Monday, July 15, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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No one likes having services pushed at them that they feel they do not need.  This is often the case when there are no symptoms, and expensive service is suggested.  Sometimes this is a total rip off, other times it is wise to listen.

Modern vehicles are designed to isolate the driver from symptoms

With older vehicles, the need for services, such as a tune-up, were obvious.  The vehicle would begin to idle roughly and maybe stall.  The fuel mileage might fall off, and it may be hard to start.  Today, any of these symptoms would indicate problems other than a tune-up.  Tuning the engine is unlikely to cure any of the above.  Instead, these problems would need to be diagnosed and their actual causes corrected.

Because there are likely no symptoms, it is easy to forget about replacing the spark plugs.  Replacement can be expensive in modern engines, due to access problems.  When this service is suggested, it may appear to be an unnecessary up-sell.

Spark plugs wear out with mileage and may not show symptoms

Spark plugs wear out with use.  Some are only designed to last about 30,000 miles, and others can go 100,000 miles or even more.  It is best to check the owner’s manual for recommended change interval.  The problem is, as the gap gets wider, due to wear, more energy is needed to produce the spark.  Computerized vehicles accomplish this by increasing the duty-cycle on the coils.  With excess duty-cycle, the coils are damaged and often fail.  Now a much more expensive problem and possible breakdown may exist. 

The reason for maintenance is to save money on repairs

Items like spark plugs, coolant, automatic transmission fluid and timing belts require replacement as the vehicle ages.  Replacing such items prevents much more expensive problems.  For instance, depleted coolant can easily cause a radiator or heater core to fail, which cost many times the price of coolant replacement.  A broken timing belt can ruin an engine and will leave the driver stranded.

One way to keep track of maintenance is to read the owner’s manual and keep track of everything that has been done on the vehicle.  People who are savvy about automobiles normally prefer this approach.  Other folks find this very difficult.  These people rely on others to advise them of service needs.

Properly checking a vehicle for maintenance takes time 

To inspect an average vehicle for required maintenance items, takes a skilled technician about an hour.  A highly trained person, that understands the vehicle and knows how to find the signs of a problem is needed.  Free inspections are worse than useless.  A well-known  ploy, in the auto repair business is the loss-leader.  This is where a service, such as an oil change, is advertised at a low price.  The purpose is to get the client into the shop and recommend high-profit, questionable services.

Never give in to pressure to buy service you don't trust.  Get a second opinion.

These wallet-flushes should not be confused with actual vehicle maintenance.  The tip-offs are “free inspections,” any service, with the word "flush" in the name and an urgency to “do it now.”  Because the cost of the loss-leader must be covered, these suggestions are geared for high-profit rather than value for the client.  A dead giveaway is a sales person that seems annoyed by a decision not to buy the service.

Other signs of unnecessary up-sells might be a suggested service that happens to be “on sale.” Shops that regularly push wallet-flushes often give them names, to make them seem more plausible.

The best approach is to have a trusted professional you can use for advice.  Other than oil changes, an annual inspection of the vehicle is normally all that is needed to keep most vehicles in top running order.  An honest professional provides over-all lowest cost.  They do this by preventing and not just repairing problems.

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