Car Repairs - These Are The Cheapest Things That May Go Wrong on an Automobile

Having something break down or not working properly on a vehicle you drive can be upsetting, and it can even lead to a dangerous situation.
A classic car in a garage 6 photos
A used air filter - if yours looks like this, replace it.Green-colored antifreeze in a radiator. Don't forget to check the hosesUsed spark plugs. You have used them for too long if yours look like thisThe black belts in the photo are serpentine beltsChanging a few rubber bushings will transform your car
If you are the owner or the primary user of that vehicle, it is your job to be sure that it is in optimal running condition. Unfortunately, anyone of us has seen at least one car on the road that was evidently far from that point.

Usually, negligence is to blame, followed by lack of money or the belief that you will get ripped off if you take the vehicle in for regular maintenance at a dealership.

We can say that we live in the age where you can be an informed car owner even if you are not a mechanic or an expert in cars, so do not be that scared of regular maintenance or taking an automobile into the shop.

Getting ripped off is becoming rare these days, when everyone who’s angry will give negative feedback somewhere online about a workshop that he or she was not satisfied with them.

Evidently, it takes some time to find a mechanic you can trust, but it is your job as a consumer to know if the place where you want to spend money is worth that expense.

In other words, there is no justification for driving a car that barely runs, and you can be informed about how vehicles work, how much it costs to fix them, and things like that if you spend a few hours online.

We admit that some parts are more expensive to change than others, but we believe that it is best not to drive a vehicle that is not working right than to risk your life, and the safety of others until you get it fixed. It is a simple thing, if you ask us, but many people have died because of negligent cheapskates.

We made a brief list of the things that can ruin your car if they are not looked after, but are rather cheap to fix. Some of those elements can be replaced in a driveway with minimal tools on some cars, and we are not referring to light bulbs or windshield wipers here, even though they fit the bill to perfection.

These are the parts that you can replace on your car in almost any workshop at an affordable price. Failing to replace them in due time will lead to technical problems in the long run, all because you “saved” less than $300 for the priciest items.

Air filter, fuel filter, cabin filter

A used air filter \- if yours looks like this, replace it\.
Photo: Donar Reiskoffer on Wikipedia
These items are as cheap as $20, while more expensive ones come close to $100, if you need top-quality components made for extreme conditions. Since we are writing about affordable car repairs, you probably do not need a pricey part. Try not to skimp out on them, and be sure to get a fair brand.

You will find them in the middle of the price list, and those of you who are familiar with cars and the auto industry can name a few companies by heart.

If you are buying the parts yourself, feel free to Google each of them to see if you can find complaints about them online, and if you can get a better deal from another store.

If your mechanic is doing the purchasing for you, be sure to ask him or her if the part is the most cost-effective quality product that you can get. A cheap air filter can ruin your engine in time, and the same goes for knock-off parts.

Replacing Liquids: Antifreeze, Transmission Fluid, Brake Fluid

Green\-colored antifreeze in a radiator\. Don't forget to check the hoses
Photo: EvelynGiggles on Wikipedia
Cars with automatic transmissions need periodical changes of its particular type of fluid. Its brand and name depend on the vehicle you are using, but it is wise to stick to the schedule, and even do it a few couple of miles sooner if you feel that there’s something wrong with the way your automatic transmission is shifting. Coolant should also be changed every two years, and inspected regularly.

Manual gearboxes do not require frequent oil changes, but they should be checked for leaks every time the car is on a lift. The same goes for the fluid level, which should be monitored once a year to be sure there’s still oil in the transmission.

If your vehicle racks up many miles each week, you should do it sooner. It takes a few moments of your mechanic’s time, but it saves thousands in repair bills.

On the average vehicle, brake fluid should be changed every two years. It must be done sooner if you use it for racing or heavy-duty hauling, but you get the idea.

Just like the fluid changes we mentioned above, it can be done in the average workshop for less than $100-150, and you are risking your life on the road if you cannot remember how many years has it been since it was done the last time.

Spark Plugs or Glow Plugs

Used spark plugs\. You have used them for too long if yours look like this
Photo: Aidan Wojtas on Wikipedia
These components are essential to the proper operation of an engine, but are often neglected. In a spark-ignited motor, the plugs can make a significant difference in performance and fuel economy, and disregarding them will make you waste money.

If ignored for long enough, the motor will run “rough,” and it can break down if they do not get changed in several years and numerous miles.

Glow plugs help diesel engines start, as this kind of motor needs compression and heat to ignite its fuel. Without functional glow plugs, diesel-engined cars would not start at all, while having just a few in running order will lead to problems during the winter or colder periods.

A single defective spark plug or glow plug can lead to misfirings, piston seal damage, and oil contamination. Change them when the guidelines recommend it, or do the replacement after you buy a vehicle that has a dodgy service record.

Serpentine belts

The black belts in the photo are serpentine belts
One of the cheapest things that can go wrong on a vehicle is a serpentine belt. These cost about $20 for the average model, but they can go higher in price when particular specifications are required.

They are just rubber parts with grooves on them, but are vital to the proper operation of your water pump, alternator, and power steering, among others.

All of the above can fail if a belt like this breaks, and the same applies for its tensioners. Fortunately, these belts tend to make a squeaking noise when they are slipping, which suggests that you should replace them. They should be inspected once a year or so, but avoiding to replace a part like this can lead to a breakdown in the middle of nowhere.

The job can be a DIY thing, but we suggest a professional installation to avoid any issues that may arise from the potential improper tensioning of the belt. Other parts may get damaged if you do it wrong, and it is not the most enjoyable thing to do on a vehicle.

Suspension bushings and brake lines

Changing a few rubber bushings will transform your car
Photo: Flickr User Craig Howell - CC BY 2.0
As we explained above, it takes just one small part to fail, and your vehicle is toast. A worn-out suspension bushing, which costs about $20-50, can lead to inexact handling that will endanger yourself and others in a critical situation. No matter if you stick to the speed limit, those conditions can emerge and have you in the middle.

The same goes for brake hoses and brake lines. While the latter are made from metal and usually last more than five years without a hitch, we cannot say the same about rubber brake lines. Just a small leak in one of them will leave you with no brakes because all the fluid directed to that line will reach the pavement.

A rubber brake hose costs about $30 for almost any modern car, and that price will get you a set for some makes and models. A brake fluid flush is in order as well, but that is your mechanic’s job.

Be sure to ask if it was done, and always check your brakes at a low speed, in a secluded area, and before entering traffic after doing a “brake job.”

As always, be sure to keep your ears open for any unusual noises, squeaks, squeals, and strange smells in your car. An attentive driver will pay less for every workshop visit in his or her life, and be sure to write down the circumstances of the fault or irregularity in operation when taking a car in for a repair.

The events we are referring include the speed you were driving at the time, if the engine was warm or cold, and if you were doing something in particular when you heard your car make “a weird noise.”
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories