Are you unintentionally becoming best friends with your mechanic because your vehicle is in the shop so much? You go in for an oil change 2-3 times a year and then in-between you end up going back for maintenance and repairs. It really adds up! While we’ve connected at a friend-level with several of our customers, we’d rather continue that relationship over dinner than under their car. The good news is that there are things you can do to regain control over the time and money you spend on your vehicle.

Get Your Vehicle Inspected Regularly

One of the ways we serve our customers well is changing the conversation from, “What can we do for your vehicle?,” to “How can we serve you so that you feel good about your vehicle?” In other words, how can we help you develop a long term plan to feel safe and confident in the vehicle you are driving? 

The first part of the answer is to get your vehicle inspected regularly. We offer two types of inspections at our shop – Comprehensive and Maintenance.

The Comprehensive Vehicle Inspection (CVI) is meant to give a detailed overall picture of your vehicle so that you can make long-term plans and budget for repairs and maintenance. We look over your vehicle top-to-bottom and front-to-back with a fine-toothed comb. You get a list with priority rankings addressing safety and mechanical needs, maintenance due, and items to recheck or revisit  later. The CVI is recommended about every 3 years. 

The Maintenance Vehicle Inspection (MVI) is a smaller inspection that can be targeted toward specific vehicle systems or concerns and adapted from visit to visit. For example, the brakes may be a focus for one MVI, but if we then find all we need to know about the brakes, why bill you to look at them again the next time?  Rather, the prior inspection results can lead us to focus elsewhere on the vehicle. Maybe that next check focuses on the suspension. Or if we’ve already been there before, maybe the next inspection addresses nothing more than a battery test and checking on bulbs and wipers. Andrew likens the first MVI to giving your car a good handshake. It typically occurs at the same time as an oil change or other maintenance items due based on the vehicle’s age, mileage, and the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. The MVI is recommended at least once a year, but ideally at every service visit (2-3 times a year).

Even if you already have a trusting relationship with a mechanic or do not live close enough to enjoy our services (although we do have people who drive an hour or more just to see us – all the more reason to make each visit count), you can still follow this general rule. Take your vehicle in for a thorough inspection every few years. For interim visits, ask your mechanic what is coming up on the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and to look over any areas of concern (for example – tires, brakes, suspension, fluid levels.) Now, when your oil changes come due, plan a “service visit” for your vehicle rather than an “oil change.” The oil can be changed in conjunction with whatever other services are due, and if the car gets all that it needs in 2-3 service visits a year, you spend less time going to and from the mechanic shop and you minimize    “surprise” visits.

Save and Budget for Vehicle Maintenance and Repairs

If you are like me, you are checking your bank account and thinking that anything beyond an oil change seems like an expensive service visit! True, it might seem easier to pay for just an oil change at one visit, however, by keeping an accurate list of your vehicle’s needs, and keeping it short, you are setting yourself up to save money in the long run. (The “accurate” part of this is important; you want to be working with a shop that’s knowledgeable, competent and, we hope, caring). 

A small radiator leak now could evolve into loss of cooling system pressure and an engine-damaging overheat. Oil leaks can have a few ramifications, including contamination and deterioration of rubber components in the engine compartment. An overdue timing belt could break and, in many engines, can cause internal engine damage….and the list goes on and costs can build up quickly if you and your mechanic don’t stay on top of it. 

So, on the outset it could seem like it’s easier on your pocketbook to stick with “just” an oil change but when it comes down to it, you are saving yourself from more costly repairs tomorrow by keeping your vehicle maintained today by shifting your mindset to scheduling service visits. The question isn’t, “Should I?” but rather, “How can I?”

Andrew and I love to avoid debt, so we have set up different sub-accounts through our savings account for separate types of expenses. For example, we have a medical savings account to pay any doctor’s bills that might come up. One idea then, is to set up a savings account specifically for vehicle costs and pay into it monthly. For now, you can use it for maintaining and repairing your current vehicle and then, when it’s time to move on to a newer vehicle, you should have a healthy budget for which to purchase a reliable car or truck.

You need to figure out what works best for you so that you can know how much you need to budget each month for regular maintenance, repairs, and vehicle replacement. The information you get from a CVI and/or an MVI will give you a good basis by which to develop a reasonable budget. If done right, hopefully you won’t be forced to become best friends with your auto repair shop (unless you just really like them and want to invite them over for dinner, of course). Does this mean you will never have a problem with your car between visits? No, even new cars have a warranty for a reason, and it’s not possible to completely eliminate the potential for surprises. But a high-functioning shop can help limit the possibility of surprises, and we encourage you to look for that.

If you want to get started in this process, we’d be happy to help! If you can’t make the trip to Winter Park, Florida, start looking for a mechanic you can trust and build that relationship. Consider that an excellent shop can be well worth an hour-long trip to get there; especially if that shop helps to minimize the chance of vehicle problems in between service visits.

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