I wrote a short post a while back about items to keep an eye on with every car you own and drive. To sum it all up, regularly check your tire pressure, engine oil, transmission oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, window washer fluid, hoses/belts for cracks, check for dragging or dangling parts under the car, check that no lights are burnt out, and give the car a quick look over for leaks; all in all a 15 minute check up.
I know how to do or am capable of doing all of the maintenance on my own cars. The issue is the extra $7-$10 is worth it to me to not have to crawl on the ground when it’s below freezing. Also, I don’t yet have a heater for the garage. I like to have a second opinion as well. I don’t need it for everything but I don’t make a living out of fixing vehicles and I know I miss things that may or may not be important.
As you all know, we have been evaluating our situation with our older car. It was recently in for an oil change and a brake warning light. Before I dropped off the car I gave it a review so that I could make an educated decision based on what I knew and what information the mechanic could provide. The mechanic came back with generic comments and in general good news. I was tired after a long day, but happy. I got in the car and drove home.
That didn’t last too long. I have a habit of auditing vehicle maintenance reports so I can budget and plan appropriately based on the lifespan of different parts. It’s always cheaper to be proactive. Well, it turns out the general comments made in conversation were even more useful than anything the mechanic recorded. Boiler plate, boiler plate, boiler plate, oil changed, other fluids added, car looks good. Pop open the hood, oil changed. No other fluids added. Strike one. Well, I was informed the brake fluid level may be low, as it was, because the brake pads may be nearing the end of their life. The dealership I take the cars to generates a full system review so you know where future maintenance will be needed, this includes brake pad width. Time to see where the brakes are at. No report this time. Strike two. Back to the archives, 4,000 miles ago they still had ¾ of their life expectancy left. I don’t know what the expected life is of the brakes in my car at the moment is, but I can tell you it took over 5,000mi to get them down to ¾ lifespan.
I don’t know the last time the brake fluid was topped off, I know the likely hood of the brakes being worn down to the point of it being an issues is slim to none, and I know the mechanic already cut corners. Without any further digging or even getting under the vehicle, I can fairly safely assume nothing is wrong with our car and we won’t need a $500 brake job from this mechanic, nor any for quite some time.
Just because you may not know how it all works or care to do the work yourself, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t educate yourself to save yourself from other’s incompetence.