Ten Really Expensive Auto Service and Repair Mistakes to Avoid, circa 2014

AutoMD.com updates its list of common (and costly) consumer auto service and repair mistakes to include older vehicles plus hybrids

Carson, CA – October 21, 2014 – Reflecting the reality of the cars on today’s roads, AutoMD.com has updated its list of Ten Really Expensive Auto Service and Repair Mistakes to Avoid to include older vehicles (over 100,000 miles) and hybrids.

“The age of vehicles on the roads today is at a record high, more and more consumers are driving electric/hybrid vehicle models, and nearly half of consumers say they spend $500 or more on auto repairs a year (with 1 in 6 spending $1,000 plus),” said Brian Hafer, VP of Marketing for AutoMD.com. “So avoiding costly repair mistakes is key, whether vehicles have the newest technology or are well past middle age, which is why we put together this updated list of ‘mistakes to avoid.’”

The tips show that, for the most part, the same rules apply to all vehicles; for example, keep up on preventative maintenance, make sure you do your research and don’t neglect your tires or warning lights. But, Hafer noted, there are special tips that hybrid and 100K+ vehicle owners should heed.

AutoMD.com’s Top Ten Really Expensive Auto Service and Repair Mistakes:

Mistake #1: Neglecting Your Fluids.
Cost: $1,000s

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

Ignoring fluid levels and simple preventative maintenance, like changing the engine oil and filter, could damage major components such as the engine, costing thousands of dollars in repairs. Other important fluids car owners should check include transmission fluid, engine coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid. 

Hybrid Alert: Fluid maintenance jobs also need to be done on hybrids. Always remember to check your hybrid's Power Control Unit coolant, and if it's low, fill it with long-life coolant.

High-Mileage Alert: The engine oil level should be checked more often on high mileage vehicles.

Mistake #2: NEGLECTING YOUR BELTS AND HOSES

Cost: $1,000s

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

Drive belts and hoses should be inspected every 30K miles or every two years. Old belts can slip, squeal, and eventually break. Aging hoses can cause fluid and vacuum leaks which affect engine performance. When a drive belt or coolant hose fails, the car becomes inoperative and may cause severe engine damage. The timing belt is a perfect example of this, and should be replaced at the manufacturer’s recommended interval.

High-Mileage Alert: Because they are made of rubber, age as well as mileage can affect belts and hoses, so check them more often on older high mileage vehicles.

 

Mistake #3: Neglecting your tires.
Cost: More gas $$$ + tire replacement ($140 - $600+1), and loss of safety (priceless!)

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

Driving on underinflated tires can shorten tire life, increase tire wear and lead to significant damage from heat, potholes, and other road hazards. If the tire fails completely, you could lose control of the vehicle! And don’t be tempted to get more mileage out of your tires than they can safely give by driving on them when they are bald. Driving on bald tires can reduce vehicle traction and lead to an accident. Driving with the correct tire pressure is also very important.  Car owners should set their vehicle's tire pressure based on the specifications outlined in the owner's manual. If the car has a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), initialize it after the pressure has been set. Be sure to rotate your tires every other oil change (7,000 – 10,000 miles).

Hybrid Alert: Keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent, a key concern to hybrid owners who tend to be very focused on gas mileage.

 

Mistake #4: Ignoring dashboard warning lights.
Cost: $1,000s! Loss of safety (priceless!)

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

Dashboard warning lights are just that, warning lights! Pay attention to them – they could be warning you about a serious maintenance problem that could lead to expensive repairs or unsafe driving. Be sure to read the owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with the different warning lights on your car’s dashboard– Check Engine Light, Oil Light, Temperature Light, Brake Light – what they mean and what action you should take for each. For example, 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.

 

High-Mileage Alert: Older vehicles may not monitor as many systems, which means you need to rely on other visual signals and keep on top of your service visits.

Hybrid Alert: Hybrid and electric vehicles have so many bells and whistles on their dashboards that they practically have a conversation with their owners every day… but too many bells and whistles can make owners complacent, so be sure to keep on top of your hybrid’s maintenance schedule, after all those computers can make mistakes as well.

 

Mistake #5: IGNORING NOISES

Cost: $1,000s

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

It’s pretty simple, whatever your vehicle: never ignore unusual noises like squealing, grinding, clicking, or knocking. Don’t just drive through it thinking it might go away, it could be a safety issue or symptom of a problem that could cause greater and more expensive damage to your vehicle. You can go online to a diagnostic site like AutoMD.com to see what that noise might be a symptom of, but best practice is to get it checked out by your mechanic! AutoMD.com lists a number of trustworthy service shops that can diagnose your vehicle - look for the "AutoMD IQ" badge in the shop's profile.

 

Mistake #6: Driving on fumes.
Cost: $225+2

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

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 (including those with 10 years + and over 100,000 miles on them) 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.

Hybrid Alert: Because hybrids can operate on gas alone -  they essentially have two ‘gas’ tanks, the batteries that power the electric drive system and the conventional gas tank that fuels the gasoline engine – so they also need to heed this warning! Just because the hybrid is getting great gas mileage and has that electric drive, do not forget to keep that gas tank full. Electric vehicles need not worry, just keep plugging them in!

 

Mistake #7: VISITING REPAIR SHOP/SERVICE CENTER WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT
Cost: $$

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

Whatever your repair issue, with the amount of excellent information available online, there is no excuse for entering a repair shop/service center uninformed. From online consumer reviews to diagnostic tools to estimates of how much repair jobs should cost and how long they should take, a wealth of empowering – and cost-saving - information is at your fingertips. And you don’t have to wait until something goes wrong, you can find a good repair shop today, just by looking. For example, AutoMD.com lists a number of trustworthy service shops (look for the "AutoMD IQ" badge in the shop's profile), as well as offering consumer reviews, repair estimates and more.

High-Mileage Alert: Chances are high mileage vehicles will need more visits to the repair shop, so knowing what the costs will be and having a trusted mechanic is critical.

Hybrid/Electric Alert:  This relatively new technology can intimidate some car owners, but online information (and user groups) abound on how these vehicles work, how to get the best mileage from them and how/when to replace batteries/fuel cells. For example, fueleconomy.gov is one of many excellent resources. 

 

Mistake #8: Failing to properly communicate your repair issue.
Cost: Time and $$ at the repair shop: Labor rate is $40-$200+/hour!3

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

If you can’t describe the problem effectively, your mechanic will spend more time diagnosing (meaning more labor costs for average, older, and hybrid /electric cars) 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 any recent repairs - sometimes a problem is related to the last repair. You can also go online to get help diagnosing your car’s problem and see the questions you'll need to answer when speaking with your mechanic.

 

Mistake #9: Not asking for your parts back.
Cost: Unnecessary $$

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

If a part needs to be replaced on your car, always ask for your old part back; simply ask the mechanic to place the old part in the new part’s box. Unfortunately, some dishonest repair shops may charge you for work that was not done or repairs that are not necessary. Asking for your old parts back confirms that the new part was actually installed, and it keeps the mechanic from replacing a part that is still good. This applies to all vehicles, always!

 

Mistake #10: Accepting the first repair shop quote.
Cost: $$$!

Gas/Diesel

Hybrid/Electric

Vehicles over 100K miles/10 + years

 

 

 

 

When it comes to a major auto repair, get a second opinion... and a third and fourth one. Comparing shops and prices can ensure that you get the best service at a fair price for your repair. And today it is easy - sites like AutoMD.com instantly serve up comparative quotes from local repair shops online.  So, before authorizing work, go online to read reviews and ratings, and get online or phone quotes.

Hybrid Alert: When researching repair quotes for hybrids, keep in mind that for major jobs such as replacing an engine or transmission, you should go to your dealership service center because they have access to hybrid-specific repair codes and training. Service to any of the hybrid systems should only be performed by technicians who are certified.