An Insider’s Guide To Car Servicing

Regular servicing is a recommended and often essential part of caring for your car. It can also cause resentment due to the almost inevitable feeling that you’re paying for unnecessary work. Here are seven tips from a veteran mechanic that will help to ensure your car serving is fair and affordable.

Mechanic image from Shutterstock

If you have a particular repair job in mind, then you can brush up on the likely costs beforehand. It’s the unexpected surprises that sting the most. The best approach is to anticipate your car service as a long-term project, and work your way up to the final hurdle.

So, whether you’re an eternal optimist who expects to be pleasantly surprised by your mechanic’s bill, or you stop in at the closest garage for even the smallest job, you should take heed of the following tips, which may work out to be considerably cheaper.

#1 Consider related trades, and seek some free advice

Rather than assuming that all car problems need a mechanic, you might be able to find a reputable and thrifty alternative. For example, ignition problems can be solved by a qualified locksmith. For a fraction of the price of replacing the ignition barrell, you can get your key cut to exact manufacturer’s specifications, which will turn over much more smoothly.

Another option is to visit an auto parts store. You’ll likely find that the extremely knowledgeable staff can steer you in the right direction, without having to fork out an hourly rate to hire a professional.

#2 Dial an auto wrecker

If your car is a little older, try calling in spare parts, and you may be able to replace your problem in its entirety. This solution has an added benefit, in that you aren’t waiting for weeks while a mechanic orders a specific part from your manufacturer, which often comes with a premium price tag.

#3 Knowledge is power when choosing a mechanic

Even if you can’t source a second hand part, you can always enquire about its price. This puts you in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Then, when you call garages for an all-in quote, you can run a quick calculation and roughly ascertain their labour costs. A well placed follow-up question can also help you decide which mechanic is most economical. Enquire about how long the job will take, and you’re in a position to talk billable hours.

Even if your car isn't in need of repairs, asking the right questions will help to ascertain which mechanics are inflating their margins. So, when it does come time for a service, you’ve narrowed the field to reputable contenders.

#3 Ensure you undertake regular car maintenance

Prevention is always better than a cure, particularly if your car happens to be under warranty. Indeed, this is the only scenario where visiting your dealership will be your most cost efficient option. Otherwise, it’s quite easy to keep your car running smoothly by undertaking work yourself, but it comes with a caveat.

#4 Know your limits while expanding your skill set

Don’t attempt an oil change unless you’re prepared to get very dirty. But in all seriousness, you can quickly teach yourself a number of smaller jobs for when you pop your hood, without risking an irreversible accident. For example, you should look into changing your own air filter next time you check your water, oil and coolant levels.

#5 Work the franchise discount

The advantage of visiting your local mechanic is that you get to build rapport with staff and foster a long-term relationship. However, this can quickly be supplanted by the advantages of a retail chain, where you can save considerable cash due to their economies of scale. In addition, after sourcing a few quotes, the larger national retailers will often price match or even offer a further discount. For the infrequent visit to the mechanic, it might seem like the odds are stacked against the little guy, but don’t write him off just yet.

#6 Trial a local mechanic with a small, cheaper job

This is a top tip to set you in good stead for regular visits. Test their customer service. Come prepared with questions, and you’ll soon get a sense of whether your mechanic is interested in keeping your business. Also, get any quotes in writing, and work to tiers. If you don’t ask for alternatives to bring down the price, you’re more than likely to be charged the premium. The sort of banter that accompanies a negotiation also shows that you’re prepared to challenge their workmanship, rather than just hand over your wallet or purse.

Ultimately, when larger and more expensive jobs come up, you’re more likely to receive an explanation rather than just a bill.

#7 Utilise the digital age

Not only will you find reviews of local mechanics online, you can also find fairly detailed quote estimation websites. But take any recommendations with a healthy pinch of salt, and never assume that you’ll be given the same deal. Also, check the currency and date stamps of the sites you use, to make sure you’re working with relevant, contemporary rates.

Most importantly, your mechanic will ensure your safety, and the safety of others, so value his or her workmanship as an investment. If you keep your car in good working order, you’ll enjoy a better driving experience while circumnavigating potential stresses down the road.

Harry Sarkissian has been a mechanic for over 22 years. He owns and operates Reliance Auto Centre in Chatswood and has serviced well over 10,000 cars.

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Comments

    Also worth checking out some online communities such as forum boards.
    Always a great place for technical and non technical information, private parts sales and generally a good bunch of people often brought there by the same reasons you are.
    Iv managed to meet up with people from several forum boards who have done full services on my car for nothing apart from the fact they just enjoy helping people with similar interests.

    Before starting a job Youtube is a good place to start. I changed the rotors/discs on my car and only for the guy on the video saying "don't be afraid to hit it hard with a hammer because the rust can hold in onto the hub pretty tight" I would have been stumped looking for another screw to remove. I thumped that thing, and also took his advice of putting anti-seize compound on the interface when I reassembled it. Neither of these bits of advice were in the 'workshop' manual.

    The other thing is look for sites that sell parts on ebay or the web in general. I have found genuine parts and good alternatives for a quarter of the price,

    Last edited 11/05/16 9:41 am

      do you have a link for the rotor video? the guy sounds like he really caters for those tricks and tips that an experienced person might know about, but a newcomer would have no idea.

        I would recommend a search of Google/Youtube for your specific model, and if you can't find that a model in the same range. I have a E90 BMW so I search BMW 320i E90, and if that failed I would drop the 320i, then try adding 325i, ... Like I say it is model/manufacturer specific. I have pulled off discs before and not had so much trouble, but I had a Honda then :)

        Watch a few videos before you start. Advice will vary. For example my 320i has more than one brand/type of caliper fitted, it depends on where your car in made, the model, the year, station wagens have bigger rotors usually.

        Remember if you are watching a video made in Europe or the USA take account of "the drivers side pad has a sensor and the passenger side doesn't" it might be not on the side you expect :)

    Most importantly, the ACCC has quashed the myth that new cars must be dealer serviced to retain the manufacturer's warranty.

    Dealerships make relatively little profit on the vehicle sale per se, hence why they always spruik unnecessary after-markets like tinting and paint "protection". Another source of revenue for them is servicing.

    It's worth shopping around to an independent as they can be much cheaper. Just make sure the servicing is to the manufacturer's requirements which are typically listed in the logbook.

      very useful. didnt know about that. thanks for the heads up!

    Buy a workshop manual for your car + YouTube videos + online forums.

    I think the point about the digital age is most important. Companies like Sparesbox have been doing a great job of pulling back the curtains on what has always been an industry shrouded in secrecy. I've only heard good things about their workshop on wheels / mobile servicing. Both from a cost perspective and also knowing what's happening to your car!

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