The most expensive thing that we as a culture like to buy is a house, the second is usually our car. These investments are things that many of us end up working towards our entire lives in the hope that one day we'll be able to enjoy that more luxurious house or car. However, throughout this process adjustments and repairs need to be made in order to keep our investments in functioning order.
When problems occur during hard times, the associated costs can seem like the bane of your life. In Australia going without transport for extended periods of time can be highly impractical, so, paying for that vehicle repair bill is inevitable. This is where having an emergency fund can play a crucial role in getting things back on track quickly and without major financial impact. Preventing the fire is more effective than fighting it, so here are six precautions you can take to try and avoid expensive car repairs.
Step One: Car Choice / Reliability
Obvious to some but perhaps not to all, choosing a reliable car is the first step in preventing expensive repairs. The automobile industry gears itself towards our emotions and more times than not people will follow their heart over their better judgement. That unreliable sporty looking car can often seem more desirable than the safe, reliable family vehicle. But, if you don’t have the money to pay for a serious repair, then do not put yourself through the headache.
Customer review sites, mechanic feedback and your friends experiences are all free and can significantly aid your ability to make an informed decision when buying a reliable, cost effective vehicle to satisfy your every day needs. Plus, I think it goes without saying that you should always ensure you have a full service history when buying a second hand car to check that its previous owner has looked it after.
Step Two: Find a Trustworthy Mechanic
Do not underestimate the power some mechanics have in misconceiving you. I myself have recently taken my car to particular mechanics shop where I was advised that my car needed a service every 5,000km's even though the manual said every 15,000km's or 6 months (which ever came first). This aside, there are also plenty of good mechanics out there, it’s simply a case of finding one you believe you can trust and establishing a genuine long-term relationship with them. Good places to look for a mechanic is via Yelp.com.au, Google.com.au or the most effective method is to ask friends and family.
Step Three: DIY
Similar to performing DIY around your house, you can do exactly the same to your car to save on costs. As within your house, you car is built and structured in a pragmatic fashion, you simply need the time to perform the repair. The availability of tutorials and repair guides on YouTube these days makes car repairs easy work and I’m speaking from experience in this respect.
Simple fixes could be changing wiper-blades, fuses, headlights, brake lights, air filters, glove boxes and the battery. I myself own a diagnostic reader that can tell me exactly what’s wrong with the car when the engine light comes on and it only cost me $20. Once I know what the problem is, it’s a simple assessment of whether I can fix it or not. If I cant, at least I can save the mechanic and my wallet an hour of their time finding the problem, by simply telling them.
Step Four: Second Hand Parts
Salvage / scrap yards are a great source of second hand parts and buying from here can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars. To navigate the second hand parts market most parts are graded according to their condition. If the distance is too far to drive most yards will also ship. Family members of mine have used this method to source replacement car hoods, passenger doors and even a new bumper.
Step Five: Preventative Maintenance
Car maintenance is the most effective and cost efficient way of staying on the road for less. Look after your car and it will hopefully look after you if given the right treatment. The general consensus within online chat forums is that the following suggestions are necessary preventative steps to keeping your car healthy.
Brake Pad Replacement upon Manufacturers Suggestion
Manufacturers recommend at certain intervals that brake pads should be changed. If you surpass their recommendations you increase your chances of damaging other brake components and ultimately increasing repair costs. Brakes are your life do not take shortcuts.
It goes without saying that with an old vehicle the liquids should be checked every week or at the very least every two weeks. Newer cars can get away with it for longer, but any deficiency in liquid can cause extra stress to the engine and potentially cause leaks. Ensure you regularly check oil levels, Dot 3 levels, radiator water levels and any additional liquid tanks you have within your engine.
Maintain Correct Tire Inflation
Check your owners manual to see the manufacturers suggested tire pressure. Tires with the incorrect pressure can increase fuel consumption, accelerated wear and tear on the tire and also affect your suspension.
You should check the alignment of your wheels routinely and a good way to spot it is if your car pulls to either the left or the right. This can cause uneven tire wear and tear and also be a potential hazard on the road.
There are three or four different types of fuel one can choose from. Obviously put the correct fuel into a petrol or diesel engine, however if your car manual does not say put a higher-octane fuel into your vehicle, don’t. It’s simply a waste of money with no added benefit to the vehicle.
Glass Chips / Windscreen Cracks
If you receive a crack or chip on your windscreen firstly check your insurance policy because most companies will provide a free repair or replacement. However, if not then auto-glass companies will repair the chip quite inexpensively. Changes in temperature, bumpy roads and strong winds will cause cracks to grow and result in much higher repair costs, so choose to act quickly rather than put it off.
Step Six: Research Pays Off
If you have done all of the above correctly and still have to repair your vehicle then be sure you get at least three opinions before going ahead with the repair. Then ensure you understand each proposed repair job because sometimes mechanics will add work that doesn’t need to be done. Also before any work is performed its worth checking whether there are any current warranties or recalls for your vehicle.
A good example would be to check the warranty programs that were available when your car was new. All automobile companies are different but some have tendencies to increase their drivetrain warranty from the traditional 3 year / 36,000 miles to 6 year / 72,000 miles. Others include a lifetime drivetrain warranty, so by checking this you could save a chunk of money and have your car repaired for free.