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Getting the Right Service for Your Vehicle

Mechanic checking tires
Photo: iStockphoto

We were headed out to the movies the other day when we noticed our vehicle, Chloe, was making some unusual "vroom vroom" noises. Since she was due for scheduled maintenance anyhow, we took her in for a check up.

It turns out Chloe had blown a gasket - a term which I had only ever heard before in cartoons. A blown gasket is no joke - left untreated, it can seriously damage the engine and lead to expensive repairs. It's a good thing we took her in; because they caught it early, the cost of repair was very reasonable and she's back to purring like the kitten she is.

Naturally, Chloe's blown gasket got me thinking about the importance of regular vehicle maintenance. As we've written before, taking your car in for regular tune-ups is important. Staying on top of regular maintenance helps keep your car running smoothly, is better for the environment and helps you maintain the value of your vehicle. But a lot of people don't take their cars in for regular maintenance. Why? Because they're not car experts, they feel intimidated at the garage and they don't want to pay for services they don't need.

How can you be confident that you're getting the right service for your vehicle? Here are a few tips:

Read your Owner's Manual. Your owner's manual contains a maintenance schedule that should apply to the average driver. Unless you're off-roading in the Sahara six months out of the year, your owner's manual maintenance schedule should cover you. Obviously, issues specific to your vehicle may come up (like a blown gasket) but if you're familiar with the owner's manual, you'll be able to ask the right questions, like "Do I really need nitrogen added to my tires?" or "Do my fuel injectors really need cleaning after just 20,000 km?" Bring the manual with you when you take your car in for a tune-up. Wave it around.

Narrow it down. Saying "It's making a weird noise" doesn't give the technician much to go on. If you're taking your car in for a specific issue, try and be specific about what the symptoms are. Is there a knocking noise? When? When you accelerate? When you brake? When you're going up a hill? Is there a burning smell? Describing the problem as completely and accurately as possible should help your mechanic make a speedier diagnosis, saving their time and your money.

Do some research. Be Car Care Aware is a great site about vehicle repair and maintenance that features plenty of user-friendly articles, diagrams and videos about keeping your vehicle in good condition. You don't need to become a car guru, but knowing some of the basics and how to communicate with your technician can go a long way. Knowledge is power!

Take your car to someone you trust. We've been taking our vehicle to the same dealership for years now, even though it's not the closest option. Why? Because they always call to check before doing any work that might be outside the scope of regular maintenance and they're happy to answer any questions that we have. If you feel unsure about whether you need to be paying for extra services, it's always okay to hold off and get a second opinion. Find another dealer or garage to take your vehicle to until you find the one that you're comfortable with.

When was the last time you took your car in for maintenance? Have you ever put it off because you felt intimidated or overwhelmed? Share it in the comments!

- Rose R.



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