re pretty sure you’re being taken advantage of.
  2. You take your car in for inspection and you’re pretty sure everything is ok.  When the report comes in, however, you find that you need tires.  You got the tires less than 25,000 miles earlier, and they have a 50,000 mile warranty.  You’re pretty sure you’re being taken advantage of.
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Brakes can be seen through most wheels.

Nobody likes these situations, and, if you’re dealing with a decent repair shop, they don’t like it anymore than you.  The fact is, most of us neglect our regular auto maintenance and only think about it when we have to.  This often leads to larger problems down the road.  Both of the above scenarios actually happened to the same person on 2 different occasions.  He now does regular maintenance to avoid these issues.   Here are some of the things you can do to help avoid surprises at the garage.

  1. Rotate your tires regularly   Most tire manufacturers will only honor their warranty if there is a record of regular tire rotation.  Since front and back tires wear differently, when tires are not rotated regularly, areas of the tire often wear excessively, while other areas experience very little wear.  PA state inspection codes mandate that no part of the tread can exceed the maximum wear.  Therefore, if part of the tire fails, the whole tire fails.  Regular rotation helps to prolong the life of the tires.
  2. Check your brakes with every tire rotation.  Brake pads are fairly easy to see – especially when the tire is off.  Look for even wear and smooth rotors.  Be sure to replace the pads before they wear too thin.  This will prolong the life of the rotors and keep you safer.  This is not to say that you’ll never have to replace your rotors.  They are constantly being rubbed against and will eventually wear, but keeping an eye on the pads will help them last longer.
  3. Change your oil regularly.  Enough said here.
  4. Regularly inspect your car for signs of rust and abnormal wear.  Spotting rust and wear early can often help identify a small problem before it becomes a large one.

Over the next few months, we’ll be giving you some tips on what to look and listen for when it comes to your car.  Being an educated car owner can go a long way towards avoiding nasty surprises at the repair shop.  Of course there will be plenty of situations where simple tips won’t provide you with an answer, but being able to help narrow down the problem will often make your trip to the repair shop less stressful.

COMING NEXT EDITION  — “THE NOT-SO-NEW CAR SMELL.”  3 DIFFERENT SMELLS THAT TELL YOU SOMETHING’S WRONG.