Auto Repair and Services
If you are the typical car owner, you may not know much about the mechanics of your vehicle.
When it is time for repairs, however, you should know how to locate a reliable shop and aqualified mechanic.
If you have a problem with your car while it is still under warranty, follow the manufacturer's requirements, which may include having repairs made at an authorized franchised dealership, to keep your warranty in effect.
If your car is no longer under warranty and you are looking for a qualified, independent repair shop, ask friends and family for recommendations; and check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about the shop's reliability. Look for shops that display certification that indicate some or all of the technicians have met basic standards of knowledge and competence in specific technical areas. Remember, however, that certification alone is not an absolute guarantee of good or honest work.
If major repairs are required, you may want to find a dealer or repair shop specializing in the type of repair needed. If you are in doubt about what the problem is, let the shop diagnose the problem. You may cost yourself money by requesting a specific repair that may not in fact solve the problem. Nevertheless, be as specific and accurate as possible in describing the problem.
Always get an estimate for parts and labor. Make sure the estimate states the shop will contact you for your approval before performing any work exceeding a specified amount of time or money.
When you pick up your car, ask the service manager to explain all work completed and all replacements made. Also, ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you, if possible. If the shop guarantees its work, get the guarantee in writing. Be sure that your bill itemizes the repairs so if a problem occurs later, you can prove that the item in question is covered by the guarantee.
Car Care for Winter
Winter is the most difficult time of the year to keep a car operating smoothly. Lubricants become thick and sluggish in the colder temperatures and must be warmed to work properly; water coolants must contain adequate amounts of antifreeze additives in order to prevent freezing. Even a car's body should be protected against the corrosive action of road salts, snow and ice.
The Better Business Bureau urges car owners to put their cars into peak operating condition well before the onset of cold weather. There are some strong economic reasons for doing so. For example, when a car breaks down in winter, its owner might have to pay a premium for winter road service or towing, not to mention the inconvenience and hazard of being stranded in a cold and dangerous environment. When a breakdown does occur, the owner is often forced to use a repair shop other than his or her regular one and it may not be possible to determine the reliability of the repair facility in advance.
A good place to start preventive maintenance is with an engine tune-up. It should cost between $50 and $100 to replace an average car's spark plugs, rotor, fuel filter, air filter and PCV valve, as well as paying to have the engine properly timed. Some older cars may require new distributor points and a condenser, and possibly new ignition wires. Check the age and condition of your car's battery and make sure the contact terminals are clean and well connected. Also check fan belts for wear and fit. Engine coolant should be replaced periodically according to manufacturer's specifications.
Even if it doesn't need to be changed, check to be sure that the ratio of antifreeze to water will prevent any freeze-up. Check the condition of the tires and determine whether snow tires are necessary. Replace your windshield wiper blades and add an anti-freezing window spray.
The BBB recommends that you clean and wax the body of your car. Many consumers are keeping their cars longer and waxing will usually help prevent premature corrosion.