Car ownership can often be supplemented by irrational behavior. How, often have you heard a car owner referring to their vehicle as “my baby”, as though it was a pet or another extension of their family? Sure, some of us are a little more auto savvy, and we might even know how to avoid unnecessary services…but, to the vast majority of owners, we are at the mercy of our circumstances.
At least this is what most service centers are hoping for the next time you bring your vehicle in for maintenance or servicing. Essentially your vehicle may actually require some form of servicing; whether it’s a simple oil change or something serious such as a brake change. Either way, it is important to know what services you really don’t need, but will likely be offered, just so they can tack on some additional charges; or as they say in the auto-game, “padding the bill.”
Now, before considering the top five unnecessary services to avoid—you should also take a few minutes to consider the following. First, be wary of any shops offering a “free” inspection, with whatever special they might be peddling. Often, this is a gimmick to lure you into a false sense of getting additional value; when in most cases it’s a scheme so that the service center can have an opportunity to rack up your bill.
Secondary, it is important to review your owner’s manual or any papers pertaining to the recommended maintenance schedule, which will help prepare you against getting more than you bargained for!
Top 5 Services Unnecessary Services.
1.) Flushing your money down the drain: According to Consumer Reports you should never accept a recommendation to flush the engine or transmission. This is not only an additional and over-inflated cost; it is also a service that is blatantly a rip off, which could even contribute to actually damaging your engine or transmission components. Don’t be fooled by a persuasive technician, who might try convincing you into thinking this will prolong your engine life. Kindly refuse, and stand your ground.
2.) Part-replacements are also likely to be on the agenda, which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing; if they actually need to be replaced. Always ask the technician to show you the said: defective part. A technician should never refuse…and if you are still unsure, you can specifically request to keep the defective part. Most shops will start back peddling if their dealings are a bit shady, and they might try playing the recycle card or refer you to postpone the service for a later date. I recommend marking the part, and checking it out after, to determine if anything was replaced at all.
3.) Brakes are fundamentally one of the most important safety features of a car, and unless you are experiencing any noticeable braking problems, such as a sudden squeaking, grinding or a loss of braking power; chances are nothing is wrong. Often a technician will advise that your pads are looking worn, or you might need to replace or rotate your rotors, as “preventive maintenance”, which unless a problem exists, this is unnecessary and quite costly. I recommend prior to bringing your vehicle in: check to see how far you have to push your brake peddle. If it goes all the way or close enough to the floor, you might need to change the brakes. Another good way to check is to actually visually inspect how much padding is left; anything over a ¼ inch is still in good condition.
4.) Air filters, windshield wipers, thermostat and light bulbs, are all top contenders when it comes to repair faux pas; mainly due to cost. Yes, if a bulb or wiper blade needs changing, there is no harm in having it done during a service visit. But, be prepared to pay nearly double the cost, and possibly labor, for a ridiculously simple job. Service centers gain commission on budget items like these, and they also utilize specific brands or manufactures so choices are limited to their pricing. All one has to do is look around, and I can almost guarantee a better deal can be had, and most auto-part stores might even install it for you for free.
5.) Tires, alignment and suspension: Rotating and balancing can be a beneficial service; when and if it is actually required. I even had a technician ask “if my car drifted whenever I let go of the steering wheel”, which apparently was an indication my alignment or balance was bad. Little did he know that I was well aware that most roads crown to the right or left depending on the direction being travelled; for purely a safety measure.
In the end, it is always in your best interests to find a familiar and trusted source when servicing your vehicle. Sure, not all shops are out to blindside you with additional services; but there are still an overwhelming number of establishments that don’t play a fair game.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, fairness is not always as profitable as being honest. But despite whatever they might push, we still reserve the right to refuse. Lastly, ensure you receive a detailed report or invoice that show individual charges for parts and or labor, lump sum charges are often an indication of an unfair practice. I highly recommend researching a shop before making an appointment, and in the event you receive any unethical treatment; please report it to an authority, such as the Better Business Bureau.
Happy and safe motoring!