- I was impressed with just how many services they offer.
- It made me wonder about other places that offer free car maintenance services.
- A Pep Boys shop just opened downstairs from my building (selfish, sorry).
And, again, if you have a Sam's Club membership, this service is free.I'm all for doing things myself, and I can replace my own wiper blades. But hey, free is good too. Battery Test If your battery seems to be losing it but you're not entirely sure whether you need a new one or it's some other problem, lots of places will test it for free then tell you what the problem is. Pep Boys offers this service, and so do AutoZone, Firestone and Advance Auto Parts. According to AutoZone's website, they will also charge your battery for free: "We have a Duralast Fast Charger that can charge your battery for free while you wait. The fast charger charges 12-volt batteries in about 30 minutes." Some AAA facilities also offer free testing and charging. Diagnostic tests Ah, car problems. If your brakes are making that dreaded squeaking or grinding noise, you can usually get them inspected for free. According to Pep Boys: "Our free car diagnostic test can help you determine whether they're safe or need to be replaced. Let us remove all four wheels to check pad wear, measure rotors and drums, and check all the related fluids." Meineke and AAMCO also offer free brake testing. Similarly, Pep Boys offers a free alignment check. TPMS light and check-engine-light evaluation If your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light turns on, they'll evaluate that too: "This can mean reduced gas mileage and even hazardous driving. When your TPMS light goes on…we'll give you a free car evaluation -- and check your air pressure." Similarly, if your check engine light comes on, you can take your car to Pep Boys and they'll help you figure out what the problem is. "Pep Boys offers free engine light code retrieval designed to provide the answers you need when your Check Engine light comes on."
AutoZone and O'Reilly also offer this service. Most auto repair shops do too, and that's not surprising. After all, if you've got problems, you've got to get them fixed somewhere.But seriously, what's the catch? The catch is, of course, these places want you in the door. It's the same with credit-card rewards. Free stuff -- they just want you in the door so you'll spend money, if even eventually. But the services are totally available for you to take advantage of, even if you don't want to spend anything. Hamilton did tell me that three of Pep Boys' services require enrollment in their rewards program (flat repair, brake inspection, check-engine light). But that program is free and works like a store loyalty program. "The new or first-time customers are always surprised," Hamilton said. "The services we offer are services that are usually occurring in a pinch, when you weren't expecting it. And a lot of people think of Pep Boys as retail only. So part of offering the services is, we want to let people know we can take care of service needs too." I was surprised as well. I didn't realize just how many maintenance services were available at no cost. Next time I have a car issue, this knowledge will definitely come in handy.