Expensive Car Problems
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10 Most Expensive Car Problems and How to Avoid Them

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Expensive Car Problems
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Put the Brakes on Car Repairs

Even if you’re in the middle of the best day ever, there’s nothing like a “check engine” light to bring on the stress. But, as annoying as it is, it’s far more annoying and much pricier to ignore the light and suffer the consequences of major car repairs later. Read on for the most expensive car repairs and advice from the pros on how to avoid them. While costs can vary, based on the make and your model of your vehicle, each cost is the average reported by AAA, including parts and labor.

Related: These Are the Least Expensive Cars to Own

Know Your Vehicle’s Maintenance Schedule
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Know Your Vehicle’s Maintenance Schedule

Most of the major, expensive car problems can be avoided by simply attending to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, which should be found in your owner’s manual says Sally Dawson, owner of Foxy Garage in North Reading, Massachusetts. Not only will you avoid missing important services, which can lead to costly repairs, but you’ll save money by protecting yourself from being upsold unnecessary repairs. “You will know whether or not your vehicle actually requires specialty fluids such as synthetic oil, which makes it easier to decline a more expensive synthetic oil change if it is offered to you,” Dawson says.

Cost: Negligible

Related: 12 Ways to Cut the Cost of Car Maintenance and Repairs

Fuel Pump Replacement: $250-$1,000
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Fuel Pump Replacement: $250-$1,000

While a fuel pump replacement can be expensive, preventive care won’t cost much beyond what you’re paying to use and maintain your vehicle. Lauretta Wagner, service writer at Woosters Garage in Weston, Wisconsin, recommends that motorists “keep your fuel levels up, don't let your vehicle completely run out of fuel.”

Cost: Negligible

Pothole
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Suspension System Replacement: $1,000-$5,000

There are many potential problems that can arise with suspension systems, but an easy way to be kind to your suspension system is driving carefully. “Try to avoid driving over potholes and objects in the roadway,” Wagner says.

Cost: Negligible

Clutch Assembly Replacement: $1,030-$1,384
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Clutch Assembly Replacement: $1,030-$1,384

As Demeny Pollitt, owner of Girlington Garage in Burlington, Vermont reminds us, the best answer is often the “easiest and cheapest thing.” Clutches can wear out on their own, but an easy way to keep it from wearing out prematurely is driving more gently.

Cost: Negligible

Brake Fluid
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Complete Brake Repair: $300-$1,000

One of the ways to avoid having to entirely replace your brakes is simply changing your brake fluid. “Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs water,” says Pollitt. “The longer it goes without being changed, the more water it will have absorbed, and that water can rot your brake lines from the inside out.”

Cost of Brake Fluid Change: $73-104

Throttle Body Replacement: $700-$1,000
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Throttle Body Replacement: $700-$1,000

Throttle body problems may not be entirely avoidable, but as with most car repairs, the more proactive you are in taking care of it, the easier and less expensive that it is. The throttle body is part of a car's system that controls the amount of air coming into the engine. A simple throttle body cleaning can be done at home for less than $10, or you can have it cleaned at a shop. Your car will let you know if issues come up with the throttle body by turning the check-engine light on. “Have check engine lights inspected to avoid further problems,” summarizes Wagner. “Do repairs as needed to avoid major problems later on.”

Cost of a Throttle Body Cleaning: $200-$300

Cost of a Throttle Body Cleaner to Do it at Home: $4-$6

A Visit Would Include An Oil Check
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Engine Replacement Cost: $1,000-$7,500

"Many cars on the road today allow more oil consumption between oil changes than is in the engine," says Pollitt, which means that "your car may be designed to burn more oil between oil changes than is actually in the car." If your car runs out of oil or you’re continually running with low oil, “your engine will be destroyed.” That’s why it’s important, she says, to “check your oil level on a regular basis and add oil if it is low.”

Cost of an Oil Change: $25-$50

Related: Cheapest Oil Change: Jiffy Lube vs. Valvoline vs. Walmart and More

Tire Rotation
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Tire Replacement: $525-$725

“It is important to rotate your tires at least a few times a year, because your front tires actually wear out faster than your rear tires,” says Dawson. She explains that since the front wheels do all the steering, carry the weight of the engine and transmission, and have a broader range of motion, rotating the tires “evenly distributes the wear and tear between all four tires.”

Cost of Tire Rotation: $35-$45

Car Wash
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Fuel Tank Replacement: $1,300-$1,520

Rust can ruin just about anything in your car, says Pollitt. “In Vermont, rust is a huge issue because of the brine that we use on our roads.” She continues, “Everything under the car rusts out, including the frame of the car, brake lines, gas tanks, etc.” An easy way to prevent rust, she says, is “to get an under-body car wash once/week or so. It's important to go to a place that has the under-body spray.”

Cost of Under-Body Wash: No more than $20, including the washing of the rest of the car

Brake Line Replacement: $200-$350
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Brake Line Replacement: $200-$350

This is another easy-to-prevent rust damage issue when you’re getting an under-body car wash every week or so.

Cost of Under-Body Wash: No more than $20, including the washing of the rest of the car

Manual Transmissions
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Transmission Replacement: $1,800-$4,000

Without a working transmission, driving your car is literally a no-go. One of the very easy things you can do to prevent a full replacement is simply changing your transmission fluid. “If you don't change your transmission fluid when it gets dirty, you can destroy your transmission,” Pollitt explains.

Cost of a Transmission Fluid Change: $80-$280

Find a Mechanic You Trust
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Find a Mechanic You Trust

Feeling overwhelmed? It’s a lot to take in, and “it is not easy to find a balance between properly maintaining your vehicle and avoiding being upsold unnecessary services,” says Dawson. Her advice? “I think the best thing you can do is find a trustworthy independent mechanic and develop a good relationship with them.” She concludes, “I tell my customers all the time that we are in business to stay in business, not sell you an air filter that you don't need just to make a quick buck.”

Related: 32 Lies Your Mechanic Has Told You

Working On Car With Children
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Don’t Be Afraid to DIY

“Give it a try!” urges Dawson. “There are plenty of easy to tackle repairs that you can do in the driveway,” she says, including bulb replacement, air filters, wiper blades, and fluid top offs. “Most of these items will have step-by-step directions in your owner’s manual,” she advises. “Taking on a small repair can result in big savings when you don’t have to pay a shop to do it.”