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The 9 Most Common Auto Repairs Car Owners Face

While most of us couldn't live without our cars, we could certainly live without the extensive maintenance and repairs that come with them. Unfortunately, the reality is that auto maintenance and repairs are inevitable. To help you mentally and financially prepare for the repair needs that may arise in your future, we’re breaking down the most common repair and maintenance issues reported to IMR Inc., an industry leader in automotive research, during a recent study, and filling you in on what kind of dent they could potentially put in your wallet.

Let’s dive in.

1. Oil/oil filter change

Changing the oil filter tops off the list of most common vehicle repairs of 2017. The reason is simple: you’re supposed to change your oil frequently! According to YourMechanic, an industry leader in automotive maintenance and repair estimates, you should be replacing your vehicle’s oil and oil filter about every 7,500 miles. Doing so ensures the mechanisms under the hood continue to function smoothly and properly. Moreover, changing your car’s oil and oil filter will help keep engine components cool, promote better fuel efficiency, and improve your car’s longevity.

Average repair cost: $27 to $63

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? Oil/oil filter changes are typically part of scheduled maintenance, and are most likely not covered by a warranty, insurance policy, or vehicle service contract.

2. Wiper blades replacement

Mechanics’ consensus around wiper blades is that they should be replaced every six months for safety reasons. What happens over the course of a year is that—due to snow, ice, rain, and even sun—the rubber compound that makes up the blade cracks and breaks, causing impaired visibility in the windshield with more and more wiper use. Replacing the blades allows for a cleaner and more comprehensive “wipe” of debris, rain, and snow when you drive, promoting enhanced windshield visibility and therefore safety.

Average repair cost: $20 to $53

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? New wiper blades may be covered under a standard warranty or vehicle service contract. Consult with your provider and/or read your contract carefully to see whether you’re covered or not.

3. Air filter replacement

Replacing your car’s air filter is another mandatory part of promoting vehicle health and longevity. The purpose of the air filter is to clean outside air before it enters the engine and ignites with the fuel to create combustion. Over time, dust, dirt, debris, and sometimes even bugs can seep into the air filter, clogging it up. When this happens, your engine is no longer able to suck up enough air to burn the air-fuel mixture and create the requisite combustion to make your vehicle run. Mechanics recommend changing the air filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles to avoid such a situation.

Average repair cost: $35 to $85

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? In most cases, air filters will not be covered under an auto protection policy. This is because air filters are classified as a “wear and maintenance” item. Consult with your provider and/or read your contract carefully to see if you’re covered.

4. Tire replacement

There are many factors to consider when determining how often you should replace your tires, including car type, car age, typical drive terrain, driving speed and style, car upkeep habits, and quality of tire installation. Note that your car tires’ tread (the grooves and ridges on the tires’ surface, responsible for creating grip and traction) inevitably wear down with time, making them less and less effective on the road. Getting new tires every 25,000 to 50,000 miles will prevent worn driving and keep you and your fellow drivers safe when on the road.

Average repair cost: $13 to $45 per tire, depending on the size and type of tire. 

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? Replacing tires for maintenance is most likely not covered under a standard auto protection plan. However, in the event that your tires suffer unexpected damage on the road (not related to wear and tear), your warranty or vehicle service contract may jump in to cover the replacement cost.

5. Battery replacement

Most modern cars operate with a single 12-volt acid battery. This battery is rechargeable, meaning that when the car is turned on, there’s an alternator working behind the scenes to generate electric power to recharge the battery. Nevertheless, over time the battery’s capacity to hold a full charge diminishes. Cold, wintry weather further accelerates this process, until finally, the battery stops working altogether. To avoid this, you should be replacing your battery every 5 to 7 years on average. You can get a more precise reading of your battery’s capacity with a cold cranking amps tool. Most repair shops will have these readily available to help you make a reading.

Average repair cost: $145 and $336

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? Battery replacements may be covered under a warranty or vehicle service contract. Consult with your provider and/or read your contract carefully to see whether you’re covered or not.

6. Brake replacement

Of all the thousands of components that make up your vehicle, the brakes are the absolute most important mechanism in ensuring safe driving. How often your brakes (pads and/or rotors) should be replaced depends on a number of things, including car model and year, driving speed and style, and typical drive terrain. Generally speaking, expect to change your brakes every 50,000 miles, though that’s a rough estimate—some brakes need to be replaced sooner, some later.

Average repair cost:

Brake rotor replacement - $406 to $559

Brake pad replacement - $190 to $249

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? Brake rotor and pad replacements may be covered under a warranty or vehicle service contract. Consult with your provider and/or read your contract carefully to see whether you’re covered or not.

8. Antifreeze/engine coolant flush (radiator flush)

Antifreeze, also known as engine coolant, is a liquid located in the coolant reservoir under your car’s hood. Its function is to prevent the engine’s cooling system from freezing or overheating, depending on the climate, making it a vital component in your car’s health. While there’s no universal mileage threshold for antifreeze replacement, you can expect to flush and replace your engine coolant every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. This is because engine coolant, as with all other liquids/fluids your car needs to run smoothly, deteriorates over time. In this case, coolant can gradually become more acidic and lose some of its rust-inhibiting properties, causing corrosion from within. Corrosion can be detrimental to your car’s radiator, water pump, thermostat, and other components of the cooling system. For that reason, don’t overlook the coolant/antifreeze and have your mechanic check its health when you go in for scheduled maintenance.

Average repair cost: $44 to $145

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? Engine coolant flushes are typically not covered by a warranty, insurance policy, or vehicle service contract.

9. Wheel alignment/balancing

Wheel alignment refers to adjusting your car’s suspension, which is the system responsible for maximizing friction between tires and the road to provide excellent balance and stability while you drive. So how often should you be balancing/aligning your tires? It's recommended to get your wheels balanced every 3,000 to 6,000 miles to prevent drifting and causing unsafe driving conditions. Taking care of wheel alignment will ensure smoother driving, while reducing tire wear and enhancing drive-train components.

Average repair cost: $115 to $302

*Repair/replacement cost may vary based on numerous factors, including make/model/year, location, repair shop, etc.

Covered by warranty, insurance, or vehicle service contract? Wheel alignments/balancing may be covered under a warranty, typically for the first 12 months/12,000 miles. Additionally, it may be covered under an independent vehicle service contract. Consult with your provider and/or read your contract carefully to see whether you’re covered or not.

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