Sometimes, going to the auto repair shop can feel like walking into a casino — minus the fun. It seems like mechanics want to lure you into a game of chance with your money on the line. Protect your wallet by looking out for the most common auto repair upsells and scams ahead of time.
For example, they might mislead you into thinking some car parts need replacement or cleaning. That’s because many mechanic shops are commission-based. This means each mechanic is financially incentivized to upsell you.
They often take advantage of your ignorance, misleading you into thinking different car parts need replacement or cleaning. Just like that, the numbers on your budgeting app are thrown completely off. Before you visit a mechanic, watch out for these common auto repair upsells, sponsored by CarShield.
1. Vehicle fluid top-off services are one of the most common upsells
Many mechanics will check your fluid levels while working on your car. Even if you come in for an unrelated issue, they might say your fluids are low.
If someone offers fluid replacement and exchange services, take a moment before you agree. It’s easy to automatically say “yes,” but you should train yourself to pause. Otherwise, you’ll deal with expensive add-ons to your bill.
Remember, you only need to change your coolant after 100 thousand miles. Of course, it depends on your vehicle’s model, so check your manual.
2. Air filter replacements
Usually, you need to change your air filters every 15 to 60 thousand miles. Mechanics often try to raise your bill by making you feel like your air filter is disgusting. They might even say replacing it would be better for your health.
Once they start showing off new filters, watch out. They’re trying to make you feel embarrassed, so you’re pressured to buy it. Inspect it yourself before going to the auto shop to see if it’s really in need of a replacement. Chances are, it doesn’t need a change.
But even if it does, you can buy it online and install it yourself. It’s not hard, so save a few dollars and say, “No thanks!”
3. Tread issues
Unwanted tire inspections can lead to extra charges on your bill. They can cost you hundreds of dollars, so be careful! Just remember that mechanics are incredibly motivated to get you to buy new tires since they’re pricey.
If a tire has a puncture, ask them to plug it instead of replacement. Also, you should know that you don’t need to buy specific brands of tires. Some brands are more expensive than others. But they have a universal sizing system, so you can use cheaper tires and feel just as safe.
The International Organization for Standardization made a universal tile sizing system, which makes it easy to replace tires. So if a mechanic is making you feel like you need to rely on them because tires are complicated, be wary. It’s most likely a bunch of nonsense.
4. Unneeded oil changes
The last time you changed your oil, you got a sticker telling you when you would need the next one. Usually, this comes with a date and mileage.
Use this the next time a mechanic offers a preventative oil change. They might offer a change before it’s necessary. Just like that, you’re out of cash.
5. Brake fluid upsells
Mechanics will often try to upsell you by offering a brake fluid change. Maybe they’ll try to intimidate and impress you with jargon you don’t understand, like “brake flushing” or “bleeding.” Many auto repair shops try to push you into getting this service — even if you don’t need it.
According to Cars.com, you only need to change brake fluid once every few years. Depending on your model, you might never need a change. You should consult your manufacturer’s car maintenance schedule to be sure.
Not all auto repair upsells are scams
There are some upsells from a mechanic you actually need, like adding a light tint to your windows to help prevent cracks in the dash. You might also need a coolant change, for example. Drivers need this service every two to three years.
My advice: Check your owner’s manual and keep track of scheduled maintenance. Stop yourself from falling for peer pressure. Make a spreadsheet beforehand. Enter the different car services you need — and when you need to upgrade.
This way, a mechanic’s misleading upsells won’t fool you. You already know what your car needs. You entered all the data into your spreadsheet!
Don’t know where to begin? Luckily, there are tons of free spreadsheet templates you can find online. Save time and crunch your numbers correctly with 10 free spreadsheet templates that help manage your finances.
Use Kim’s secret trick to save money at the auto shop
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