Auto Service Blog with tips to save money on auto repair

Money-Saving Tips For Your Auto


Auto Repair Tip Of The Day Know your car's maintenance schedule. 

There is not one maintenance schedule that all cars should follow. The make, model and year of your car, along with its mileage, affect what maintenance it needs and when. has a free tool you can use to get a customized maintenance schedule for your car. Taking care of the little things in time can help you avoid big, expensive problems down the line. Knowing your maintenance schedule will also prevent you from performing unnecessary maintenance. For example, the traditional 3,000 mile oil change may actually be too frequent for many vehicles.


Dirty and worn out fluids create more wear on your vehicle and decreases fuel efficiency.

Check your fluid levels

Even if you understand little about how cars work, you can easily learn how to check and replenish your car's fluid levels yourself. Most of these items are readily accessible under the hood. According to "Auto Upkeep: Basic Car Care" by Michael E. Gray, these are the most common fluids car owners need to check:

  • Engine oil
  • Transmission fluid
  • Coolant
  • Brake fluid
  • Clutch fluid (for manual transmissions)
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Differential fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Serviceable joints greased

These should be checked whenever you get your oil changed. Please note that some of these fluids come in more than one formulation; make sure you know which formula your car requires before adding anything.


Low fluids can cause premature failure of your engine, transmission, cooling system, power steering system and differentials. Having your fluids checked and topped up could save you thousands of dollars in avoidable repair costs. Think preventative maintenance, "a stitch in time saves nine"


Keep Your Tires Inflated

A sticker usually located on the inside of the driver's side car door will tell you how much air to keep in your tires. Do not fill to the "max inflation" written on the side of the tire. It may read something like “32 PSI,” meaning your tires need 32 pounds of air per square inch. You can easily tell how much air is in your tires by using a tire gauge (this should cost less than $5). For a few quarters, you can add air to your tires at most gas stations. Check your tire pressure once a month when your tires are cold. As the tire warms the air expands and so the PSI of the tire will increase. Don't forget to check the spare!

An under inflated tire can cause a blowout, meaning that in a best-case scenario, you have to buy a new tire sooner than usual, and in a worst-case scenario, you can cause an accident resulting in thousands of dollars of damage to your vehicle and others. Correctly inflated tires also save you money by improving your gas mileage.


Looking at the tread wear pattern on your tires when you're inflating them can help you spot other problems with your car that should be addressed by a mechanic, like an alignment problem, unbalanced wheel or worn shock absorbers. And when the tread on your tires is down to less than 1/16 of an inch (which you can check by putting an upside-down penny in a groove and seeing if the top of Abe Lincoln's head is visible), it's time to get your tires replaced.

Keeping your tires correctly inflated and your wheels aligned can save you money at the gas pump and drastically improve the longevity of your tires.


Driving your vehicle off-road


Driving your vehicle off-road, especially on the Outer Banks beaches creates additional wear on any vehicle. All your vehicles fluids will degrade faster. Putting a vehicle under such harsh conditions that no vehicle is designed for (especially newer models) will often require aftermarket upgrades. Without a transmission cooler your vehicles transmission can overheat and cause immediate failure which will not be warranted. Excess heat will will degrade your fluids faster and cause your vehicles drivetrain to fail prematurely. Same is true for your engine cooling system, additional radiator and oil cooling maybe needed to prolong the life of your engine.


My experience owning and managing Wild Horse Adventure Tours has provided me with real-world knowledge on what works off-road and what is a gimmick. Through trial and error over the years I have found the best maintenance and upgrades for your beach ride are:

  • Full flush of all vehicle fluids with Amsoil full-synthetic fluids
  • Injector and Throttle body clean
  • Transmission cooler installed
  • Oil cooler installed for vehicles under a heavy load on the beach
  • K&N air filter to keep the smallest particles of sand from entering your engine (also improves MPG)
  • Tires - I highly recommend the Goodyear MT/R with Kevlar. These Off-Road tires are built with the toughness of DuPont™ Kevlar® For Enhanced Sidewall Puncture Resistance, wraparound tread helps to deliver sidewall traction in deep mud, sand, and rocks.

Can auto repair shops charge for ‘environmental’ services?

(By Handel Stoughton)


A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said his department doesn't assess any fees for auto repairs. The attorney general's office said it is unaware of any law that calls for such charges. So what is this charge and where does it come from? Prime Acura's general manager acknowledged this is not a government-related cost, but a cost of doing business that is being passed along to customers. "All environmental charges are appropriately disclosed on the actual repair order and also in our service drives,'' general manager Jay Dapolito said. Dapolito added that none of the fees are paid directly to any federal or state agencies. "We are very conscious of how we dispose of and recycle the leftover hazardous waste accrued from the service and repair of each vehicle,'' he said. "However, all these important processes have significant costs associated with them. Each service repair order includes a small fee to help offset the costs of properly disposing of service repair wastes including: motor oil, transmission fluid, coolant, oil filters, tires, brake linings, rotors, drums, drive belts, etc.'' This isn't just something this one dealership does. You'd be hard-pressed to find a repair shop that doesn't assess the charge, which is simply a way of passing along a business expense to customers in way that makes the original charge look smaller. It's how changing a set of tires can get $20 more expensive, or an advertised $19.95 oil change can become a $25 oil change. Next time you bring your car into the shop, when you get a price quote, ask how much you'll be paying in "environmental fees.''


At Beach Ready Auto we do not charge such fees. If you eat in a restaurant and have food left on your plate you would not expect to pay a disposal fee!


Who Is the Service Advisor?


People think of the service advisor (also called a service writer) as a mechanic but basically they are salesmen. Most are even paid on commission. That means that the more work they convince you that your car needs, the more money that puts in their pockets.

Another problem is almost no one reads their owner's manual so they really don't know what's best for their car. The manufactures recommended service schedule is the most accurate description of how to care for YOUR vehicle. When people go to the dealership for routine maintenance, the service advisor pushes the "dealer recommended service" on them. Basically, this calls for oil changes and transmission flushes more frequently than the owner's manual.

For instance, the dealer might recommend changing the transmission fluid every 12,000 miles, whereas the manual recommends changing it every 60,000 miles. If you followed the dealer's recommendation, that means you'd have four transmission fluid changes that were unnecessary. And transmission fluid changes aren't cheap — they can run $200, so you might be spending as much as $800 unnecessarily.


At Beach Ready Auto we only recommend what is needed according to the manufactures service schedule.


Pricing Work for Profit


Service jobs are priced according to the "flat rate" book, which has the times it takes to perform each repair or service procedure. For instance, an oil change takes 0.3 hour according to this book. The mechanics, however, try to beat these times to make more money for doing less work. Unfortunately, that incentivizes speed and overselling, which to me is the built-in problem with most service departments.

There was a mechanic at one of the repair facility who had created this contraption that actually sucked the oil out of the engine rather than letting it drain out. He could change oil in three minutes and get paid for the flat 18-minute rate. The guy probably made more money than anyone else in the dealership.


At Beach Ready Auto we pay the mechanics by the hours they work, not "book time". This encourages honest work and less cutting corners to save time.


The Dangers of "Upselling"


Let's say that someone comes into the dealership for a simple oil change. They immediately become a target for the service department to "upsell" them as much additional work as possible. First of all, the advisor will ask how many miles are on the car. If there is close to, for example, 20,000 miles, they will say, "Well, you're just about ready for your 20,000-mile service. Here's what we recommend." They then whip out a sheet with a laundry list of services that are offered for a package price. But if you look at what is actually done to the car, it is just inspections or fluid checks and fills.

When you start getting more miles, the service writer will say, "We're going to do all services recommended for that mileage, but we'll also check for other problems." So you agree to a "full inspection," which is one of the biggest scams. Later in the day the service writer will call and say, "Everything looks OK but we recommend you have some other work done: transmission fluid, air-conditioning, differential fluid." By the way, most manufacturers don't recommend ever changing the differential fluid. So you go in for an oil change and end up dropping $600.

Dealerships don't profit on extensive operations like replacing engine blocks, transmissions or other large components. These require expensive parts, and the mechanics take longer to finish them. So while you pay a lot for these operations, the service department doesn't make much off them. With the smaller operations, on the other hand, you don't pay as much, but they're making a very high percentage of profit.

In one case, I looked at the dealer-recommended service and compared it to the owner's manual — it had almost doubled the service frequency from the manual. That's true of parts, too. The prices of most parts you buy through a dealership are doubled.


At Beach Ready Auto we only recommend services we would carry out on our own vehicles


Brake Jobs and Other Scams


Service departments are always trying to get you to agree to a brake job you don't necessarily need. And then they recommend that you "turn the rotors." This means putting the rotor (the disc part of the brakes) on a lathe and cutting a thin layer of metal off to make the surface flat. They charge you $50 each to turn the rotors, and it only costs them 50 cents and the startup cost of buying a lathe.

It isn't even necessarily safer to turn the rotors — in fact, it's actually making them closer to wearing out, since cutting the rotors makes them thinner. This way they could warp more easily. My opinion is that unless a rotor is severely gouged, don't bother turning it, as you have little if anything to gain. Let the pad adapt to the grooves in the rotor. Rotor turning is one of the big scams out there.

Most brake pads come with small metal strips buried under the brake pad called the "wear indicator." When the brake pad wears down to about 15 percent of its thickness, the metal contacts the rotor and causes the brakes to screech when you hit them. Then it's a good time to change them. Sometimes mechanics will bend these strips so they start squeaking sooner. Another thing they do is spray oil on the shock absorber so it looks like there's a leak in the hydraulic fluid and you need your shocks changed.


At Beach Ready Auto we do not own a Lathe, we don't resurface your rotors - we will install a brand new rotor.



Who Is the Service Advisor?, Pricing Work for Profit, The Dangers of "Upselling", Brake Jobs and Other Scams, taken from "Confessions From the Dealership Service Department" by Philip Reed.