Angie's List: Car Maintenance

We are a mobile society, and most of us rely on our vehicles to get us from point A to point B.

So, how do you make sure your vehicle remains reliable so you can have fewer distractions in your busy life?

People assume modern vehicles need less maintenance, and that is true, but that does not mean you should not have a regular maintenance schedule, or just ignore routine maintenance.

Cars are more reliable these days, but that does not mean they will not ever break down or give your trouble.

After all, there are still plenty of auto repair shops out there.

Even though automobiles play an essential role in our daily lives, it is likely that many motorists lack the basic knowledge about how they work or what problems could arise.

Angie Hicks of Angie’s List says, "Properly maintaining your car is important in order to extend the life of your car and to prevent unexpected bills that pop up. But what we find out is many of us don't take care of our car properly. For example, in a recent Angie's List poll, 32% of respondents said they get their oil changed regularly, but they skip other services that the manufacturer recommends. This is potentially going to lead to problems. Your best bet is to follow your owner's manual on recommended service intervals."

Sometimes, routine maintenance is not enough, and things can go wrong.

Robert Waeiss, an auto repair shop owner, says, "The biggest signs that you need to look for to take your car into get serviced would be warning lights on the dash. There are things like check engine lights, low oil lights, tire pressure lights. Now, those are the things you want to look for on your dash to be aware and cognoscente of what's happening on the dash board."

Other signs include grinding or squealing when your brake, oil spots under your vehicle, or slow starting, which could mean a dead or dying battery.

Also, it is good to maintain consistency when taking your car in for service or problems.

Angie Hicks says, "When working with a mechanic, the first thing you have to do is develop a relationship. This is not a service where you want to go to a different mechanic every time you need something done. You want to start out with a repair that is small, you can build up trust. The mechanic can get to know you, as well as your car, and that way, when you do have bigger issues down the road or bigger repairs as your car gets older, you'll feel comfortable going to them for their advice."

This time of year, it is especially important to pay attention to your vehicle.

Waeiss says, "The big things to look at during the winter in antifreeze, make sure the coolant isn't freezing and ruin the engine. Battery, you want to make sure you have a good fresh battery a strong battery to start it in the really cold temperatures. Then of course, tires, good tire tread and good tire pressure that's going to keep you as best you can from slipping down the road."

If you read nothing else in the manual that comes with your car, read the preventative maintenance schedule about tires and follow it.

Know what type of tires your car has and make sure they are properly inflated.

That is especially important in winter because maintaining proper tire pressure is extremely important in a vehicle's handling and braking which, of course, can be tricky on slippery winter roads.


Even though automobiles play an essential role in our daily lives, it's likely that many motorists lack the basic knowledge about how they work or what problems could arise.

If you're among the motorists who fall into this group, it's important to have your car inspected and serviced by a professional mechanic on a regular basis. Unaddressed issues can shorten your vehicle's lifespan and compromise you and your vehicle's safety.

A nationwide Angie's List poll found:
• 47 percent of respondents take their vehicle to an independent mechanic for service.
• 41 percent of respondent take their vehicle to a dealership for service.
• 32 percent of respondents change their oil as recommended, but skip regular service checks on their vehicle.

Look for these warning signs that your car may need inspection or repairs:

Warning light indicators: If the "Check engine" light or "Service Engine Soon" light illuminates on your vehicle's dash, call your mechanic.
Squealing or grinding sounds when coming to a stop: This can indicate your brake pads, rotors or calipers are on their last leg and need to be serviced as soon as possible.
Oil spots under your car: An oil leak can be dangerous to your car's lifespan. Without proper lubrication from oil, your car's performance is undermined and the engine can eventually lock up.
Green liquid leaking from your engine: Radiator coolant, which helps maintain engine temperature, is usually dyed green by the manufacturer for safety. If you have a coolant leak, your engine could overheat, which can mean thousands of dollars in repairs. Leaked coolant can also poison pets.
Slow starting: This could mean that your battery is dead or dying.
Excessive vibration while driving: If your car is vibrating more than normal it could be a sign that you need new tires or your tire alignment adjusted.
Car is running unusually loud: This could be an indicator that you need a new muffler.
Squealing noise when you start the car or turn on the A/C: This could be the sign of a bad serpentine belt, which helps provide power to essential components such as the power steering, water pump or alternator

Angie's List Tips for finding reliable car repair:

Find a good shop before you need one: Don't wait until your car is on the blocks to find a mechanic. Doing your homework and developing a long-term relationship with a mechanic/service shop will help you avoid being rushed into a last-minute decision. You'll also be first in line for emergency service and cost savings.
Specialty service: A full-service shop may be able to handle most of your needs, but if you need a highly specialized service, do some research to find the right specialist. If you have a good and long-term relationship with a full-service shop, you'll likely find at least one good recommendation there.
Read and follow the manual: If you read nothing else in the manual that comes with your car, read the preventative maintenance schedule about tires and follow it. Know what type of tires your car has.
Get it in writing: Get a written estimate before authorizing repairs. Request that all replaced parts be returned and insist on a detailed invoice of work done, including an itemized description of parts and labor charges.
Check licensing & certification: State or local law may require that a shop be licensed or registered. ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified mechanics must have two years of experience and pass an exam to become certified.
Warranty work: Determine if your warranty requires you to use a specific dealership or shop. If you use another source, keep all receipts in case your warranty coverage is questioned.
Diagnosis: Many auto service shops charge a diagnostic fee to determine what ails your vehicle. Some may reduce or forgive that fee if you have the work performed there. Always ask why a repair is needed.
Get a second opinion: On expensive or complicated repairs, get a second estimate. If you decide to have the work performed elsewhere, be aware that you may have to pay another diagnostic charge.
Before you leave the shop: After repairs are finished, get a complete repair order that describes the work done. Ask to see any old parts. Some states require mechanics to give you any parts they have removed from your car unless the warranty requires they be sent back to the manufacturer.

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