How to buy repair and service your new or used car

How to get the right car service.

Servicing new cars.

When you buy a new car you need to be very careful choosing the dealership as they will be doing the service, and if you have any problems at all with a new car it is most likely caused by the mechanic doing the service. It can also mean the car has a design fault, but that is not the usual cause of problems in service with modern motor vehicles.

New car manufacturers have improved self-testing and mechanical/electronic self-analysis design to an amazing degree, and in 2011 you are very unlikely to find a "lemon" or badly made new car amongst the better manufacturers, but you could wind up with the wrong dealership very easily.

Purchase price is important, but no where near as important as who works on or services your new car.

These days repairs run in to the thousands and although you may not be paying for any of it under warranty, it usually means the dealership has screwed up your service and damaged your car, something that happens far too often.

You may have got the best price right for the car, but how long before problems with servicing costs you money and the loss of your car for days or weeks while they try new and expensive parts on your car to repair a problem they caused in service?

So much money and time is wasted in service departments or automotive workshops yet if you follow some basic rules you can be that rare person who gets a clean run without all the problems inherent in the service side of the equation.

  • You can learn a lot while waiting for your car too If the waiting area and workshop are next to each other! See if anyone is wondering around looking for something, a sign that the place is not organised or tooled up properly.
  • Watch to see if wheels are thrown or carefully and quickly lowered to the ground.
  • See if the mechanics have all the protective covers in place while working on the motor, or are they leaning across your paintwork
  • See if you can know something about the CEO. Good company directors usually run good businesses right down to the workshop floor because he knows how much it matters to his business's long term survival.

Some hard truths

Recently, (2005-2008) I owned the last independent workshop machinery doctor in my state. We repaired all workshop machinery and other equipment used in repairing cars in dealerships and independent workshops as well as franchised repairers.

My day was often spent in workshops. I saw a lot of things that confirmed that nothing has changed since my  35 year stint in the motor industry, except the mistakes made are more expensive for the owner!

We spent many hours watching mechanics do servicing while we were repairing and servicing their heavy equipment such as wheel balancing machines, car hoists wheel balancers, brake lathes, vehicle air conditioning equipment repair stations, fuel injector cleaners and other equipment and machinery. There is a lot of machinery in a workshop!

While completing a mandatory car hoist safety inspections I am often standing under the hoist alongside the mechanic and so get to hear his attitude and see the work in progress.

Workshops mechanics are a closeted lot, but It is easy to be accepted as one of the boys, when you are looking after the equipment they use all day long.

This is especially so with equipment like hoists where the mechanic depends on your knowledge of the electric/electronic/hydraulic machine that holds a two tonne car over his head while he walks around underneath. He trusts his life to the hoist never failing, so a bit of respect is shown for what we do.

Having worked in my own workshops for so many years before I started in this business I know the talk I walk the walk so with all that going for me they behave as if I were not even there!

Funny how they don't get that I am fastidious in my work to ensure their safety and the perfect operation of their machinery, yet assume I will be OK with me that their work is sloppy, and even assume I will approve of their attitude to the customer!

I may have several conversations like this a week.

me: "That's the new model?"

mechanic "Yeah.... nice. some rich sheila (female) owns it".

me "first service?"

mechanic "yep. nothin to do. just rub the dust of a coupla places, an as she's not payin for this service she ain't gettin one!"

Often followed by big guffaws from the other mechanics.

I have seen this same attitude in workshops wherever I have been in the world.

Pick your mechanic.

You may have noticed many motor mechanics own cars that need repair. In fact they often own cars that are dressed to kill with all sorts of bolt on bits, yet in urgent need of major engine or gearbox mechanical repairs.  Avoid these cowboys like the plague, they will destroy your car!

It is not  because motor mechanics are poorly paid,or  cannot afford a decent car that they manage to spend a fair bit of the time broken down.

These guys have no love of what they do, and it is engineering knowledge that these spanner twisters are missing. They have not learnt a complete understanding of the process they have been taught.

Motor engineering knowledge is what separates the mechanics from the parts re-placers and it matters more than ever that a mechanic understands metallurgy, as well as at least some familiarity with metals and bolt tension and the tensile strength of different plastics and metals. These are an essential set of skills needed on the floor in every workshop and often takes the form of the workshop manager, who is often sadly lacking in this understanding too.

Bad mechanics can be seen to do stupid things with their own cars like fit a loud exhaust which causes mechanical damage to the motor and produces less horsepower, or they fit tyres that are over-sized and dangerous that have no relationship to the power the car has or it's often dismal handling.

I have employed many mechanics. I have only found a handful that I could trust with any job. They were all exceptional engineers as well.

After so many years working on cars I can sympathise with a mechanic stuck in a lousy job and how he/she feels about repairing old cars.

They are dirty, they drip dirty oil on you, burn you, cover you in sticky greasy dirty oily sludge, ruin the skin on your hands, injure your hands when spanners "let go" etc etc. Cars! They get all sorts of weird problems, so watch out for the terminally sick of it ones as well..


The new cars have better fault reporting from better computers.

When a new car stops running It can be difficult to know which component has failed other than the fault being reported to the driver by a warning on the dashboard like a flashing light at a minimum, or in some cases a full report on the problem and how to remedy it.

In the past your new car dealer workshop had to plug your car into an external analysers if the car did not have enough information about the problem.

To deal with the latest cars problems a dealership will send it's mechanics back to University to learn how to understand the entire new process, or teach it in house.

Something goes wrong here. We seem to end up with too many mechanics replacing expensive and unnecessary components because these mechanics miss-read or do not understand what the cars computer is trying to tell them.

This usually results in a stack of money for nothing as he fits part after part trying to track down the problem.

To save face your friendly mechanic will tell you that all the components or parts they fitted were faulty, and you could be paying out thousands for what was a $3.00 problem!

You need to look out for yourself as an owner, especially if you know little or nothing about mechanical or electronic things, so the purpose of this article is to show you how to ensure you get the best service from your dealership.

Note: Make sure your new car can be serviced at other dealerships. You will understand why this can be important as you read this.

Your new car first service is crucial to your safety, peace of mind and wallet.

This video picks on a young American woman.

Buying and servicing a used car

Buying a used car, servicing and inspection.

Used cars need a much more comprehensive inspection and typically will need more expensive consumables like exhaust mufflers, brakes, paint, wheel bearings, tyres, wheel alignment, lights, windscreen, window winding motor replacement, rust or other body repairs etc.

  • Deduct the price of any consumables that need replacement from the purchase price.
  • Never buy on a rainy day. Water can hide body damage from all but the highly trained eye of a pro buyer.
  • Check the service record in the owners service records to ensure it has been serviced at the correct intervals. you will find the service intervals in your service manual. Do not buy a car that has incomplete records under any circumstances.


Disc Brake rotor

brake disc in good condition.Note slight blue color. Needs a light cut to be perfect. The blue makes it a bit too smooth.
brake disc in good condition.Note slight blue color. Needs a light cut to be perfect. The blue makes it a bit too smooth.
Disc brake in good condition
Disc brake in good condition

Disc rotor

Looking through the wheel you can see the disc is shiny on the outside edge only. this is unevenly worn and needs machining. The hydraulic components may also need checking for any wear produced by this parameter.
Looking through the wheel you can see the disc is shiny on the outside edge only. this is unevenly worn and needs machining. The hydraulic components may also need checking for any wear produced by this parameter.

front muffler on Toyota Camry in good condition

Although this looks rusty, it is just discolored because it is the front muffler close to the catalytic converter (which cleans the emission from the exhaust system)It is close to the very hot exhaust manifold on the cylinder head of the motor. This
Although this looks rusty, it is just discolored because it is the front muffler close to the catalytic converter (which cleans the emission from the exhaust system)It is close to the very hot exhaust manifold on the cylinder head of the motor. This

Middle muffler

This muffler looks good, but as the end muffler is rusty this muffler may be damaged inside.
This muffler looks good, but as the end muffler is rusty this muffler may be damaged inside.

rear muffler on same car

This is the Camry rear muffler and needs replacement.  The middle muffler may be destroyed on the inside when the rear muffler is shot. Although you cannot see the damage it is likely.Lesson? be prepared for expenses like these. If you are buying a c
This is the Camry rear muffler and needs replacement. The middle muffler may be destroyed on the inside when the rear muffler is shot. Although you cannot see the damage it is likely.Lesson? be prepared for expenses like these. If you are buying a c

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Comments 14 comments

laringo 7 years ago

Earnestshub, I"ve learned many of the things like requesting old parts back over the years, but never thought about oil marks and coolant marks. You've brought to light many things to look out for. Great Hub!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you laringo, I will build on this hub and include much more info and pictures for those less informed than yourself. You sure found this hub fast!


Eric Graudins profile image

Eric Graudins 7 years ago from Australia

Everything you say is dead right.

My car needs a special type of oil for the manual gearbox.

The local dealer doesn't have it in stock - and never has. And doesn't even know that normal gearbox oil should not be used, as it leads to failure of bushes and bearings.

Or even worse, they might know - and rub their hands together at the thought of a geaqrbox replacement. (Nah. shouldn't have said that. Far too cynical. Wasn't it?

I have a mechanical background, and I enjoy maintaining and repairing my vehicles. Most times that I have taken them to repairers, something has been stuffed up as a result.

It continually amazes me that people take the word of their mechanics as gospel, somtimes spending thousands of dollars on the basis of a comment like "I think it would be best if you got a new fergoolinger valve assembly with half twist and pike. It might fail and leave you stranded somewhere, and you wouldn't want that, would you.

Fair dinkum, some mechanics would leave internet marketers for dead in the bullshit stakes.

But what can you expect, with the general population being dumbed down to the extent that they are incapable of mending a tap washer - or even replacing a fluro tube.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Well said Eric, and funny too! This industry has more dipsticks than sumps to put them in by a long shot.

As you rightly point out you must be cynical to even have a sporting chance. I will add more to to this hub over time.


hsofyan profile image

hsofyan 7 years ago from Indonesia

Information is complete! I enjoyed reading about the car used. But unfortunately, it is very difficult to get, if I'm still here.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you hsofyan. I will be adding more information.


Lori Catz 6 years ago

Wow, thank you so much for posting this out. I just printed it out!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

That's great Lori Catz! I guess I have been published!


Mr Rudi O'Neil 6 years ago

I predict that the combination of readily available advice via the internet, and the global recession, will bring about a renaissance in the 'make do and mend' philosophy that punctuated the hard times of World War Two.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks for dropping in Rudi. Some people are probably doing that already.

One thing that drives people to buy new cars is the cost of repairs and the newer technology being too complex for most backyard mechanics to do their own repairs.

It would help a lot if workshops stopped overcharging by fitting parts they thought were the problem until they find the fault, then charging for all the parts they wrongly fitted through their ignorance!

For example, I recently saw a MB 2.3 Kompressor with a workshop bill of 5 thousand dollars that still had exactly the same symptoms after the repairs. It had been hooked up to a MB engine analyser worth 60 grand and they still got it wrong!

I repaired the actual problem for just over 400 dollars in parts and burnt half an hour to find the problem.

The owner got a bill for over 7 thousand dollars from the Mercedes Benz dealership, who incidentally "forgot" to pay me!


Nicky Smart profile image

Nicky Smart 5 years ago from United Kingdom

thank you so much for posting this out.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

You are most welcome Nicky!


Melbourne Limo Hire 5 years ago

This is very useful! Please post more tips about cars and stuffs!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks MLH, I have a lot of other hubs like this, and am always making another one.

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