Bob and Tom have almost identical cars. Both have high mileage and both have an oil spot on their driveway. They take the cars in for repair. Bob pays $250.00 and Tom pays more than $2000.00. Both oil leaks are fixed, so who got the right job?
The answers may be both of them. Each car had multiple leaks, some worse than others. In Tom’s case, they addressed all of the leaks. In Bob’s situation, they replaced the front crankshaft seal. The rear main seal, valve-covers and oil pan were smaller leaks and not presenting a symptom at this time. The point is, Bob assumed the risk for future problems and saved a great deal of money.
Quality is NOT gold plating
Fixing a vehicle right, means addressing the client’s concerns in the most cost-effective manner. This is not always the lowest initial price, but always provides the lowest overall cost. Sometimes a more expensive repair is far cheaper than a patch that does not last. Other times a partial repair is the correct solution.
Vehicle repair is not always a "go/no-go" situation. Many failures have varying degrees of seriousness and time-lines till symptoms. This is far more prevalent on modern vehicles, where the cost of repair may vastly out weigh the problem. Understanding and managing risk is the key to saving money.
We do not need to repair all problems.
Some failures have serious implications. For instance, ignoring a check engine light is irresponsible. A small issue can turn on the warning and become a major repair if ignored. For instance a cylinder misfire will turn on the check engine light. In a few days, we can damage the catalytic converter, vastly increasing the costs of repair.
Other issues do not have additional implications. A McPherson strut may have a small leak, but still work well. The price of replacement is several hundred dollars and additional complications are unlikely. The leak may stay the same or it could get worse. Electing to monitor the situation and put off repair avoids unnecessary spending. If it gets worse and the vehicle starts to handle poorly, we can make the repair.
The key is getting sound advice.
Knowing if problems will result in more serious issues or not is difficult. For instance an oil leak may seem only an annoyance. If it leaks onto the suspension bushings, the rubber will dissolve. Another leak may get into the starter and cause it to fail. Still other leaks will cause no harm at all and can safely be put off.
Getting sound advice is not always easy. A free inspection is worth much less than the price. The repair shop that offers free inspections only gets paid when they find a problem they can repair. Most people realize that nothing is really free and this marketing ploy is a red-flag. Bring the vehicle to a professional and pay for an honest opinion. Rendering a proper opinion without seeing the vehicle is not possible, so don’t expect to call around and get an answer. Wrong answers, from multiple sources, do not make them correct.
We must often make compromises when repairing a vehicle. An example is a brake service on a high-mileage car. The linings may be worn out, but the calipers appear okay. Occasionally, installing new linings will cause a caliper to fail or they may go out after we replace the linings. Replacing all calipers on every vehicle can avoid this. That also insures charging many people for things they did not need. Precise optimization is not desirable as the cost would be astronomical. Clients must realize a repair is different from a complete overhaul. Assuming a small risk saves money, but the person saving the money must assume the risk.
Another example could be in diagnosis. A vehicle may have an intermittent misfire and the spark plugs are obviously worn out. Replacing the worn plugs would be a prudent first step, realizing there could be other problems. Alternatively, every possible cause has to be checked. Three hours of diagnostic time later, they confirm the client needs spark plugs.
In other cases guessing at a problem is the wrong approach. The fuel pump is one possible reason for a no-start problem. The pump is far more expensive than the tests to confirm the problem. Changing the fuel pump without testing is foolish and costly.
A sensible approach
A proper inspection, sound information and weighing the cost/benefit will provide cost-effective auto repair. Having a conversion with the service provider will usually reveal their intentions.
1.) Exactly what is the problem?
2.) What are the consequences of not fixing this now?
3.) Will this cause other damage, and if so, what will it be?
Fixed right, means solving the problem in the most cost-effective manner. The right repair is the one that fits your situation.