They’re expensive, they’re used way too often and unless you’re a saint you’ve probably used one or two yourself. “They” are outdated or flawed automotive terms. Some were once acceptable while others never were anything but urban legend. No matter their origin they do only one thing, waste money!

The more common and expensive of these terms is actually a question, “How much is a tune-up?” What’s wrong with that? Only one thing, traditional tune-ups do not exist for today’s cars. When you ask for a tune-up you make a commitment to buy an assortment of parts but more often than not those parts don’t fix your problem.

So rather than ask for a random bunch of parts or services it makes much more sense to buy a cure for your car’s complaint. Don’t try to self diagnose a car problem because without years of training you probably won’t get it right. Instead ask the shop for a diagnosis and an estimate of what the fix will cost. And don’t forget to get a guarantee that their repair will cure your problem. Buy a cure, don’t buy an obsolete cliché.

Or how about, “It can’t be my battery because the headlights work fine.” Come on folks, it takes about three times as much electricity to make the starter go click and eighteen times as much to turn the engine as it does to light the lights. You could have strong lights and not enough electricity for the starter to make a sound. Whether it’s starting, performance, transmission shifting, or fuel economy begin the diagnosis with a battery test.

“My car shakes at sixty miles per hour and the tires have been balanced twice so I must need an alignment.” Wrong! Shaking usually has nothing to do with alignment and everything to do with tires and wheels. Even though a tire is properly balanced that is no guarantee it will roll smoothly. To roll smoothly a tire must be round and free from stiff spots under the tread. If the tire isn’t mounted properly it will not be round. Sometimes during manufacturing materials used in the belts under the tread will have spots that aren’t as flexible as the rest of the belt. Every time one of these stiff spots hits the pavement the car shakes. Diagnosis comes from having the tires checked on a Road Force Variation machine. This tells if the tire is properly mounted to the wheel, is acceptably round and is acceptably free from stiff spots in its casing.

“I’ve figured out how to save lots of money on my car, I just buy the cheapest stuff I can find.” Buying car repairs, parts and fluids by the lowest bidder may save a few dollars right now but could cost a lot of dollars later. If your cheapest part or fluid doesn’t meet manufacturer’s specifications it could lead to premature, expensive repairs. When that happens the good stuff you passed over looks like a bargain in hindsight. But worse, if that bargain-basement component affects the safety of your vehicle you may not have the luxury of hindsight.

Saving money on cars is pretty simple. Don’t skimp on maintenance because every dollar you spend on preventive maintenance returns about eight dollars in savings on repairs later. Never compromise vehicle safety or longevity in the name of saving a few dollars. Never self-diagnose problems. Never specify a repair to cure a specific problem but ask for a diagnosis of the cause. Always ask for specific scheduled maintenance services. The longer your car lasts the more economical it will be.

© Copyright 03/18/10 Pat Goss all rights reserved.


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