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30 Things Your Car Mechanic Won’t Tell You

Real mechanics give you the inside scoop on the tricks of the trade.

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Watch out for scare tactics

Admonitions like "I wouldn't drive this another mile" should be viewed with suspicion. You should also watch out for these other common scams you encounter every day.

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Admirable abbreviations

Check for ASE, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or AAA (America Automobile Association) certification, as well as a state license. Reputable shops are proud to display them.

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Ask, ask, ask

Ask for recommendations, years in business, warranties offered, licenses, and the type of equipment used. Look for a clean garage. A floor cluttered with empty oil cans, worn tires, and dirty rags is a red flag. .

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Read before you sign

Never sign a blank authorization form. Always get a signed work order with a specific estimate for each job and warranties that apply.

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Tools of the trade

It's nuts to take a car with engine problems to a shop without a good engine analyzer and scan tool. Any car mechanic who says "I don't need fancy equipment" should be avoided.

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You get what you pay for

Synthetic motor oils may cost more, but you'll get a lot more miles between changes. Here are some smart ways to save money on gas.

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When you go for a second opinion...

...don't tell the mechanic what the first diagnosis and price were.

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Costly gimmicks

Coolant flushes and power steering flushes are very common gimmicks at quick lubes. Check your owner's manual; many cars have fluid that is designed to go 100,000 miles. And cleaning fuel injectors is a waste of time and money. There are additives on the market that do a great job. Watch out for these other ways you're wasting money on your car.

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Give me a brake

Always ask for OE (original equipment) brake pads or at least equivalent material. A $49.95 brake job will usually get you the worst friction material you can buy—it's the difference between stopping short and causing a pileup on the way to work. While you're on the road, you should keep these things traffic cops won't tell you in mind.

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Tire check

Ask about your new tire's "build date." If you're getting an unusually good deal, you might be receiving three-year-old treads, which is especially risky for snow tires. Learn the best time to switch over to snow tires (it's earlier than you think).

View Slides 11-20
Originally Published in Reader's Digest