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11 Money Wasting Car Repairs

Car repairs are important and often necessary, but some repairs are more urgent than others. Learn to recognize these 11 money wasting car repairs.

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Windshield Replacement

When a flying rock chips your windshield, the temptation is to get it professionally repaired or replaced right away. If the chip is small, there’s no need to spend the $200 or $300 minimum you’ll need for a replacement. Instead, consider repairing small chips and cracks yourself. 

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Family Handyman

Cabin Air (and Other) Filter Replacement

Cars are full of filters. Some are more important than others, but each represents an opportunity for you to save money by doing the replacement yourself. A great example is the cabin air filter.

Generally accessed through the glove compartment, its main purpose is to improve air quality inside the car. Most service manuals recommend replacing it annually. A car repair shop will charge you as much as $70. Don’t waste the money — do it yourself. Just be sure to buy the right filter for your car’s make and model.

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change spark plugsFamily Handyman

Regular Engine Tune-ups

If your car was built in the last ten or 20 years, it does not need regular tune-ups as cars did decades ago. Modern onboard computers make adjustments to ratios and settings that optimize your engine performance. If the engine seems to be running poorly, a tune-up could cure it, but it’s likely a specific problem that you can fix yourself like replacing the spark plugs.

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Mechanic-with-grease-gun-.-Auto-repair-shop-serviceGTS Productions/Shutterstock

The Lube Job

The chassis of a modern car, including the ball joint, is almost always lubricated in a closed, sealed system. Some heavy-duty vehicles, like full-size pickups, may still require occasional lubrication of the undercarriage. Check your owner’s manual before you fork over money for an unneeded lube job.

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fh12may_528_13_051 car engine coolantFamily Handyman

Coolant (antifreeze) Flush

A coolant flush with a cleansing, flushing product can cause more problems than it prevents by removing any normal-level contaminants in the coolant system. Seals can be damaged, leaks can spring.

So, unless you drive in unusually dirty or dusty conditions, simply draining and replacing the coolant yourself should suffice. Even with newer coolant products that boast a 100,000-mile lifetime, most vehicles will need to have the coolant refreshed from time to time.

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The 3,000-Mile Oil Change

Whether you do the work yourself (usually not worth the savings) or bring your car in for service, most experts agree that we change our engine oil more frequently than is necessary. Engines and lubricants have changed.

If you check your owner’s manual, you may find that it suggests an oil change every 5,000 or even 10,000 miles, not the 3,000 miles indicated by the sticker put on your windshield at the service station or dealership.

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Cleaning Fuel Injectors

The buildup of carbon and deposits on your fuel injectors is a problem that needs to be addressed, but these days it’s a rare situation that demands a professional cleaning.

Fuel injectors in newer cars have been improved and are less likely to get gummed up than they were a few years ago. Plus, the nature and amounts of detergent required in gasoline has increased at the same time, providing greater protection to fuel injectors. If your car is stalling or sluggish, try upgrading to top-line gasoline with better detergents for a couple of tankfuls.

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Replacing a Single Tire Is OK

Tires don’t usually go flat in pairs, but the salesperson at the tire store will tell you that you need to buy them that way. Or maybe even all four! Dire consequences may result if you throw off the balance with a single new tire, you’ll be told. Not true.

But, if the remaining tire on the opposite side of the one being replaced has less than 75 percent of its tread, think about a twofer (both front tires or both back). It’s a good idea to have four tires that are the same make and size.

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Worn tireFamily Handyman

The Front-End Alignment

You don’t need to haul your car in for front-end alignment service every time you hit a pothole. If the steering is noticeably pulling, look into it. If you really need a front-end alignment, you will know. Misalignment can cause uneven tire wear, as seen in the cutaway photo above. But, understand that the adjustment will only last until you hit the next pothole.

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Switched-on-conditioner-with-flow-of-cold-air-in-carAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Air Conditioner Recharge

If the air conditioning in your car is not as cold as it used to be, it might be time for a recharge of the refrigerant. But, probably not. Modern car AC systems are tightly sealed and most don’t ever experience a loss of refrigerant. More likely causes are the blower fan or leaks in the air circulation system. Have those checked first before you spend $200 to $300 on a recharge.

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Mechanician-changing-car-wheel-in-auto-repair-shopMinerva Studio/Shutterstock

Tire Balancing and Rotation

When you buy new tires, they need to be balanced by the installer. Beyond that, it is not necessary to pay someone to do the job unless you notice an obvious handling problem. Tire rotation, however, is a good idea every 5,000 to 6,000 miles to even out tread wear, especially if you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, where the front tire treads wear out about three times as fast as the rears.

Mark Johanson
Mark Johanson is an experienced home and garden writer/editor/publisher. He has written several books and hundreds of magazine articles. He has edited and directed more than 400 DIY and gardening books, including the BLACK+DECKER® Home Improvement Library series and two of the best-selling gardening books in North America. He is an experienced DIYer and enthusiastic gardener.