How to save a bunch of money on car repairs

gbells

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For semi-functional ME patients that can still drive here are some tips that can save you a bunch of money on car repairs.

  1. Start with a reliable car. Use consumer reports to identify used cars with excellent reliability. For cars this means Toyota and Honda but there are a few American cars that are also made well.
  2. Check out the car well before you purchase it. I like the book Used Car Buying for Dummies by Dana Sclar. Basically you run through a checklist and if it passes pay a mechanic $50 to look it over and give a verdict. The mechanic should have good reviews and be ASE certified. Good mechanics have a second sense about cars. They can tell if a car will be reliable, can spot hidden body damage from accidents and will tell you if a car has a reputation for problems. Never buy a used car without a mechanic's evaluation.
  3. Purchase a well maintained used car with 175,000 miles or less and Tribotex the engine and transmission. Tribotex is a new nanopolymer coating that fills in the internal imperfections that engines build up as they age. It adds years of life to the engine and transmission and lasts 40,000 miles.
  4. Locate good, experienced mechanics who are willing to negociate, do good work and are honest people. A mechanic needs to be ASE certified, not some yokel who learned out of a manual and has limited experience and doesn't have professional tools and a work history of repairing cars professionally. A good place to find these guys is craigslist.com, ask if they are ASE certified and verify their certificate if they don't own a shop, ask about their work experience, check their reputation online and negociate a good deal. Don't be afraid to shop around to make sure they are giving you a good deal.
  5. Buy good parts online and provide them to the mechanic. I use Rockauto and save about 50% vs retail. You want to buy high quality parts, though it is ok if they are a closeout and have a shorted warranty if it isn't a critical part. Spend the extra money for better parts as it will save you from having to redo jobs. Watch out for shipping charges as RockAuto often has multiple warehouses and will charge you a flat shipping charge for each box. It is often cheaper in shipping fees to get less expensive, common parts from Ebay or Amazon (hoses, belts) with free shipping if Rockauto wants high shipping fees for the items due to multiple warehouses.
  6. Drive safe. Older cars can't take hard driving like younger ones can. Limit cell phone while driving. Give yourself plenty of reaction time.
  7. Get a battery blanket if you get cold weather. Battery blankets reduce the amount of time it takes for a battery to warm up and start charging. The one I have also came with a shock absorbing pad for the bottom which is said to reduce battery wear from shock damage.
  8. Drive the car long enough to charge the battery and dry out the exhaust system. This means plan trips to be 20 minutes or longer. You may want to drive to a farther grocery store to do this. Sure it costs a little more in gas but it will save you hundreds on exhaust repairs and battery changes.
  9. Use tire sunscreen with UV inhibitors. Turtle Wax makes a good tire shine product with ultraviolet sun inhibitors. Apply is a few times a year to extend the life of your tires.
  10. Purchase a lifetime tire alignment package at Firestone on sale and get your tires aligned 1-2x/year. This will extend the life of your tires, save you money on alignments and they are great for doing a quick once over $10 check to see if you need to plan for any work to be done.
  11. Keep a maintenance log (such as the ACAR app) and make sure to keep up on required maintenance (fluid changes, timing belt changes, etc.)
  12. For minor engine bearing wear increase the viscosity of your oil. This increases the pressure slightly which forces more oil through the bearings. I increased my oil viscosity from 5w-30 to 10w-30 which means it has extra viscosity and more oil delivered to the bearings when cold. Tribotex engine also helped my car with this so that it no longer present. A previous shady mechanic from a shop with great reviews who I fired told me to "just run it until it died". He gave me terrible advice and my car wouldn't have lasted a year had I listened to him.
  13. Use high mileage synthetic oil and change it every 10,000 miles or up to 9 months. Walmart has an excellent, very inexpensive brand which is made by Valvoline. Get a synthetic filter like the Fram extra guard series that has 99% filtration.
  14. Watch out for speed bumps. Driving too fast over one cost me a new steering rack. They do a ton of damage.
  15. If you live in a colder area get a front wheel drive car. They handle much better in the snow but don't cost as much to repair as four wheel drive systems.
  16. Install a solar charging pad to charge your battery. It is a pad that sits on your dashboard and is wired to the battery.
  17. Get a lithium jump starter. These jump your battery without needing to ask a stranger for help. They also double as extra power for electronics.
  18. Drive it at least weekly. Cars that sit can develop tire deformations that make the ride harsh.
  19. Install a K&N air filter. These filters have higher flow and only need to be cleaned every 50,000 miles.
  20. Clean the intakes once a year. Intakes develop buildup. Use Seafoam and learn how to clean the intake manifold. Also use STP black to clean the fuel injectors by adding it to the gas. Do this a few times (up to four tanks) until the car has good acceleration with no hesitation.
  21. Don't let gas sit. Only fill the tank with as much gas as you need for a month. After that it goes bad and your acceleration will drop. I fill 6 gal of the 10 gal gastank per month.
  22. Be proactive when getting repair work done. If a mechanic is doing work often they have to remove parts to access as part of the job. If they are doing this they will not charge you to replace the parts if you give them new ones and tell them to use the new ones. You can save the entire cost of the labor to install the part if you do this.
  23. Timing belt. Older cars have these (90s and earlier) and for these cars they are the most important maintenance item for the car. Mine has a recommended change at 90k miles or 6 years. Per the mechanic the years can be extended up to 50% (8-9 years max) so I had it done at 8 years (low 3k/yr mileage) and it was fine. However, at 8 years I did hear intermittent squealing and had some rough idling which along with ticking are warnings sign of imminent timing belt failure so I rushed to get it changed before it broke and caused serious engine damage. Manufacturers of high quality belts (ie. Gates) engineer them to be about 30% better than what they are rated at. My original Acura belt failed at 120,000 miles which makes sense because it was due for a change at 90,000 miles (the mechanic screwed up and told me it had already been changed when it didn't and the PEP boys shop settled to pay 50% of the $800 engine valve repair needed to fix the car after the timing belt failed back in 2003). When doing a timing belt be sure to order a valve cover gasket and all of the required parts which are in a timing belt kit including the water pump and guides. Not changing the guides reduces the lifespan of the belt mileage by 50%.
  24. Get a second opinion. Sometimes you get bad advice or marked up fees. You need to be able to spot these, especially with a new mechanic you don't yet trust. Also, be ready to ignore good reviews if other indicators are bad. Good mechanics may not tell you everything but they do good work and will not give bad advice. I use google to learn about different types of problems and see multiple mechanics if I am in doubt to get a second opinion. Quora.com is also a good place to ask mechanics questions, however this is limited as they can't physically inspect your car so it is always necessary to get an in-person opinion. Mechanics have the blind spot that they may not be aware of new solutions so online topic searches are also important. Firestone will check your car out for only $10 and is reliable (though has high repair prices).
If you do these things you will save thousands of dollars and have a very reliable car. My 1994 Integra has 222,500 miles and still sounds great. Good used cars are expensive. Buying a replacement car would cost me $6,000 that as a disabled person on a fixed income I don't want to spend for a car that I use 1-2x/week.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional mechanic and take no responsibility for this advice (though it has been sourced from authoritative sources and professional mechanics). Use at your own risk and always consult a mechanic for the final opinion.
 
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gbells

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I just had some car repairs begun. One retail shop quoted me $600 just to do the timing belt. Another highly rated shop who advertised on Craigslist agreed to do the timing belt, change all the motor mounts (car was getting jolts with shifts which is a sign, they were old and it was confirmed by a mechanic that they needed replacement, Rockauto suggests doing all at once), install an evap canister and replace the belts and radiator hoses for $600 because they were slow due to covid and the jobs were related so they didn't need as much labor. They even gave free rides to the shop. That probably saved at least $300 in labor plus I saved $200 on parts by ordering them online from Rockauto, Amazon and Ebay. This cut the cost of the repairs by around 40%.
 
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Wishful

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but there are a few American cars that are also made well.
"We built 2.5 million cars in America last year. Several of them were actually made well."

I couldn't resist. :D

FWIW, I think I've spent only a few hundred dollars on repairs for my 85 Toyota pickup since I bought it in 2003. It just keeps going. :thumbsup:

The nice thing about older vehicles is the simplicity. No computers (with wiring and connectors) to go wrong in my truck.
 

gbells

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The nice thing about older vehicles is the simplicity. No computers (with wiring and connectors) to go wrong in my truck.
Actually the thing about the reliable older cars is that they often have better made parts. Later ones use more plastic to cut weight down and decrease production costs. All said I would prefer the electronics because having a computer port speeds up troubleshooting and allows you to do more things with the vehical. My 1994 car has a first generation port and can't even give troubleshooting codes because it isn't modern enough.
 

Wishful

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Later ones use more plastic to cut weight down and decrease production costs.
Yes, a neighbour had one of those cheap plastic parts fail in his transmission. Price difference between the plastic part and a metal part might have been a few dollars. Replacing it cost over $3k. Silly price cutting. Yet some manager probably got a bonus for saving a tiny amount on production.

All said I would prefer the electronics because having a computer port speeds up troubleshooting
Without the electronics, there's less need for troubleshooting, because there's less to go wrong. An ignition system with a few simple parts is easy enough to troubleshoot without computer analysis. If it's got 20 different sensors (plus fallible connectors and wires), it's that many more things to go wrong.

Of course, it's not as simple as choosing less electronics. The government regulations requires complex emissions controls, which requires all that extra electronics. Even my 1985 engine has a lot of complex emissions equipment. I'm sure it's more polluting per km than a 2021 vehicle, but I drive so little that the emissions from producing that replacement vehicle would be far, far higher, so I consider keeping an old vehicle to be good for the environment.

and allows you to do more things with the vehical.
Enthusiasts were modifying stock performance long before computers. Carb and exhaust tuning, that sort of thing. Electronics does allow more--and easier--options, but I expect that most of us have no need for such mods. My truck is certainly not a high-performance vehicle, but it gets me where I need to go.
 

gbells

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Of course, it's not as simple as choosing less electronics. The government regulations requires complex emissions controls, which requires all that extra electronics. Even my 1985 engine has a lot of complex emissions equipment. I'm sure it's more polluting per km than a 2021 vehicle, but I drive so little that the emissions from producing that replacement vehicle would be far, far higher, so I consider keeping an old vehicle to be good for the environment.
Wishful, everything you wrote is true. We have more options today with the Tribotex because the most expensive items to go are the transmission and the engine. So if you can locate an older car that is build well, has the 175k miles and was maintained you can Tribotex the engine and trans and get another 100k miles out if it without much trouble. Prior I would have wanted a car with 100k miles. That saves a lot of money in depreciation. Even with 222,500 miles my car is still running strong.

With the phase out of gasoline fueled new cars in 2025 used cars will be the only way to continue to use them, though they will be more expensive to run. My apartment complex has no electric car charging sites as of today. Hopefully self-driving car integration into Uber will lower access costs and eventually eliminate the need to own a car. They certainly will be much safer than driving yourself since they have radar. I think driving is much riskier than it was pre-smartphones as there are many more distracted drivers. I only had two accidents in my history. One was in my first six months of driving due to inexperience and the other was around six years ago when a distracted driver rear-ended my car at a traffic light with a SUV.
 
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Wishful

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My apartment complex has no electric car charging sites as of today.
I think an electric vehicle would be great for me. I could buy a few more solar panels, and do most of my driving for free. I'm waiting for batteries that handle winter temperatures better.

Okay, I'm waiting for a vehicle with adequate winter batteries to show up on the second-hand market. :D
 

gbells

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I think an electric vehicle would be great for me. I could buy a few more solar panels, and do most of my driving for free. I'm waiting for batteries that handle winter temperatures better.

Okay, I'm waiting for a vehicle with adequate winter batteries to show up on the second-hand market. :D
I wouldn't care about the battery. A good 3 yr battery is $120 at Walmart and they will install it. If it meets the above criteria and you can get it for a decent price take it. You can always ask the owner to come down to cover needed repairs or if you don't think it's worth a price, you can make any offer you like. It's up to him to decide whether to take it.

But after you buy it you have to bring the maintenance up to date: timing belt, all fluid changes, etc so you know what its maintenance status is and can keep on top of required maintenance. If you have records great, otherwise assume the timing belt hasn't been changed and plan to do it.
 
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Wishful

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A good 3 yr battery is $120 at Walmart
I was talking about an electric vehicle. Those battery packs are not $120. :D

Typical lithium batteries are damaged by charging below freezing, so that's a real limitation for me. I'd need a heated garage, which would consume way more energy than I'd consume for driving. My gasoline-fueled vehicle can sit for weeks at -40C and, with a bit of wood-fired pre-warming, start up reliably. I've read about Canadian who say that their Teslas do fine in winter, but I'm guessing that they're driving from heated parking to heated parking.

I'll just keep my truck going for as long as I can.
 

gbells

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Nothing I wrote applies to electric vehicles. The batteries for them cost several thousand dollars so they aren't a good purchase used. The best thing to buy to save money is a gas used car, period. Not a hybrid, not an electric.
 
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