We’d all be a little wiser and a lot richer if we knew some basic things about the cars we drive. Yet we rely on so called “expert mechanics” to diagnose problems with our vehicles and then fix them. We are forced to trust (hope) that the mechanics we deal with are honest enough to tell us the truth about our cars. Sadly, this is rarely the case. In fact, most mechanics go out of their way to treat their customers like mushrooms – keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap. Many mechanics know some basic truths about cars that they would never want any of us “common folk” to know. Instead, they prefer to deal with ignorant people that they can sell lies to and charge a lot of money. Fortunately, a little knowledge goes a long way. Here are 12 things about your car that your mechanic does not want you to know.
12. The Check Engine Light
The most common reason for the check-engine light being lit up on the dashboard of a car is because the gas cap is not screwed on tight enough. Sad but true. A sensor in the car responds when the gas cap is not secured tight enough and extra oxygen seeps through the gas line. The check-engine light almost always goes off once the cap has been tightened and/or the entire tank of gas has been used and is empty. Remember this the next time the check-engine light comes on the dashboard of your car. Before you panic, give the gas cap a few extra turns with your hand. You could save yourself a big headache and expensive bill from a mechanic.
11. Car Batteries Almost Never Need To Be Replaced
Mechanics love to tell people that their car battery has died. However, most problems with car batteries are actually caused by the wires connected to the battery and not the battery itself. Over time, the point where the wires are connected to the car battery become corroded and this impacts the amount of power getting from the battery to the car. The fix for this problem? A can of Coca-Cola. Take some Coke and pour it on the area where the wires connect to the car battery and the Coke will eat away at the corrosion. Some “CLR” also works well. This is a quick and easy home fix that need not involve a mechanic. And it can save you on the cost of a new car battery. Also, many car batteries that are running low on power can be recharged. They needn’t be replaced.
10. Most Garages Lie About Rotating Your Car Tires
So, you’ve brought your car to the garage and paid a little extra to have the tires rotated. After all, the mechanic advised that the tires should be rotated to ensure the tread on them wears properly. Only problem is that when you get the car back, you can’t tell if the tires have been rotated at all. They look the same as they did when you brought the car to the garage. This is because few garages actually rotate the car tires. They lie and tell you they did while taking an extra $50 out of your pocket. Furthermore, there is a raging debate about whether rotating the tires is really needed. Some studies show that tires wear out just as fast whether they are rotated or not. To ensure that your car tires are actually rotated, take a piece of chalk and mark them before bringing the car to a garage. Write “FL” on the “front left” tire; “RR” on the “rear right” tire, etc. And remember, your tires are supposed to be rotated front-to-back, not side-to-side.
9. You Probably Don’t Need That Oil Change
Most mechanics will tell you that your car needs an oil change every 3,000 miles. Not true. Most car experts agree that the oil in a car should be changed once every 7,500 miles at the earliest, although many folks in the auto industry will tell you that an oil change every 10,000 miles or 16,000 kilometers is perfectly acceptable. What is more important than an oil change is for drivers to ensure that their car does not run out of oil. Adding oil and keeping the oil topped up in your car is much more important than changing the oil. While mechanics will tell you that dirty oil is bad for your car engine, the reality is that engine oil burns off and evaporates over time, meaning that dirty oil is not that big of an issue for cars today. But the oil does get lower over time, so buying a litre and pouring it in yourself is advisable.
8. The Biggest Problem With Brake Pads Is Rust
Do you hear the brakes on your car screeching? Is it freaking you out? It shouldn’t be. The biggest problem with brake pads, and the main reason they screech, is rust. And this rust can be quickly and easily scraped, brushed, or blasted off. You needn’t shell out a lot of money for new brake pads. In fact, most people can scrape the rust off their brake pads themselves with the help of a YouTube video to guide them. Most garages will take the rust off of brake pads for not a lot of money. The trick is getting the mechanic to tell you that the problem is rust on the pads. Mechanics will almost always say that you need a whole new set of brake pads. Don’t believe them.
7. In Most Cases, All-Season Tires Will Do
Unless you live in northern Canada, chances are you don’t need winter tires. The fact is that a good set of all-season tires will do most people just fine. Yet the automotive industry is making a killing by convincing people that they need two sets of tires – one for spring and summer and another for fall and winter driving. Mechanics are making a good deal of money simply taking off one set of tires and putting on another. Many garages also charge a fee to store people’s summer tires in the winter and winter tires in the summer. This is a racket, plain and simple. Tests have shown that all-season tires have sufficient tread to stop vehicles in most winter driving conditions and that they work great during the summer as well. Winter tires are helpful, but are only truly necessary in the most extreme winter driving conditions. Unless you’re planning to drive exclusively on icy roads, one set of all-season tires will suffice.
6. “Free” Inspections Are Anything But Free
So your local garage is offering free bumper-to-bumper inspections of cars, trucks, and any other vehicle they can get their hands on. You think you’ll take advantage and swing by to get your car looked at. After all, the inspection is free. Not so fast: what the garage is doing is providing an incentive for people to bring their cars in so that the mechanics can find problems with them and then charge a fortune to fix them. It’s a way for mechanics to drum up business for themselves. We guarantee that you’ll never bring your car in for a free inspection and hear a mechanic say “Looks great. I don’t see any problems. Take care, now.” More likely that the mechanic will come back to you with a laundry list of needed repairs and upgrades. Don’t fall for this scam. Bring your car into a garage when it needs a repair only. Avoid anything involving a garage that is allegedly free.
5. Lube Jobs Are Not A Necessity
It seems like places are popping up all over that offer quick lube jobs. People can pull in with their car and in 15 to 20 minutes have their engine oil replaced, the engine parts lubricated, and the tires filled with air. Wow! What a waste of time and money. The reason these types of places are popping up all over the place is because they are a cheap and easy way for people to make money off unnecessary services. We’ve already gone over when cars should really have their oil changed, and most people are capable of putting air in their own tires. Which brings us to the lube jobs. Most cars never need to have their engine parts lubricated. They are either already lubricated or don’t require lubrication. When you pay for a lube job, you’re paying to have a teenager smear gunk around under the hood of your car. Save your money, people.
4. Brake Pads Don’t Need To Be Replaced Until They’re 90% Worn
The mechanic comes out to meet you in the waiting room and tells you that the brake pads on your car are 50% worn and should be replaced. You agree and give the go-ahead to have the brake pads swapped out. The only thing is that brake pads don’t actually need to be replaced until they are 90% worn. A brake pad that is 50% worn is only half way through its usable life. Keep the brake pads until they are at least 90% worn. The problem with brakes is that people see them as a safety issue and don’t want to take any chances with them. Mechanics prey on this fear. Trust yourself. if there are any problems with your brakes, you will know it right away and can get them checked. Keep your brake pads as long as you can; it’ll save you money in the long run.
3. Rustproofing A Car Causes More Rust
Given a choice, most drivers would avoid unsightly rust on their car. After all, a rusting car looks junky. However, over time, some rust on a vehicle is inevitable – especially on cars that are seven years old or older. And here’s the rub: there is no evidence that rustproofing a car actually prevents rust. To the contrary, there are some studies that show rustproofing can actually lead to more rust on a car. This is because ice and road salt tend to stick to the rustproof coating that is sprayed underneath a car. Rustproofing is popular in the northern U.S. and in Canada, but it provides no real benefit to your car and often ends up ensuring that a bunch of unwanted ice and salt gets trapped underneath a car, causing more damage in the long run.
2. You Can Change Your Brake Pads Yourself
As we’ve established, swapping out brake pads is big business for mechanics. This is because replacing brake pads is relatively easy and a lot of money can be charged for the repair. In reality, changing brake pads is so easy that most people can do it themselves. There are plenty of websites and videos online that show how to quickly, easily, and safely change a vehicle’s brake pads. While many people shy away from doing this job themselves for fear they will not do it properly and it could be a safety concern, there really is no reason to worry. People will know instantly if they have not put their brake pads on properly. In only a half hour, people can change their brake pads themselves and save money in the process. But again, only do this when the brake pads are 90% worn.
1. There Is A Guide That States The Correct Labor To Charge For Every Repair
There are many books published each year that detail the number of labor hours that garages should charge for each repair they undertake on a vehicle. Trust us when we say that your mechanic does not want you to know this. That is because most mechanics want the freedom to charge their customers as many hours and as much money as possible for the work they perform on a car. Unsurprisingly, they rarely charge the standard rate. Arming yourself with information on the correct amount of time and money that should be charged for each repair will empower you and give you leverage over the mechanic you’re dealing with. The next time you are at a garage, ask for a breakdown of the labor hours you’re being charged for, then ask to see the labor hours in the guide. If the mechanic doesn’t want to show you, or starts making excuses, or if the hours don’t match, it’s time to take your business someplace else. That mechanic you are dealing with is neither trustworthy nor reputable.