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How to save thousands on car maintenance guide

Updated on December 15, 2010

Maintenance essentials.

Maintaining your car is important to your safety as well as your wallet, and we all know that right?.

My expertise is in automotive engineering., running quality workshops and then later I owned a business supplying high quality auto shop equipment. I have built my own car for the road, and once spent 5 1/2 years rebuilding a vintage grand prix car from the ground up with a dear friend who was a motoring fanatic.

The time spent selling workshop equipment and seeing how motor mechanics used it was a very good way to asses their mechanical engineering ability and informative in seeing how they went about their job working on your car.

Having owned and operated many workshops myself I knew the value of a good customer, I have kept some of them through a dozen different cars, and by offering top service we never wanted for customers.

What was an eye opener for me was how often repairers today replaced genuine high quality OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) consumables with the cheapest rubbish after market copy product available, and pocket the difference in the price!

Most people are amazed when they discover how much they get ripped off for the difference in cost price, eg: You are charged $87 for a part that cost the repairer $16.and is crap.

A "tuneup" for a 4 year old car that has always been serviced at proper intervals by a large dealership costing $1500? This is theft folks! I see it all the time. I got a quote for that amount from a major dealership to tune a Hyundai people mover that was misbehaving with a stuttering motor mis firing that is typical.

The owner had the Auto club mechanic out first. Lucky I was there, he muttered something about the spark plug leads needing replacement, but could not use his own analyzer to prove it up! The likelihood of the problem being the leads was zilch, as the stuttering did not vary with engine load, and therefore most unlikely as spark loss originating at the spark plug leads would mean that heavier engine loads would cause the spark to misfire more, and it did not!

I sent him packing.

I hooked up my standard 20 year old engine analyzer to it. (10 minutes to warm up the analyzer and find the fault)

It was a design fault that should have been fixed under a standard free service but was not done! Gee, and I should be surprised?

I did not bother to go back to the sparkling new Hyundai dealership who missed it in the free service period. Why would they be any better the second time? The truth is they never are better the second time!

I don't do repairs any more, but this was too cost $39 to fix with one phone call to have my parts expert friend deliver a much cheaper and higher quality Japanese after market part. Oh and it took all of 5 minutes to replace that sucker!

The complaints about maintenance costs is universally very high, yet still does not reflect the real cost to the consumer of driving a dangerous vehicle without having any idea why it is dangerous and no way of finding out. Till now!.

Why you get shredded!

  • The car maintenance industry is so saturated that cheating is the only way for many bad operators to stay afloat, and as you would suspect, all areas of maintenance from service to full drive train replacement or engine replacement are full of inflations to take more of your money than you need to spend.

If you follow me so far, I do have real solutions as you will see.

Through insurance this cost over $2,000

This repair took 4 months, was returned 4 times and cost over $2,000 It could have been repaired privately for a few hundred dollars.
This repair took 4 months, was returned 4 times and cost over $2,000 It could have been repaired privately for a few hundred dollars.

Accident or body damage.

This is a major rort sector of the industry. From Insurers who's terms and conditions are obscure or unfathomable, to repairers who rob on LABOUR and PARTS prices. Your chances of not being robbed are very slim indeed.

the body panel you have had replaced for thousands may be an old one, welded or repaired, your great OEM windscreen is often replaced with one that is supposedly better, but is rubbish and cost half the price of a real one. Air-bag covers are often replaced without fitting the airbag and the warning signals "doctored" to disguise that the $1800 air bag you got charged to replace is in fact missing completely and the warning light in it is now hot-wired to the oil pressure warning light signal. You know nothing unless you have an accident.

Some other hard facts.

Repaint jobs seldom last more than 3 years in most climates, and are almost never as good as the original paint.

The reason for this is that the manufacturer has laid out a base for the paint in layers from the bare metal up, and the process is much more accurate than a human spray painter, as is the equipment used. A very good paint job to copy this procedure costs a few thousand dollars!

Avoiding the big expenses.

Firstly, if you have bought a car recently and have had any large expenses and the vehicle has done under 150000 miles other than normal free maintenance items, think about replacing it. Chances are it will continue to give trouble and eat money.

Design faults are very common in new vehicles, and bad assembly still happens with some.

Some manufacturers do horrible things in design that you pay for.

One European maker has an engine that requires an $1800 timing belt replacement, and worse, it needs one every 80,000klms!

You need to own a car that has not been fitted with rubbish oil and fuel filters or had cheap lubricants, cheap mufflers and brake consumables and sloppy adjustments all it's life to start with.

Constant vigilance is needed to avoid large repairs and that should be a big part of your focus. Preventative maintenance will save damage to major components to a degree that many do not grasp.

Ask your mechanic to keep the old parts in a box for your inspection.
Ask your mechanic to keep the old parts in a box for your inspection.

How to make sure you get what you pay for.

  • Always ask for a quote

Never get one quote and accept it unless you know what is wrong and the cost to fix it.

  • Ask for the quote to include that only OEM or equivalent spec replacements are to be used
  • Insist that all evidence of the maintenance remains until you inspect the parts, packaging,¬† or OEM docket¬† for the parts replaced. Ask them to leave all the worn or otherwise unservicable replaced consumables for your inspection prior to disposal.

  • Tell them upfront that you will not pay for any extra's above their quote without prior notification..

The long term solution to maintenance.

You must find a decent maintenance place.

I know and have met hundreds of people who love their mechanic. I look at the condition of their car, and what they have paid for repairs and know one thing for sure.

He loves them! Often taking thousands of dollars in repairs because he had failed to carry out the car maintenance schedule and/or has not replaced consumables with quality items that fit and work to standards set down by the manufacturer. Your car is wrecked, he has money for work not done and you have been robbed of your vehicles unexpired mileage as well as your money!

Cars are an emotional attachment and so are car mechanics. The majority of cars maintained by "my wonderful" mechanic that I see are dangerously unsafe due to missed or bad maintenance.

A good service industry pro will give you a free quote, tell you all about your car that he can gleen from looking at it, and will usually point something out to you that you had missed in service.

The guy who tries to make you fix the brakes before you leave is often the right guy to deal with, if he shows you evidence of caring about your safety and explains why you need the repair.

What you need to know is if what your mechanic says is the truth!

.To be honest, a lot can go wrong in maintenance that is unexpected, but what is expected is that you are informed about why any problem has arisen

Here are a couple of examples of what does happen.

You go to Ford or GM or wherever you bought it and ask for the brakes to be repaired as your brake light is on and get a quote for $1800.

You reckon OK it will all be genuine parts and fixed by the repairers appointed by the manufacturer to do so as a dealer.

The $1800 quote is based on doing the whole works, your ABS and any other bolt on brake equalising systems are serviced, the whole system flushed and cleaned, new rubbers throughout new discs and brake pads all round.

What may happen.

When you leave the dealership your car goes around the corner to a cheap brake specialist to spends about one tenth of that by estimating what does not need attention in his opinion, not the manufacturers.

You get back what you could have had done for $300, except it cost you $1800.

When the brakes crap themselves inside a year, the poor old customer goes back and does it all again! So sad.

Here is what I do.

search the net for my vehicle maintenance.

Track down recommended quality replacement parts to solve design problems if I am to keep the vehicle.

With this knowledge try to locate mechanics that know about these replacements.

Now here is the same brake job when I get it done.

I get a quote to replace components with often better quality components that are better priced or even the same as OEM.

For example some wheel bearings are $80 genuine from the dealership, but $26 from a bearing supplier for the same product.

If your mechanic does not know this market well, find another mechanic, it is essential that he has this knowledge. There are hundreds of solutions to OEM designed weak parts.

Knowledge is power.

Take charge.

If your mechanic knows more than you do, you have to have trust. I can't teach you all I know about cars on this hub, but I can tell you a few things about good service, and you can contrast that with your experience.

External signs your mechanic or repairer sucks!

  • You have a problem that has been "fixed" twice.
  • You have not been told to replace something untill you can hear it!
  • You had what seemed like a minor problem that cost you a grand to fix.
  • You have had an oil or fluid leak and he has not mentioned it.
  • You were charged more than quoted
  • You were charged for major repairs on a car less than 5 years old.

The worlds best.
The worlds best.

The expert.

The real expert can be spotted if you know what to look for, and with all my experience I have found it is one thing alone that ensures your car is maintained as it should be.

Attitude towards you!

Only the best mechanics can work on all sorts of cars all day and never get sloppy or take short-cuts that are long term expensive for you the car owner..

It is often a thankless job in large or small businesses as there is often little positive feedback for good work.either from employees or the customers.

Here are some more questions to ask yourself.

Does your mechanic actively recommend non OEM parts that are better replacements than OEM or the same but cheaper? With some vehicles and some parts this is a wise way to save money. You need to do some research to establish what is available as replacements for your make and model.

Does he take an active interest in you and your families safety, and is the reliability of your vehicle important to him? If your mechanic comments on your driving style and relates it to front brake wear, you have someone interested in your safety.

Does the bill always match the quote even when the time used is longer than costed?

(In a workshop you get problems with tight bolts ans rusted threads that may take longer, but a good shop wears the cost, unless your car has been looked after elsewhere, as the mechanics should have seen the problem coming during previous inspection, so it is their fault.)

Is he using the correct high quality lubricants, filters and consumable parts like brake pads etc to the specs of your vehicle?


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      folk menneskeheten i menn at jeg tror ikke folk flest vil sett en god stund . pe5 dette ttedpunkist var ikke en vinduskarmen mot meg pe5 TV ever og jeg gjf8r stadioner,

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have a metal Slumber King box spring frame nubrmes on it are 4 FT 6 or G. The spring looks like cast metal with flat metal slats that are connected with a bunch of small springs. Do you have any information on the age of this product and whether or not there is a market for it? Thanks

    • damek profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Great hub! I've written about similar topic, you can check it.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you Isabelle, I do try to make it understandable.

      I have taught many females about their cars, women like to know the important things like safety.

    • Isabelle22 profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere on the coastline

      What a great helpful hub. It's great to get advice from someone who knows so much to a female driver who knows nothing lol.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I bought a new car and this article was very useful. I saved it. Thanks.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      You are lucky! I have met many great mechanics over the years, and loads of bad ones!

    • Terrapanthera profile image


      9 years ago from The Netherlands

      Very informative. Luckily I 'have' a mechanic who cares about what it costs me. He has plenty of customers who can pay for expensive parts and repairs, so on the side-line he helps people with not that much money for less. Sounds like a miracle eh? Still, it is true.

      Nevertheless, I take your advice into account, thank you!!!

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you terrorwhite, come again, this hub will grow like a mushroom as I ad to it regularly.

    • terrowhite profile image


      9 years ago

      Great tips and ideas on saving money on car maintainance.. :)

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Philent, than you for your comment.

      I will continue to rewrite this hub to make it easier for non mechanical people to understand.

    • Philent profile image


      9 years ago

      You did not get me, I mean because I don't know much about these things all I have to do is trust them without knowing if they will do the right although I think I'm doing the right thing in getting lot of quotes. Iww hope I explain myself better.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      If you think I trust them to do the right thing, you did not read my hub very well!

    • Philent profile image


      9 years ago

      Yes knowledge is power, but my interest is just to drive..LOL! maybe someday I'll let myself be familiar with auto parts. But then I guess I'm doing something right, I gather multiple quotes and choose the lowest cost before letting it done, the thing is as you've said all I have to do is to trust that they'll do the right thing. Btw thanks for the tips.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Interesting...My Jeep is in the need for servicing and now I can my self save thanks to this hub...I appreciate your car knowledge and passion...thanks

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      It is true, the Subaru does suffer from a bit of seepage along the cylinder head gasket.

      $2,500 dollars is crazy money to do a gasket replacement.

      The head can be removed in a couple of hours, and the gasket is normal price of a head gasket, nothing special.

      I could give you as much detailed info as you want if you email me the year, model, mileage and history.

    • Staci-Barbo7 profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina


      This Hub has alot of valuable information. I am recently in the market for a mechanic I can trust, after being told by a dealership and a chain mechanic shop (for my 2nd opinion) that I needed to have the gaskets replaced in my Subaru engine due to leakage, while the third mechanic shop (my 3rd opinion) told me that a miminal bit of seepage is normal and doesn't necessarily mean I need such an expensive repair ($2,500.00 USD according to the dealer).

      When you have this kind of situation, it's difficult to know whom you can trust to service the items that need to be repaired on your vehicle while not over-charging for unnecessary items.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thanks Alistair! I hope you save heaps.

    • heller profile image


      9 years ago from Europe

      solid advice which I promise to put into practice.

      tickety-boo the noo.


    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you Jyoti, my good friend, thank you for the comment and the thumbs up!

    • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

      Jyoti Kothari 

      9 years ago from Jaipur

      Hi Earnest My good friend,

      Really useful article. Especially in these days of recession.

      Thumbs up!

      Jyoti Kothari

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you Tammy. I try, but like all my hubs, this one will grow as I learn what people need to know about this subject.

    • tammyfrost profile image

      Tammy Frost 

      9 years ago from Oregon

      Wow...Mind blowing article...I would totally have to plan an article like yours out...Good detail, instructions, good quality, quantity....Wow Perfect Thanks for sharing and thanks for the additional content advise!

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thanks pddm67. I hope you can use the advice in this hub to find a better mechanic. :)

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I have seen so many of these dirty tricks. Batteries can fail, but usually last at least three years. (If the charging system is working properly) Good that you gave them the bum's rush.

      Maybe suggest using some of the tips here to find another workshop! Thanks for the comment Marco.

    • pddm67 profile image


      9 years ago from Queens, New York

      Great advice! It's so hard to find a trustworthy mechanic that won't rip you off. I had a great mechanic for years and then he left the place he was working at and didn't let anyone know where he went. Still continued to use the same shop but the service was never the same and the price always seemed higher than it had been. Lookin for someone new. Can you recommend anyone in New York :-)

    • marcofratelli profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      Hmm... are you available to service my car?! My dad got charged for a new battery because they thought it needed replacing and a) they did it without asking and b) it was replaced last service. After going to that joint for years, they've now lost our whole family of 5 cars as a result. Great hub btw.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thanks DoodleLyn, I am glad you liked it. Not finished yet... I update.

    • DoodleLyn profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York, USA

      You're so fortunate to know so much about cars. Most of us are at the mercy of our mechanics! Great hub, with good information. I especially liked that you gave tips for knowing if your mechanic is honest and good!

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you Lady_E, I will continue to grow this article as I find ways to explain simply what is a very complex subject.

    • Lady_E profile image


      9 years ago from London, UK

      These are very useful tips especially for me that hasn't got a clue about anything to do with cars even though I drive. I'll bookmark it so I can refer to it from time to time. Cheers. :)

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thank you agvulpes, encouragement coming from you is especially nice. I know that you have heaps of experience in the industry.

    • agvulpes profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      earnestshub, great honest, down to earth information.

      Having been in the Auto Industry myself for many years, Ive seen a lot of sharks just waiting for the next sucker to walk in the door.

      Keep up the good work. :-)

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I hope so too! Thanks for the comment.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thanks for all the valuable input, it might help keep us from getting ripped off when servicing our cars. Thanks again. creativeone59

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thanks Brian, It is experiences like yours that will help reinforce the message to be careful with maintenance suppliers. It is absolute theft in so many cases.

    • earnestshub profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thanks shamelabboush, You really have to watch you back with dealerships and other car service and workshops these days.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      9 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I have had a similar experience with a misfire at a main dealer on a Volkswagen who ultimately failed to repair the fault despite all their diagnostic equipment and several attempts.

      After about 5 minutes with a trusted mechanic I have used for years, he identified the fault, ordered the part and repaired the car for me at a fraction of the cost of the main dealer.

      So you are absolutely right and my preference is to use a known and trusted mechanic for all my car servicing and repairs when I can. But when I can't at least I know how to avoid being ripped off in the future due to your informative and honest hub.

    • shamelabboush profile image


      9 years ago

      You're absolutely right... i am so pissed of of those thiefs. I just had my car repaired few days ago and the amount was big. I checked with their manager to tell me there was an error in the invoice... B***... Thanks.


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