You take good care of your vehicle, from paying for affordable comprehensive car insurance and committing to a regular oil change schedule. But if your days are busy and you don’t have the time to take your vehicle to the dealership for an oil and lube, it’s a good bet you’ll get the work done at one of the many lube service shops around the country. While this can be a sensible, time-saving decision, it may also lead to a good-sized hole in your wallet whenever one of their technicians points out other dire services your vehicle needs right away.
You’re not a mechanic – so how do you know if they’re padding their pocket while emptying yours? Unless you completely trust the shop, don’t fall for recommended services that are designed to rush you into a false sense of (expensive) urgency.
Five Common Car Services That Are Probably Unnecessary
Though it might be tempting to just take the word of your local lube shop employee, not all car experts are created equal. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert yourself to spot auto repair rip-offs before it’s too late. Knowing the five most common car maintenance services you probably don’t need can save you a lot of money in the long run.
No matter how friendly or pushy the staff at the repair shops are, you may want to steer clear of the following:
1. Fuel Injector Cleaning
This mostly unnecessary service is very popular and people fall for it all the time unless they know their vehicle is fine without it. Oil change shops plaster their waiting room walls with posters showing spray patterns of dirty and clean fuel injectors to lure you in. But, according to Kelley Blue Book, fuel injector cleaning is rarely — if ever — necessary.
2. Replacing Your Air Filter
Some lube shop technicians will push for you to change your air filter. Keep track of when you changed it last and ask your technician to show you the filter, making sure it’s the one that came out of your car. You can tell at first glance if the air filter is dirty and needs replacement. According to fueleconomy.gov, changing out a dirty air filter may slightly improve performance, but it won’t impact your mileage.
3. Throttle Body Cleaning
It’s not unusual for grit and grime to pass through your vehicle’s air filter and accumulate inside the throttle body. Since the throttle body allows air into the engine, if it gets too dirty, it may cause rough idle or poor acceleration. However, this service is best performed by a certified mechanic and not at an oil and lube shop — be careful that you’re not pressured into getting this done while you’re in for an oil change.
4. Frequent Oil Changes
Modern cars don’t require oil changes as frequently as older models – every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. In 2010, according to Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds, vehicles manufactured in the last 12 to 13 years can go as far as 10,000 miles between changes.
Refer to your owner’s manual (not the lube shop technician) for the proper interval. Routine oil changes are an important priority for any car owner, but you might not have to come in as often as your auto mechanic says you do.
5. Fluids and Flushes
Most oil change and lube shops recommend fluid replacement, but also push for flushes of the system, such as the transmission or differential, to remove any residue the dirty fluid may leave behind. Some of the most common fluids that you’ll hear referenced include windshield washer fluid, coolant (also known as antifreeze), transmission fluid (if you have an automatic car), engine oil, or brake fluid.
Although over time these lubricants can degrade and lead to wear and tear of internal parts, check your owner’s manual for service intervals before agreeing to the fluid replacement. Otherwise you might be paying for unnecessary work. Or worse, if you do opt for a flush and the lube shop isn’t certified, you could void your vehicle’s extended warranty.
Tips for Avoiding Unnecessary Repairs and Scams
Ask for a Second Opinion
When in doubt, ask for a second opinion. As much as there are some dishonest mechanics out there, the majority of mechanics are trained professionals trying to do the best job possible. It is perfectly acceptable to tell your mechanic that you are going to give a repair some thought before signing any paperwork or booking any appointments.
Consult Your Manufacturer’s Guide
Every car manufacturer publishes a reference guide for car owners. Within this guide, you’ll find recommended services as well as service intervals. Again, this is the best place to refer to when determining when you’re due for a routine oil change. While a maintenance guide doesn’t replace the need to visit a car mechanic or dealership, it can help you educate yourself to be able to discern whether a maintenance suggestion is a red flag.
Consult Consumer Reports
Reporting the consumer reports of your vehicle make and model can help you twofold. For one thing, it can help make you aware of any common issues or recalls associated with your car. Two, they do a good job of documenting common scams that any vehicle owner should be aware of. Looking at consumer reports is an important part of doing your own research before you pay for costly repairs.
Ask for a Written Estimate
To avoid unwanted surprises from your auto mechanic, don’t be afraid to ask for a written estimate that outlines the services that will be performed. Try to make sure that it includes a breakdown of labor costs as well as parts. Reputable auto repair shops will not mind accommodating this request — if your shop of choice seems hesitant, then this is a red flag.
Watch for Upsells
While some additional unnecessary services will occasionally cost you money, you should be wary of blatant upsells. One simple way to determine whether or not an auto shop is trying to unnecessarily upsell you is to pay attention to whether the service they’re offering is related to the reason you came in. While it is possible for mechanics to uncover a glaring issue while examining your car for an unrelated concern, you should approach these situations with extra caution.
Keeping yourself aware of what counts as unnecessary work doesn’t mean that you avoid mechanics or lube shops entirely. In fact, regular checkups on things like tire pressure, brake pads, spark plugs, and fluid levels are key, especially if you own an older car. And you definitely should take your car into a trusted shop if your check engine light turns on.
But you shouldn’t be punished for wanting to take care of your car — so keep the above common scams and helpful tips in mind while you’re out in the world.
While you’re out there dodging auto mechanic scams, make sure you’re also not paying too much for your auto insurance. Freeway Insurance can help you find the best automobile insurance rates on the market. Get your free quote now or give us a call at 800-777-5620.