Auto repair shops must be honest. There are high-profit services most vehicles don’t require during their lifetime. Here’s a look at some common ones.
1. Engine Flush:
• The sell: Engines develop sludge, and a flush removes that sludge.
• The fact: I’ve heard people in the auto-service industry call this a “profit centre,” an easy-to-sell but unnecessary procedure in auto repair shops. An engine flush can actually harm engine components.
2. Injector Cleaning:
• The sell: Fuel injectors become dirty and clogged and rob the engine of power and fuel economy, so there are auto repair shop services to solve the “problem,” from putting additives in the fuel tank to flushing the injector assembly.
• The fact: Most cars never have problems with fuel injectors. Besides, the only way injectors can be cleaned properly is by removal and disassembly, which is hardly ever done. Your engine’s computer will tell you if there’s a fuel-delivery problem; otherwise, you can leave things alone. If the computer does indicate a problem, have the fuel filter checked. Clogged fuel filters cause most problems.
3. Head-Gasket Replacement:
• The sell: Auto repair shops may say that an oil or coolant leakage from the top of the engine may indicate that the head gasket is failing, so an expensive replacement is needed.
• The fact: Head gaskets seldom fail; if they do, the engine will run poorly and blow smoke. All engine gaskets will begin to seep oil after a certain mileage and amount of time, so if the engine is running fine and you do not have to top off the oil frequently, there’s likely nothing to worry about.
4. Timing-Belt Replacement:
• The sell: Many shops suggest replacing a timing belt before it’s necessary. They may claim that the belt never lasts that long or that it has stretched and is altering the engine timing or that it’s about to fail and destroy your engine.
• The fact: Trust your owner’s manual on when the timing belt should be replaced; most manufacturers suggest it at intervals of 60,000 miles or more. There’s no way for a mechanic to see that a belt is failing without removing some components–it can run silently until it breaks. While it’s true that in older cars a broken timing belt can harm the valves, vehicles made in the past decade or so are designed not to experience engine damage if a timing belt breaks.
5. Emission-System Repairs:
• The sell: Your car failed emissions inspection; the shop suggests a system overhaul.
•The fact: The system may need repair, but many owners pay for oxygen sensors, catalytic converters, and other emission-system components when they shouldn’t. Vehicles made since 1995 carry federally mandated warranties that cover those components for eight years or 80,000 miles. Reputable auto repair shops will tell you about this and refer you to a dealership if they can’t get the manufacturer to authorize repairs on-site.
6. Scheduled-Maintenance Add-Ons:
• The sell: You’ve brought or towed your car in for its scheduled maintenance–say, at 30,000 miles–and the shop recommends other services, claiming that the scheduled-maintenance checklist is only the minimum requirements.
• The fact: Those scheduled-maintenance intervals are written into the manual to address known component lifetime issues and to allow technicians to monitor other components that might exhibit premature wear. A lot of shops add unnecessary services to those listed in the scheduled maintenance. When taking your vehicle in, agree only to those items listed unless there’s an obvious problem, like the need to change a flat tire that randomly occurred.