How To Save Money On Car Repairs

by Mike Holman

As much as I love owning a car, I absolutely hate paying for maintenance and especially repairs. I bought my current vehicle brand new so I decided that for the first few years I would get the regular maintenance done at the dealership since it probably won’t need any repairs. After that I wanted to stop going to the dealership since they always seem to find problems with the car – more so on days when they are not busy. My plan (for the past year) has been to find a small repair shop in my area to work on the car.

Blower resistor malfunction

Recently the blower resistor in my car stopped working correctly – what the heck is that you ask? Well the blower is what I call the fan – it “blows” the hot air from your heater and the cold air from your air conditioner into the passenger portion of your car. In my case the fan has 4 settings and only the highest setting was still working. I found out what part was causing the problem by doing a Google search – I didn’t expect to find the exact problem but I did and it told me that I needed a new blower resistor.

Do the repair myself?

Apparently it is an easy part to replace so I thought I would try to change it myself. First step was to get the part – easy enough since the dealership had it for $28. Then I took a good look at the existing part (right behind the glove compartment) and decided that although I could probably get the old part out, it would be a big hassle and I decided to see how much the dealership would charge to replace it. Much to my surprise the dealership would charge 1 hour of labour or $135 including tax. I’m sure it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes for them to do the job.

Small local car repair shop

My next step was to walk down the street to a small car repair shop and ask how much they would charge for the job. The guy checked out the car specs on his computer (or pretended to at least) and then quoted $50. This was still quite a bit for the work involved but it was a lot cheaper than the dealership quote of $135. I got the the small repair place to do the work and the repair worked great! For checking out the price down the street I saved $85.

Lessons learned

  • Do some research on your car problem – it’s possible other people have posted similar problems/repairs/costs on the internet.
  • Beware of doing your own diagnosis - had the problem been different than what I thought, I would have been out $28 and some time.
  • Shop around – one mistake I’ve made MANY times is that when the dealership says something needs fixing, I’ve always let them do the work. If it’s a big job or if you are suspicious of their intentions then tell you don’t want to do the work right now and then shop around. You can use their estimate documentation to easily get other quotes.
  • Beware of the lies - sometimes they will tell you that your brakes have “only” 20% left and make it seem like you can’t drive the car out of the shop. In reality if it took you 40,000 kilometres (or 25,200 miles) to wear down 80% of the brake then you have another 10,000 kilos (or 6300 miles) to go before it’s a real problem. I’m not suggesting that you wait until your brakes are completely worn out to get them fixed but rather that you probably have quite a bit of time before they actually need it.
  • Don’t assume expertise – unfortunately I’ve had problems in the past with small repair places that didn’t know what they were doing and couldn’t fix the car. Sometimes you are better off taking it to the dealership (I wish I knew when this was the case).
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