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1. Flushing the engine or transmission
Those are common ways for dealers to pad their maintenance bills. Several of the dealerships we spoke with wanted us to pay for such a service when none was specified for normal driving in the owner’s manuals. Automakers recommend against flushing the engine.
2. Automatically charging for “severe” maintenance
Some shops assume you need the car’s severe-use maintenance service, which typically involves changing filters and fluids more frequently than the regular schedule recommends. That is a more comprehensive schedule for vehicles that frequently tow or are regularly driven in demanding conditions, such as stop-and-go traffic or dusty areas. See your owner’s manual for details, but most drivers need to follow only the normal schedule.
3. Frequently replacing different parts
A mechanic who keeps charging you to replace different parts to solve the same problem is probably having trouble diagnosing your car. Even if the mistake is an honest one, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Ask the mechanic to refund the cost of the first repair, which probably wasn’t necessary. Otherwise, replace the mechanic.
4. Replacing the same part over and over
That might indicate shoddy workmanship or a poor-quality part; neither should cost you extra. The Internet makes it easy to see whether a model is prone to certain problems. Search for your model in forums. Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for automaker service bulletins and consumer complaints. Or go to “John’s Tool Box" in our forums.
5. Insisting that only dealerships can perform maintenance
Legally, you can have maintenance performed by any mechanic without affecting your warranty. Just keep thorough records in case of a warranty claim. The only service that needs to be performed at a dealership are warranty repairs, recalls, or post-warranty work that you want the manufacturer to pay for.