Protecting Old Cars

2002 Corolla by Toyota2002 Corolla LE from Toyota

The strategy for protecting old cars from high repair bills. As the owner of an aging automobile you're probably familiar with taking the vehicle in for scheduled maintenance and receiving a giant list of recommended services.

In this article we'll lay out some strategies for protecting your old cars from unexpected and high automotive maintenance estimates. We'll also sort through why these lists can be so long and the motivation behind some of the recommendations.

Unfortunately, your old car will have higher maintenance and repair bills, then a vehicle that's 10 years newer. However, knowing the history of the services that have already been performed and the ones that need attention in the future will help you hold down expenses going forward.

Why the Shop Calls your Car a Gravy Boat

I mentioned this briefly on the fixmyoldcar.com home page, but I wanted to get a little more in-depth about the definition of the term. It's important for the consumer to understand how some shops view their old ride.

They define the term gravy job in the Internet slang dictionary as a lucrative auto repair that's easily performed in a short amount of time.

In other words the shop gets big money for easy jobs. If we consider the individual service a gravy job, then a vehicle that holds a wealth of these repairs is called a gravy boat.

A gravy boat at the Thanksgiving Day table holds a large amount of delicious liquid to pour over your meat and potatoes. The automotive gravy boat holds a lot of easy money for the mechanic and the repair facility.

Protecting Old Cars from Gravy Loving Mechanics

I can't tell you exactly what the auto repair shop will recommend. With that said, as a mechanic, I can tell you what they will look for and what they would like to sell you. That's right, they want you to buy gravy services.

The idea is to beat them to the punch. Have these gravy repairs performed on your terms. Do them yourself or directly request them before an emergency situation arises. This puts you in the driver seat. This process also begins to transform your gravy boat into a well-maintained automobile.

This changes the mindset of the mechanic as he looks through the engine compartment to compile a list of needed repairs. Instead of seeing that everything needs attention, they see it's already completed. This can often change the attitude of the technician from, I could retire off this car, to somebody else already has and I’ll just have to fix the problem at hand.

Commonly Recommended Auto Repair Services

First, we’re talking about your old ride that probably has well over one hundred thousand miles on it.

Therefore, any original equipment, rubber components will certainly make the mechanics list. Some of the easiest things to do, like replacing the serpentine drive belt and the upper and lower radiator hoses will often make the top of the list.

Some shops might try to take this to the next level by bundling overlapping services. As an example, they sell you the upper and lower radiator hoses and then charge a menu price for a radiator service.

You can’t replace the lower coolant hose without draining and refilling the radiator.

Getting back to the to the rubber parts mindset, wiper blades are a lot cheaper at the big box store than at a retail auto repair center. I’m a big fan of the powder coated metal framed Michelin brand wiper blades.

With an average cost of around seven dollars for the basic high performance frame model at retail, they come in around half the price of the made in China plastic ones many shops sell.

They have also expanded the line of wipers to include the rain force hybrid and stealth ultra blades. These have unique design enhancements that prevent them from lifting off the windshield at high speeds. They are also covered so they won't clog with ice and snow.

Know your Filter Service History

Replacing any kind of automotive filter is also considered a gravy job. I talked more about this on the how to tell how old a fuel filter is by looking for factory markings. If the owner doesn't have complete maintenance records or documentation of when it was last replaced they will recommend it.

old used filterOld Used Delco Filter

This brings me to the point that you need to keep a separate file folder for every automobile you own.

Notify the shop you have this documentation available upon request. This can make them cautious about building a big list of gravy jobs. If you just bought this old ride off a used car lot with no maintenance history start your own.

You never know how long you'll own it and these records will help you during an auto repair or maintenance situation. In addition, the records add value to the car when you hand it down or resell it.

Drill Down into the Shop Recommendations

There are a lot of trusted auto repair centers that only recommend what a car actually needs. However, there might be a few that are in it more for the money than the service value they provide. To complicate this further, they pay some mechanics and service advisors on an incentive-based pay scale.

Mechanics work on a flat rate system where they get paid by the job instead of by the hour. This can push them to recommend quick and easy maintenance items.

Service advisors are often offered a cash spiff or incentive to sell certain items for additional compensation. With that said, this doesn't mean that everything they recommend isn't needed. It's your job to find out why they recommended it.

If you want to protect an old car from expensive repair bills you need to become an expert on your specific automobile. Read the owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with the service intervals in the maintenance section. Try to stick to the recommendations provided by the factory. Nobody knows more about your automobile than the people who designed and built it.

› Protect your Old Ride