How Grease Monkeys Talk You into Car Maintenance You Don’t Need
Have you ever left home, telling yourself you’re only going to buy one item, but returned with three or four? It’s not weakness; persuasion is a weapon. It often happens at a fashion retailer or an electronics store, but that frustrating experience is common at auto service centres. It may have happened to you already. You planned to have a mechanic complete just one service for your car, but you drove out scratching your head as to how you gave in to a year’s worth of car maintenance in just 30 minutes. If you want to prevent it from happening again, you need to arm yourself with some ammunition – in the form of car knowledge, of course.
All I Wanted Was an Oil Change!
When you drive into a service centre, prepare yourself to receive more than you ask for. Don’t get the wrong impression of auto repair people and mechanics – their goal isn’t to take all your money. There are many reasons they may try to upsell you on things. Sometimes it’s a requirement – like any sales job, you make commission on extras that you sell. At other times, they may have noticed a problem and genuinely want to prevent you from dealing with the consequences. Regardless of the cause, you have to use your discretion when deciding to buy the additional service or not. It is your own car that you’re spending on after all.
How They Convince
First of all, you need to recognize the tactics used to get you buying what you didn’t ask for. They’re powerful. They are not evil in any sense, but they do play on your emotions. The faster you recognize them when they’re in use, you will give yourself more time to decide whether you should buy an “add-on” service or not.
If you really want to get someone to do something, create a sense of urgency within them. It’s an approach that works whether there’s an emergency or not. A mechanic or auto repair person may tell you to fix an issue quickly, perhaps, giving you a time frame to do so. A driver will most likely see this as a ticking time bomb, especially if they don’t have a ton of automotive knowledge. The combination of hearing an expert telling you that your car needs an immediate fix, along with a lack of car insight can intimidate you, so that you feel you have no choice but to accept.
The guilt trip
A more personal and somewhat inappropriate tactic, is the “guilt trip”. You’re probably never going to hear a mechanic blame you for your issues (unless they deliberately wanted to lose their job), but some may use a particular tone that implies you are responsible if you don’t buy a recommended service. It’s similar to what some friends do if you don’t go somewhere with them. They might not berate you, but respond in a tone of voice or using a gesture that makes you feel like you owe them your time. An auto service technician may do the same, but get you to feel like you owe your car the extended care (which means money in their pocket).
Logic is hard to resist. Sometimes, an auto service person will recommend something like waxing or engine flushing to protect your vehicle from damage. And they are right – the only thing is that they may encourage you to do so at a time that’s not 100% necessary. They might suggest the “sooner the better” approach, where you spend money for a fix at a more opportune time. The real catch, however, is making the right choice based on your budget. The smarts of a repair technician can make you forget about your budget constraints, leading to an overspend on car maintenance.
Most Upsold Services
Although a technician may upsell you on just about anything, there are a few services or procedures that routinely get promoted to drivers. In fact, try this experiment: the next time you go for an oil change, pay attention to any recommendations they make. There’s a good chance that one of the services we mention below will come up during your appointment.
1. Engine flushes & fluid treatments
The procedure a service technician will most likely recommend to you is an engine flush, or some kind of fluid treatment. The rationale behind these procedures is for the cleansing of engine sludge and other impurities. There is some truth to this. However, that’s only the case if you’re completely neglecting your car’s maintenance. Today’s fuel and liquids are formulated to withstand those dirty elements, and they won’t be a case for concern if you’re taking your car in for its necessary maintenance.
2. On-car injector cleaning
Closely related to engine flush treatments, are on-car fuel injection cleaners. Essentially, these are machines that clean your vehicle’s injectors and values by clearing wax and carbon. An abundance of these particles reduce your car’s performance. Again, these auto pros often ignore the fact that fuel made today acts as its own cleaning agent, washing out your car’s injectors and valves to prevent a buildup of unwanted compounds. It’s a service that can really ramp up your servicing costs, so it’s wise to stay away from it.
3. Regular alignment servicing
Poor alignment in your car isn’t something to miss; neither is good alignment. Although you should have your wheels re-aligned every two years, there are some auto repair shops that may recommend it more frequently. But that’s unnecessary. In many instances, tire rotation is what will solve the issue of your front tires wearing out too fast, a sign that often prompts technicians to recommend this service in the first place.
4. De-sanitizing of AC units
You may not have encountered it yet, but there are mechanics who recommend drivers to have their AC units “de-sanitized”, to kill car germs and keep it free from pollutants. The reason for doing it makes sense, but it’s usually not needed. Unless your car is very old or the AC doesn’t work (which would lead to a buildup of gunk), it’s unlikely that your car air conditioner needs any serious treatment. With that said, it doesn’t hurt to have it checked out (and cleaned) if you have a respiratory condition that could make you hypersensitive to any sort of AC unit (such as those with allergies or asthma).
5. Early replacement of car parts
The most unfortunate instance of unnecessary service is when a mechanic tells you to replace a car part prematurely. Sometimes, the mechanics may lack insight while at other times, they may have ulterior motives (namely, wasting your money). It can be tricky trying to figure out who’s genuinely looking out for your best interests, so you have to do some of your own background work. One of the quickest and easiest things you can do, is to consult your vehicle manual or dedicated website that offers advice on your specific car. These resources are free, offering you the best advice when it comes to the replacement of car parts.
Upselling Isn’t Always Bad
Keep in mind, that upselling isn’t bad in itself. It is okay to pay for an additional service if the cost doesn’t eat into your budget. And you might find it convenient to accept a replacement or cleaning earlier than usual for good reasons. For example, doing so is a smart idea if you plan on selling your vehicle or trading it in, as this can counter the effects of car depreciation. The key point here, is to willingly decide based on an understanding of your car and budget, not just the words of a technician.
Downgrade Your Expense
The point of this post is not to villainize auto repair technicians. However, it is important for you to recognize when your car needs a particular kind of service or not. If you don’t make the effort, you will spend a lot more money than you have to when it comes to the maintenance of your car. Why dish out more cash for a possession that’s already so costly? Save yourself from the stress and expense of buying car services or parts you don’t need. Your wallet will feel a bit bulkier for doing so.