It feels rewarding to take care of many routine car maintenance items at home, like changing your air filter or your wiper blades. With your hands a little dirtier and your budget still intact, you walk away feeling like an accomplished car owner. Other fixes, though, like replacing your engine belt, could likely use the expertly trained hands of a technician. When it’s time for a major repair, follow these simple tips for getting your car fixed—for less (and without duct tape too)!
Stay a step ahead: Take advantage of free inspections
Take advantage of free inspections, and do so early and often. These regular vehicle inspections typically include an examination of both the major and minor parts of your car, like your suspension, exhaust systems, brakes, tires, fluid levels, belts, lights—practically the works, and for free!
Because so many parts on your vehicle are integrated, postponing maintenance can lead to trouble, says the Federal Trade Commission. “Specific parts—or an entire system—can fail,” they write. A quick inspection only costs you a bit of time, but the findings could help you spot tiny problems before they become monster problems, saving you time and money in the long haul.
Check yourself: Know what you can (& cannot) tackle in your driveway
We can’t all be expert automotive technicians, and that’s OK. Before you grab your socket set, pop the hood, and start loosening nuts left and right, take a look in your owner’s manual and talk to a professional. Your owner’s manual is like your car’s “FAQ” section. When trouble arises, check the manual to make sure that the issue you’re experiencing isn’t a result of not understanding your car’s unique controls and features. You could save yourself time and the cost of labor at a repair shop if the issue is a result of a simple misunderstanding.
If this doesn’t help you solve the problem, keep your manual open and call an expert. Explain the problem and provide the technician with the make, model and specific trim level of your vehicle. While they can’t know for sure what’s going on with your car over the phone, this information could help them provide you with insight into the issue. From there, decide whether or not this is a problem you can tackle in your driveway. Research the issue online, talk to neighbors, seek advice, and above all—be realistic about your abilities. Attempting to fix a problem that you’re not equipped to fix could leave you with greater repair bills down road.
Track it: Keep your repair records handy
Maintenance records help your technician better understand your car, as well as previous services and repairs. For instance, let’s say you visit an “in-and-out” oil change shop after your car’s oil change light comes on. Then you start seeing oil splotches in your garage. A few weeks later, the oil change light comes on again and you head to your local Firestone Complete Auto Care. You show the technician your service records, as well as the invoice for the oil change. This clues them in as to where to start and they quickly find that the oil filter was not properly tightened, saving you from a potentially costly engine repair.
Keep your service records and receipts handy and in your car, if possible. A complete set of records helps prevent redundant repairs, which are a waste of everyone’s time and money. They could also help save your technician time when diagnosing a potential problem and help rule out issues that are the result of a lack of service (because you’ve got it all documented, remember?), which saves you money in labor costs.
Deal yourself some savings: Research coupon offers & rebates
Many car repair shops offer monthly coupons, service discounts, and special product rebates on a variety of items and repairs, including everyday necessities like windshield blades, tires, oil changes, and brake service.
How do you take advantage of these sweet deals? Check out the repair shop’s website, do an online search for “car repair coupons and promotions,” and show the shop the offer! If it’s convenient, go ahead and print the offer or show it from your smartphone screen. A little research could equal double-digit savings.
Get it covered: Go with the warranty
Did you know? Your services and parts may come with a free warranty. This means that if a part or service proves to be no good and falls within the warranty period, it’ll be replaced free of charge. There’s no form to fill out, no contract to sign, and no check to write. All you need to do is be aware of it!
Many parts and services purchased at Firestone Complete Auto Care are covered by a minimum of twelve (12) months or 12,000 miles. Other warranties, like Firestone Complete Auto Care’s “Fixed Right and On Time Guarantee” are built into your service. If your repair or service is performed improperly, the service will be re-performed at no additional charge to you. And if your vehicle isn’t ready at the time promised, you’ll receive a discount on your next purchase.
Then, of course, there are limited lifetime warranties like the Lifetime Alignment service and Lifetime Wheel balance. (Pro tip: The smartest move is to have your alignment checked every other oil change, which is about once or twice a year depending on how much you drive.) Over the lifetime of your vehicle, warranties such as these could help you remember to have your tires aligned, help prevent major issues that result from maintenance avoidance, and even save on the cost of regular alignments.
Read up on the services that are performed on your vehicle, return to the same shop for your recurring services, and you could end up keeping more cash in your wallet. Product and service warranties aren’t typically transferable between auto shops.
Read up: Check out reviews & certifications before going to the shop
Here we go again! We’re all about education and research when it comes to your car and the care it receives. Why? Because we believe knowledgeable drivers are powerful drivers! Before you pull, push, tow, or drive your vehicle to the repair shop, read the shop’s customer reviews online. These reviews could provide you with insider information into the atmosphere of the shop, and may even alert you to special promotions that are going on!
If you can, drive by the shop too. Is it overcrowded with cars? Do you trust that your car will receive the time and attention it deserves? Just like shopping for cars or even groceries, it’s OK to shop around for an experience and price you’re comfortable with.
Also, ask about the technicians’ credentials. Not all repair professionals are ASE-certified, but it pays to ask. This certification indicates that a technician has met a certain level of competence in specific technical areas. Technicians must pass a written test and have at least two years of work experience in auto repair service. As with other professions where practitioners specialize in specific subject matter, like doctors or teachers, technicians can be certified in specific areas as well. Talk to the service manager or shop owner about having a technician that specializes in engine repair, brakes, or whatever type of repair you need.
Make friends: Establish a relationship with your car repair shop
We’re not suggesting you invite your mechanic over for dinner (though that would be very kind of you), but we are suggesting that you take a second look at how you communicate with them. The better you can communicate what’s wrong with the vehicle, the easier it is for the technician to diagnose and fix it. Plus, returning to the same repair shop will help you take advantage of existing service warranties, keep your service record in line, and stay on top of routine maintenance items. According to the folks at Driving, “Don’t shop-hop.” Failing to build a business relationship with one regular service provider typically means spending more in the long haul.
Getting your car fixed for less isn’t about taking shortcuts; it’s primarily about being a knowledgeable car owner and taking care of preventative, routine maintenance.
While you could certainly save money by skipping repairs all together, think about the long-term cost. According the Car Care Council, studies have shown that unperformed maintenance results in 5 percent of all vehicle accidents, leading to more than 2,600 deaths, nearly 100,000 disabling injuries, and more than $2 billion in lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage each year. Set your car (and your budget) up for summer success with a free car inspection at your local Firestone Complete Auto Care. Stop by today or schedule an appointment online!