None of us look forward to a big repair bill on our family car. Breakdowns seem to happen at the worst time. We always wonder . . . should I fix the old car or quit dumping money into it and buy a new car? Good question and a question which begs your careful consideration.
First let's look at the life expectancy of your car. Cars produced after the mid to late 1990's can easily go 300,000 miles with the proper maintenance and a little luck. Do some research and eliminate those models which have a history of problems with the drive train (engine and transmissions). Second consider the cost of repair. Those sporty European or Asian cars only sold at an import dealer an hour or two away from home are eye catchers and fun to drive but you might not be pleased when it's time to fix that pesky noise under the hood. Generally speaking, the greater the number of any model car on the road here in the USA the more likely affordable parts will be available for repair. One last caveat avoid heavily rusted cars. Rust never sleeps and is very difficult to fix especially in the structural area of your car's frame or unitized body.
Let's say the worst happens and your old car lets you down. Now what do you do? First find a reputable repair shop. Sometimes that isn’t easy. So what do you look for in a repair shop? Ideally you want ethical, well trained diagnosticians who understand how the various systems of the car work. Good technicians will test – test - test and identify the problem rather than replacing new part after new part hoping they figure out the problem by process of elimination. My preference is Independent Repair Shops doing mechanical repair as their primary business not as a side business. (e.g. muffler shops, body shops, tire shops or parts stores doing mechanical repairs as a side. I'm not saying there aren't good shops in those categories . . . just not my preference) Stay away from chain stores. Your repair shop's affiliation with The International Automotive Technicians Network or The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence are both signs you've found a progressive shop interested in keeping up with the complexities of car repair. Talk to your friends and neighbors . . . see what shop they've used. Are they satisfied? Never hurts to ask the shop's manager for references.
Now the big question . . . is my car worth fixing? According to Edmunds.com and USA Today the average new car payment is almost $500 per month for 66 months. Here's a scenario I see all the time. A family brings their car in because the brakes are squealing and ask me to take a look.. I find a six to seven-year-old sedan that other than oil changes have had relatively little service. Brakes are worn out and shaking, at 130,000 miles the 'tune up' is overdue. The cooling system needs flushed and the coolant replaced. If the engine utilizes a timing belt it's overdue for replacement. All told these repairs can run $1500 to $2000. Quite a chunk of change . . . right?
Let's look at it from another perspective. If the family decides to buy a new car they're looking at 66 payments of $500 per month. Fixing the old grocery getter will cost between 3 and 4 months of car payments saving the family 5 YEARS of new car payments. Although a bit simplistic, I think you get the drift. Sometimes keeping the old car on the road a bit longer makes economic sense.
We're now servicing hybrid electric cars. I've had a couple in the shop for mechanical repairs but not for electrical service. Not many independent shops service hybrids since the voltage and amperage used in electric vehicles can kill an unsuspecting mechanic.
CM Automotive Service sells tires also
CM Automotive Service, Waverly, Ohio providing auto repair, tires, oil changes
Today's cars and trucks may have 10 to 15 computer modules on a controller area network. When you turn your key to start your car each module wakes up and sends a state of health message to the buss master which in turn has to recognize each module and signal the power train control module it's ready for operation. That many microprocessors require maintaining sufficient voltage at all times an absolute must. More and more the repairs we make require the modules be reprogrammed or 'flashed' to effect a software change to correct some issue. When a module fails and requires replacement it also requires programming to the specific vehicle. Up until recently independent shops had to tow a car to the dealership for the programming.
CM Automotive Service has invested in a new computer and a 'pass through' programming tool so we can now program in the shop. No more trips to Columbus or Huntington for those Beemers and Mini Coopers. Alas availability is not free. That's why we charge an 'information access' fee on repairs which require programming. Working on your own vehicle is fast becoming a thing of the past.