The auto repair industry does a fantastic job at scaring car repair customers. Playing on fear is a common marketing tactic in many industries, but it’s very effective in the car business. The scare tactics are used all the time, but they’re especially noticeable during the winter season. Following are a few to watch out for, and will help us avoid spending money unnecessarily.
Coolant Flush (anti-freeze, the stuff that goes in the radiator): is a very common service pushed hard during the winter months. It certainly is important to ensure the coolant won’t freeze, and that it’s protecting and lubricating vital engine components. However, it’s very unlikely our vehicles need this service if we’re driving cars built within the last 10-20 years. Most manufacturers use extended-life coolant that requires very little maintenance. Some coolant lasts the life of the vehicle, others 100,000 miles. Moreover, the coolant “flush,” is often just a quick drain and refill of the coolant system. Usually, just a gallon or so is drained out, and then new coolant added.
Battery Check: certainly batteries are taxed harder during cold weather, but if a battery is less than 4-5 years old, it’ll probably be fine. No need to run out and have it checked. If we’re driving a 1978 Buick, or cruising around Alaska, then yes. Testing the battery can and should be done during regular maintenance intervals.
Wiper Blades: that repair shops are pushing wiper blades speaks to how “maintenance-free” cars are becoming. In other words, with 100,000-mile fluid changes (e.g., coolant, transmission), 100,000-mile spark plugs, distributor-less ignition systems, there are very few moving/adjustable/wearable parts. If the view from our windshield is good, hold off on new blades. If we want to get new blades, stick with factory blades. They fit better, and usually last longer.
Winterize: winterize what? Seriously! If we’re following even the basic auto maintenance schedules, and our car is “newer,” there is very little we need to do. Let’s save our money and follow manufacturer guidelines.
Tires: we do want to make sure we have good tread on our tires. Checking for tire wear is part of most oil changes and maintenance intervals. Depending on the vehicle, consider installing 4 snow tires. For a great article on this, check out Snow Tires.
Tip: manufacturer guidelines and dealer recommendations are not the same thing. Dealers, because there are fewer and fewer things to “maintain,” will custom create maintenance schedules for our cars that include fuel injection services, additives, and a host of checks and procedures that pad the bill. Don’t be scared. Save money.
What do you think? Have you experienced any of these auto repair scare tactics?