5 ways to save money on auto repairs

5 ways to save money on auto repairs

Who actually reads their cars owner’s manual? And even if they do, there are many hints, tips and tricks that are not in the owner’s manual, but can save a person money by avoiding unnecessary repairs. After decades of running an auto repair business, I have come up with some tips and tricks that will help you do just that.

1. Do you know where your fuel pump is located?

Did you know that on just about every car built in the last 25 years, the fuel pump is in the gas tank? This may seem crazy, putting an electrical device in such an explosive atmosphere, but actually that has never been a problem.

This design is necessary because of operation of modern fuel injection systems. What you won’t read in the owner’s manual is that the electric pump is cooled by being submerged in gasoline. Therefore, when you are running around on “fumes”, the pump is not submerged and will get hot and this can reduce its life, so always try to fill up when your tank hits ¼ full.

Sometimes, filling the tank when the pump is hot will shock it and cause it to stop working. You will know the pump has stopped running by listening at the filler when the ignition key is turned to on. It should hum for a few seconds as it primes the system. Should you not hear it running, an old mechanic’s trick is to hit the outside of the gas tank soundly. This is sometimes enough to get it started one more time and could save you the cost of a tow bill.

2. Does the blower for your car’s AC or heat feel weak?

Many drivers will think that the a component in the heating or AC system is not up to par and pay for unnecessary repairs, but it could just be a clogged cabin air filter. Most news cars have a filter that cleans the outside air before it enters the passenger compartment. The filter is often forgotten and not changed every 50,000 as generally recommended, which can cause it to become plugged. Some cabin air filters are easy enough to change yourself.

3. Do you panic when the check engine light comes on?

If it’s not flashing and the car is running fine, not overheating and full of oil, you can safely keep driving for hundreds of miles before you get it fixed. The system is designed such that if a sensor fails, the computer will feed the system a nominal value to keep the engine running, although there may be some added emissions and a loss of fuel efficiency.

However, if your check engine light is flashing, stop driving as soon as possible or you may damage the very expensive catalytic converter.

4. Did you know antifreeze does more than keep coolant from freezing?

Your car still requires antifreeze even if you the temperature dips below 32 degrees because it prevents corrosion. More engines are damaged by corrosion from weak antifreeze than from actual freezing. New antifreeze is alkaline and as it ages it becomes acidic. Old acidic antifreeze will eat through engine blocks, radiators, rubber hoses, heater cores and anything else it comes in contact with. It should be checked every 30,000 miles for freeze protection and acidity.

5. Would you know if your engine was overheating?

Speaking of cooling systems, another mistake people make is not recognizing when their car’s engine is overheating and then continuing to drive, causing serious damage. Chances are you that you won't be looking at the temperature gauge if or when any overheating starts, but there are still obvious signs to watch out for.

If low coolant level is the problem, the cabin heater will not produce heat. If the coolant system was half full, the temperature gauge may not move up much, but the heat will be erratic. In the summer, the AC may stop working because the computer recognizes that the engine is overheating and turns off the AC to prevent any further load on the cooling system. If the cooling system is completely empty, the temperature gauge may read incorrect because to work it must be bathed in coolant.

The sure sign of overheating is a pinging or rattling noise coming from the engine. At this point, shut it off ASAP. Otherwise, you will blow a cylinder head gasket or crack a cylinder head, which is a very expensive but preventable repair.

About this Angie's List Expert: Jeff Monroe is the owner of Mr. Mechanic, an auto service provider in West Chester, Ohio that's been in business since 1985. As of March 2013, the company has earned the Angie's List Super Service Award every year since 2008.

As of March 12, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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