Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lessons in Chic-onomics: Car Maintenance

Well, I have my car back from the shop. Good news: the car works and I haven't seen any warning lights since Friday. Bad news: it cost a little more than expected. As in $2185....eek! Good enough news: the repairs cost less than a new car engine.

So what the heck cost $2185? As a refresher, I have a 2003 VW Passat with a 1.8T engine and approximately 108,000 miles. I knew I needed a new timing belt and fluid flush, which were going to cost about $1,000. They also needed to clean the oil pick-up and replace the front flex pipe since there was an exhaust leak. There were some other issues with the timing and misfiring of some of the cylinders in the engine, but that was covered by a recall.

On the bright side, a remembered a few tips from my car repair post. Walking into the shop, I anticipated quite a few repairs. I knew it was going to be expensive. Before I even left to pick up a rental car that would be paid for by the dealership, I asked if I could get a discount. They offered me 10% off right there. Nice!

Once the dealership called with their estimate, I had a minor heart attack. They said the repairs would cost about $2,600 plus tax! And things would take longer than one day. I knew there would be the 10% discount, so that brought me down to $2,340 plus tax. The dealership usually only pays for a rental car for one day because repairs are generally completed the same day. Since we knew the repairs wouldn't be completed until Saturday, they agreed to cover an additional day of the car rental.

At this point, $2,340 still seemed a bit high. I called John and he suggested that I call a second car repair shop to ask if the estimate was reasonable and if they could perform the repairs for less. The second shop said the prices were about the going rate, but they could probably do it for $100 or $200 less. So I called the VW dealership back and basically asked them to match the price. They agreed to knock the repairs down to $2,100 plus tax. Woo hoo!

Lessons learned:
  • Stay up to date on scheduled maintenance.
  • Remember to negotiate the price or get a second estimate.
    • I saved about 20% by making an extra phone call and asking twice for a lower price.
  • Sign up for discounts from the dealership or repair shop.
  • Keep current with part recall notices. These repairs will be free of charge.
  • Follow service requirements for your car.
    • My car requires synthetic oil, but I may have skimped and used regular oil a few times. This probably led to the clogged oil pick-up.
  • Have an emergency fund!
    • We've spent quite a bit on our cars this year between repairs and insurance deductibles. Both of our cars have been hit while parked on and off the street. You never know what other people will do while driving.


Going forward, I'm going to be sure to follow these car maintenance guidelines. Especially before making long drives. I'm looking at you, St. Louis:
  • Follow the regular maintenance schedule, this includes oil changes at the required times (generally three months or 3,000 miles check your owner's manual).
    • Edit: Stephanie left a great comment. "Just a little tip, 3,000 miles is pretty old school for an oil change. When I worked at Chrysler I learned quite a bit of ins and outs of cars and most cars are built to go 10,000 miles in between oil changes now- the dealerships and auto repair places just don't tell you that because they want your $$. :) *Disclaimer- She is not an auto mechanic. :)"
    • Upon review of my owner's manual, my car can go 5,000 miles between oil changes.
  • Check tires for wear or damage and correct tire pressure.
  • Check the level of windshield washer fluid and add as necessary. This is especially important in the winter.
  • Check the car's interior and exterior lighting system for correct functioning.
    • You might be able to replace the light yourself. Refer to your owner's manual or search for videos on YouTube.
  • Check the engine oil level. The oil level should be between the two hash marks on the dip stick. I just learned how to do this in May 2011....ooops.
  • Wash and vaccuum the car regularly. Especially in the winter when the road salt can eat at your paint finish.
  • Change the air filter every twelve months or 10,000 to 12,000 miles. If you live in a dusty area, change it sooner.

Side note: Since the car is 8 years old we also considered whether it was even worth it to repair the car. If we wanted to sell the car, the repairs would have to be made in order to make the car drivable. Kelley Blue Book valued the car between $3,200 and $4,800. Then we would buy a "new" used car. Since we wouldn't be losing money by repairing and selling down the line, we decided to repair and drive the car a little longer. We'll reevaluate this decision if the car needs another major repair.

Do you have any other car maintenance tips?
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  1. Glad to hear you got a deal!! You are rockin' it chic lady! Just a little tip, 3,000 miles is pretty old school for an oil change. When I worked at Chrysler I learned quite a bit of ins and outs of cars and most cars are built to go 10,000 miles in between oil changes now- the dealerships and auto repair places just don't tell you that because they want your $$. :) *Disclaimer- I am not an auto mechanical though. :)

  2. Thanks, Stephanie! I just updated the post with your comment :)

  3. Is that nice young lady filling up gas in lingerie?

  4. "Sign up for discounts from the dealership or repair shop."- True. Instead of scouring for other cheaper repair shop, maintain a good relationship with the shop owners and mechanics and get a good discount on top of a trusted service.

    1. Really, it's impressive and I found several new thoughts. Thanks for sharing.
      car rental

  5. More for car maintenance! Thanks for sharing this. I'm lazy on washing my car.

  6. Love reading your post on car maintenance being very useful.


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