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Budgeting Annual Car Repairs

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New year, new budget, new car trouble.

Have you ever gone to a mechanic for a simple brake job or tire rotation and walked out with a bill well over the budget you anticipated? It is very common as often problems are only real-ized once your vehicle is on a hoist and inspected by a mechanic. Do not fret, you are not the only one and rarely can we predict the repairs our vehicle will need. However, with these fail proof tips, you can be better prepared and ahead of the game.

First, lets talk about how you can budget the obvious. I am talking about maintenance. The best way to ensure the least amount of repairs is to be diligent with your maintenance. Car maintenance includes more cost efficient services and need to be done anywhere from 3 to 9 months continuously. Services include oil changes, air filters, tire rotations (or changeover), fluid check and top-ups, brake service and flushes. You can easily budget these into your year, even break it down to monthly, quarterly or semi-annually. Here is an example of effective maintenance budgeting.

OIL CHANGE – $50 (basic) $100 (synthetic)

TIRE ROTATION – $20.00 (semi-seasonal summer & winter- 2x annually or every 7,000 km)

TIRE CHANGEOVER – $ 30 or $80 (depending on Mount & Balance or Assembled Changeover) 2x per year

AIR FILTER – $20 (recommended during oil change)

FLUID TOP UP – $15-$150 (more expensive fluids such as ATF will require higher budget, but are often unnecessary for long periods of time)

BRAKE SERVICE – $96 per axle (or an hour labour) recommended every 25,000km

So here we have a full brake down of what your vehicle will require, guaranteed, each year. If we take the totals for each maintenance schedule, and include the frequency of each, we will see an annual budget of $507 plus taxes. What I did was account for 4 oil changes (basic), 2 tire rotations, 2 changeovers (@$30), 1 fluid top-up @ $75, and 1 brake service per axle. By doing this you can plan out what you will spend each month, each quarter, semi-annual and yearly.

Second, I highly recommend spending the hour labour on an inspection and have your mechanic make up a detailed, comprehensive quote of any work additional to maintenance that will need to be dealt with. What we always do at our shop is break down the recommended re-pairs into top priority and what can wait. When dealing with top priority repairs, we consider if it is a drivability issue, a safety standard or detrimental to other components that could be affected. For example, a ball joint replacement would be top priority, as well as an oil pan leak. This is both for safety and drivability and will avoid more costly repairs in the future. After you have your list of work that needs to be done, get quotes! Start with the must have repairs and work your way down the list. Ideally, each job should have a subtotal, so you can plan accordingly. If it doesn’t, just ask! Your mechanic or service advisor should be happy to break it down for you, especially be-cause you have intentions to have them fix these issues over the next few months. Here is an ex-ample of how that may look:

FRONT AXLE BRAKE PADS & ROTORS – Metal on Metal – Top Priority
Labour – $125 + tax
Parts- Brake Pads $120 + tax
Rotors- $60/ per rotor = $180 + tax
Subtotal – $425
Total – + 55.25 (13% tax) = $480.25

Labour – $108 + tax
Parts- $65
Shop Supplies – $5.99
Subtotal – $178.99
Total – + 23.27 (13% tax) = $202.26

Each job can easily be divided like this to give you a clear and precise price. This will help you identify that overall total for all the repairs needed as well as each job so you can plan and budget the work accordingly.

Lastly, get saving! Now you know what to expect, roughly, for the entire year. You know you will spend, without a doubt, between maintenance and repairs, $1189.51. While you may run into the odd surprise cost (hit a curb and require an alignment for example), this way of budgeting will have you more prepared. It will also give you the knowledge you need to keep your car road safe and help you plan your time for scheduling appointments.
Automotive repairs are rarely cheap, rarely predictable and almost never fit into our al-ready existing budget. By following these 3 steps, you are ensuring less stress, less surprises and most importantly, it won’t leave you deciding between groceries or car repairs.

As always, we remind you to Drive Safe, Drive True!

***** Prices used for examples are not based on actual quotes. For an accurate budget, have a proper quote provided by your mechanic.*****

Women in Shops

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It’s a rough go for women when they are dealing with Automotive Repairs. There are so many stories I hear daily of women being taken advantage of in this industry. Some of these horror stories include unfair pricing, unnecessary work being done and sometimes even full out verbal abuse. It is intimidating for a woman to walk into a mechanic shop, there’s no doubt about it. But what if I told it didn’t have to be. What if I told there are some easy, simple and effective tools you can have in your back pocket to ensure you are not taken advantage of. Well, the good news is, there is!

The first and most important rule is to NEVER tell the mechanic you know nothing about cars. Even if you don’t! I shudder when I hear these words come from anyone, men or women. You are putting a dollar sign on your head and becoming a target to get taken advantage of. Explaining your car trouble by saying there is a whirring noise coming from the front end is perfectly fine. It is up to the mechanic to diagnose the issue, not you. Give as many details as you can without adding “I have no idea what it is” or “I don’t know what’s wrong, just fix it”. Keep those lines for your girlfriends and never utter them to the shop you take your vehicle to.

The second rule is knowing what questions to ask. When you have handed over your keys and your mechanic comes back to with a diagnostic, no matter what it is, ask questions! Simple questions that will clarify the issue for you and make the mechanic accountable to his quote. A few examples of key questions to ask are:

“Is this what was causing the …. (noise, thumping, stalling, over-heating, etc.)”?

“Is this problem a drivability issue”? If yes “Why”? (This ensures that the work they are quoting you is, in fact, necessary and not just them trying to sell a job)

“Can I see a break down of the cost”? All automotive shops should be able to back up their quote with a break down of the exact expenses that make up the total for repairs. If something looks fishy, ask about it, and don’t leave without a comprehensive explanation.

The third rule of taking you car to a mechanic is never be afraid to request a second opinion. If you receive a quote and your confused as to the repairs they have suggested, or you know one or more the issues had already been dealt with recently, tell the mechanic or advisor you would like to take the car for a second opinion. While this could cost you a bit more by paying for two diagnostics’, it could save you hundreds if the first place was untruthful with their quote. Never feel that you are bound to that one shop or that you are not entitled to a full and comprehensive quote. If they are not providing you with one, then you best get it to another garage.

The last tip I offer you is this… If they cannot back up their work or diagnostic with an comprehensive explanation, take your car and get out of there! Whether you are an automotive guru or completely clueless, your quote needs to be backed up with a full and detailed description, if only for your piece of mind.

Never be afraid to ask questions, never feel you are not entitled to a full explanation, and never ever walk away feeling you have been taking advantage of.

Winter Tires vs. All Season Tires

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Some people will swear by All Season tires, while others won’t touch them and stick to strictly Winter Tires. Others don’t care either way, as long as their car can get through the snow. Whether your one side of the fence or the other, or somewhere in between, here are some facts about your options for tires this season.

All Season tires are great for some of our warmer provinces, however don’t particularly make the cut for Ontario’s winter climate. Because they are made to withstand both warm and cold weather, the integrity in extreme weather conditions is less effective. Many drivers will keep their all seasons on year round. So for Spring and Fall, they are in their ideal environment and work like a charm. However, because of the rubber make up in all seasons, they can get too hot and too cold. When good ol’ Jack Frost greets us with his presence and we see the temperature drop below -10 degrees we find the rubber will harden (freeze) into the consistency similar to a hockey puck. And we all know how great a puck glides on ice. Not too settling is it? Just like how summer tires will harden, when it gets cold enough, all seasons will too. This causes massive risk for collisions, car repairs and additional wear and tear on your vehicle.

Winter Tires are built with a much softer rubber meant to sustain the cold. They will keep their traction control much more effectively because the rubber does not harden as easily. Winter tires can still perform in weather as cold as -25 degrees. Having the appropriate tires on your vehicle will help you avoid very costly repairs. It is also important to remember to have your tire rotated half way through the season. This will also reduce the wear and tear on your tires and provide you with a whole additional year of use, in most circumstances.

As always, at Drive True Automotive, we remind you to Drive Safe, Drive True