Gary Cole: Your driving habits can define what repairs are needed on your car
July 12, 2013
Let's face it. If it has four round, rubber black things on it, it's going to give you trouble.
The question is when and how much? So you've taken your car to a mechanic, received the list of items wrong with it, had a heart attack and finally started breathing again. Who can afford the costs of repairing their cars? And if your mechanical ability consists of seeing that the tires are round and figuring out where the door handle is, then you are kind of over a barrel.
Well, there are some things to consider when looking over your repair order. The type of driving you do, where your trips generally are, what you need to accomplish while driving and the consistency of your driving all can play a factor when considering your repairs.
For instance, if your fuel pump has an intermittent problem and you drive back and forth to Steamboat every day, then fixing it would be a priority. But if you drive 10 blocks to work and back, you know you won't get stranded very far from anything, so you might be able to put it off for a while.
"Well if you're driving around in town, all repairs can be put off," you might say. Not exactly. Town driving can be very hard on some components and wear them much quicker.
Steering, brakes, suspension and starting components all wear much worse in town and can become dangerous. Those same components tend to last longer during highway driving. If your brakes are down to 10 percent, they may only last a month or so in town but could last a year if you drive on the highway.
Unfortunately, most mechanics don't know the type of driving you do and therefore don't prioritize repairs, expecting you instead to just pay for $1,000 or more in repairs all at once. Find a friend who has some mechanical knowledge, explain your driving and come up with a plan to break your repair bill down to components you can manage.
Another factor to consider, however, is which parts may lead to the premature wear of other parts. Out-of-balance tires vibrate and therefore wear tierods, ball joints and steering components. Improper alignments lead to increased tire wear.
Any antifreeze leak could contribute to overheating and engine failure. It's always best to fix anything wrong with your automobile, but if money is tight, prioritize and fix those things that make the most sense in your particular situation. And if there is ever a question, make sure another mechanics checks out the car without prior knowledge and see if they find the same concerns.