One of the greatest pleasures in life is driving a car that hums along like a well-oiled machine on the road, even as the miles accumulate. How long it stays that way depends on how well you know the basic fundamentals of good auto repair and maintenance.

Know Your Vehicle Repair Basics Before Taking It To The Dealer

You’d be surprised to know how many folks take this aspect of their driving experience lightly. Allow us to bring you up to speed on how good car maintenance is done, something you can also pass down to your friends, family and acquaintances.

Before You Get Repairs Done

You will see many eager on-the-go drivers hand over the keys to the service/repair guys without a second thought and often without asking the total cost upfront. This is a huge mistake. Before leaving your car, you must always know how much the repairs or maintenance will cost.

If something seems unclear, always take time out to discuss it with the mechanic or service manager before work begins. We all hate to see an inflated bill or repair work that wasn’t agreed upon before the car was handed over.

Another factor that needs to be taken into account is how the mechanic reacts to your questions. Any dodgy behavior or beating around the bush should signal a red flag. A mechanic should not only be trust worthy but equipped to answer all your questions in a patient and thorough manner.

As far as standard car parts are concerned, you should know how to identify them, before taking your car to the mechanic. Parts can be classified as brand new, refurbished or salvaged. New parts are built according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Refurbished parts can be listed as “rebuilt, reconditioned or remanufactured”, which means they have been restored to near-new condition. Salvage is more or less a fancy word for a used part.

Some tire shops within the service department try to pull off a fast one and put old/used or reconditioned tires for your good ones. This is an easy way to make money off car owners who don’t know much about tires. Mark your tires with a prominent chalk or permanent white marker. If it isn’t there later, you know you’ve been taken for a ride.

Once repairs are done at the service shop, always take your car for a spin to make sure everything is working as it should, before satisfying the bill. Fail to do this, and you might end up compounding your car problems down the line.

When NOT to Visit the Service Shop

The question you really need to ask yourself is if the repairs/maintenance can be carried out by yourself. There are several issues a car faces over the years, which can be easily resolved with rental tools and sound knowledge of car maintenance. Going online is one way of educating yourself on how to properly carry out repairs. Who knows how much money you’ll save in the process?

Make it a habit to read your car manual and mark important pages. If you do end up visiting the repair shop, the mechanic may need to gather some vehicle-specific info from you. The answer to your problem may lie in the car manual, and with the right tools, it may be possible to do it all yourself.

You should always have an auto repair kit handy in your car. At the bare minimum, you must have tire changing tools. Your lug wrench and jack should never be missing. Have both screwdriver types in your kit, along with a torque wrench, ratchet set and socket wrenches. Avoid buying cheap tools; solid and sturdy ones will never let you down when you’re in a tough spot.

DIY car maintenance and repair can be dangerous. Always have someone help you out so that a back-up plan is always in place. Purchase tools you know will last. This especially applies to tire changing tools. Or a quality jack, for instance, since you might be under the car trying to diagnose the problem. Get a robust and high-quality hydraulic jack with stands.

Keep Her Purring Like a Kitten

Owning a car and keeping it in pristine condition involves a fair amount of research and knowhow on your part. Not every car owner is lucky enough to find a mechanic who does his job diligently and honestly. Nor do they take the time out to properly diagnose and research the issue.

Always do your homework before taking it to the service shop and rent the right service tools to get the job done at a significantly lower cost.