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Learn To Be Savvy In The Automotive World

Updated on October 19, 2014

Get A Second Opinion

Never understimate the value of a little competition. If a shop knows you are getting multiple estimates on the work done then they may be more likely to offer discounts or deals. This can be true for any service you are looking for. Getting a second opinion puts your mind at ease about getting a fair price and gives shops the impression that you won't be ripped off. I had a friend take her car to a name-brand shop and had a $3,000 estimate given to her. Luckily, she consulted with my husband who was able to fix her problem for $175. The other shop was telling her everything that was wrong with her car when she all she wanted was to fix the initial problem. Even the estimate they gave her on just fixing that problem was $400, so she saved $225 by getting a second opinion. A lot of times the price of parts can vary and there are different levels of quality to consider. Sometimes shops only offer you the most expensive parts.

Research Shops Before You Take Your Vehicle There

The Internet is such a useful tool for research. Many people, when their car breaks down, automatically take their car to a name-brand shop like Midas or Dobbs. But being married to an automotive technician who teaches automotive technology, I have learned some great tricks of the trade - one of which is do not just go for name-brand shops. Using the internet to research the shop options you have before deciding where you want to go can save you money and hassle. Having a well-known name is not a gurantee of quality service or integrity. Instead, what we should be looking for are shops with Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technicians, affiliation with a professional network like ACDelco, AAA or TECH-NET, and an overall apperance of professionalism on the website. ASE certification is a rigorous testing program that requires technicians to know their stuff, and to get recertified every five years. ACDelco and other networks offer training and certifications to shops to increase their quality of work and productivity. One more good thing a shop might say on their website is if they are involved with the local community. Many shops donate to charities or fundraisers and make an effort to show they are a quality business.

Learn To Change the Oil

Follow Your Scheduled Maintenance Plan

In the owner's manual of your vehicle is a scheduled maintenance plan that will tell you when to change all your fluids including transmission fluid, brake fluid and coolant as well as when to change your spark plugs. Alot of times shops will try to sell you all kinds of service and tell you your vehicle is due for them. You can look it up in your vehicle's maintenance plan to make sure they know what they are talking about. If you purchased your vehicle used and did not receive the owner's manual with it, you can call a dealership that sells that brand of car and ask them. They may ask you for the VIN number of the vehicle. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a 17-digit number located on the windshield near the dash. This tells you the vehicle's make, model, year of production, country of production, and other specifications. It comes in handy to know your vehicle's VIN number.

5W-30 Vs. 10W-30...Does It Really Matter?

Yes, it does make a difference if you put the wrong grade of oil in your car. You can cause damage to the engine or other components in the long run. In some cases the vehicle might not even start. It's important know the specific oil grade your car requires and be sure to use that grade. 5W-30 is a thinner viscosity of oil than 10W-30. The higher the number the thicker the oil. Also, high mileage oil or oil additives are not recommended. The healthiest thing for your engine is good, clean, high quality engine oil. And as long as the oil has a label on it that says it is certified by the American Petroleum Institute (API), it is good to use in your vehicle - not matter what brand or how cheap it is.

Another point to know about oil is that the people that sell oil will tell you to change it every 3,000 miles. But you really need to check your vehicles specific guidelines. Many vehicles can go much longer than 3,000 miles with no problems. There's no reason to be spending more money than you need to.

What About Synthetic Vs. Conventional?

There are two types of engine oil to choose from: synthetic and conventional. Synthetic oil is man-made with chemicals like polymers and esters, while conventional oil is refined from petroleum. The synthetic oil is more expensive but is well worth the price. It lasts longer, provides better lubrication and is overall higher quality than conventional. All vehicles can use synthetic and some vehicles are even required to only use synthetic oil. Using conventional can damage your vehicle if synthetic is required, so make sure to use the type your vehicle's supposed to have.

Should Cars Become Driverless?

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Read Consumer Reports Before You Buy A Vehicle

The Consumer Reports magazine is an excellent resource for potential car buyers. It will give you information about a car's reliability, maintenance costs, price range, safety features, gas mileage and more. Decide ahead of time what you are looking for in a car, and then look at the different options in that category. Gas mileage makes a huge difference if you commute or like to travel. Safety features are important for parents and the elderly. There are cars designed for comfort, cars designed for mileage, cars designed for safety and cars designed soley for performance. Looks alone should never be the reason you purchase a specific type of car. On an impulse buy based on looks, you may get stuck with something that doens't have what you really want. In the long run, you will be much happier and save yourself money by doing some research before you make a purchase. You will also know a reasonable price range for the car you want before going in to deal with a seller. To order a magazine or view reports online, visit: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/index.htm.

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