It’s time to talk about something we all dread: car repairs. There’s nothing fun about crawling under a car trying to find a problem as grease drips into your face. So let’s face the problem and answer the question once and for all. When should you go to a mechanic and when should you fix the car yourself?
The Problem with Mechanics
No hate against mechanics, but there are some problems associated with pulling into the shop. These are general grievances that will vary from shop to shop.
There’s no way around it, mechanics are more expensive than turning the wrench yourself. This is the main reason people (like us) avoid going to the mechanic.
A Shady Mechanic will Lie
If you pick the wrong shop, they’ll magically find a long list of “urgent repairs”. There’s no guaranteeing that they’re telling the truth, so it’s always a gamble.
Repairs Can Take a Long Time
Since their whole business is built around doing repairs for tons of clients, your repairs won’t take priority. Something that might take you a day or two can wind up taking weeks in the shop.
When to Go to a Mechanic
Even with all of these problems, there are very good reasons to go to a mechanic. Let’s review some of these reasons.
You Don’t Have the Time
Let’s face it, sometimes life just gets in the way. You might not have a few days to spend on your back under your car doing some repairs.
In this case, it’s a good idea to drop the car off at the shop and free up your schedule.
You Foresee a Lot of Problems with Your Car
When your car gets older, it feels like everything starts falling apart. A lot of issues you can overlook, like a broken knob on your dash. When things start going wrong, you might get frustrated.
If you want to keep the car and continue the repairs, it might be good to take it to a shop. Not only will they fix all the problems, but they can also do a thorough inspection to find even more problems. You just have to ask how many repairs you’re willing to do before you trade it in for another car.
You Have an Older Car
Older cars have a higher chance of winding up with some mechanical issues. If you don’t want to keep dealing with the monthly or quarterly hassle, maybe you can befriend the mechanic.
If you work with the same shop on a continued basis, they’ll be fairer with you. This kind of relationship helps keep costs lower, cuts the shady junk, and might even speed up repairs.
You Aren’t Confident to Fix a Big Issue
So what happens when you need a new transmission, clutch, or engine rebuild? A lot of people will happily change their oil or fix a blown gasket.
When the repair is bigger, the stakes are higher. In this case, it might make sense to take it to a mechanic.
When to Fix it Yourself
So when should you fix the problem yourself? When it doesn’t fall into the categories in the previous section. If you have time, you don’t think there will be a lot of problems, your car isn’t really old, and you have confidence turning a wrench.
Fixing your cars will save you a ton of time in the long run. Labor costs of a shop can go upwards of $100 an hour. Not to mention the markups they put on any part they need for your car.
Fixing your own cars also gives you the opportunity to pick and choose the parts you want to use. You can opt for OEM parts or go for cheaper alternatives.
What Else You Need to Do Your Own Repairs
Besides a fully-equip wrench set and flashlights, there are some must-have tools to keep in your garage.
OBDII Scan Tools
We can’t wrap up this piece without talking about a diagnostic tool that will save your neck. An OBDII scan tool is what your local mechanic will use to find out what’s going on under the hood.
It scans through your systems to see diagnostic errors. Some of the systems are your airbags, ABS, and ECU. You plug this into your car, and you get a full-body x-ray that points out any big-ticket issues your car may have.
Your local mechanic might also refer to a service manual. This book is a thick son-of-a-gun. It has different troubleshooting, problems, and tips for servicing your car.
They are sold specifically for different years, makes, and models. You can find one online pretty easily and it will save you a lot of headaches. If you’re going to do your own work, this manual is a must-have.
Optional: Car Lift
If you have the garage space and budget for it, a car lift will save your back – literally. For a couple of thousand bucks, you can get a pretty good hydraulic car lift. It will bring your car to a level that’s more comfortable to work on.
This is a saving grace for people who hate worming around on their backs under a car.
There’s nothing wrong with going to a mechanic. At this point, you know some occasions where it makes sense to use a mechanic’s services. We also reviewed times that it’s better to turn your own wrench and some must-have tools to keep you sane during the process. Hopefully, this guide helps you save money in the future.