Expensive Car Problems You Never Want to Have

Expensive Car Problems


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Expensive Car Problems

Put the Brakes on Car Repairs

There's nothing like a "check engine" light to induce stress even on the best day. Since it can be far more annoying and much pricier to ignore the light and suffer major car repairs later, read on to see the most expensive car repairs and hear from pros how to avoid them. The costs listed here are averages reported by AAA in most cases for a Honda Accord — the most commonly driven sedan in America — from 2018, including parts and labor. Averages vary based on vehicle make and model.

Related: These Are the Least Expensive Cars to Own

Know Your Vehicle’s Maintenance Schedule

Know Your Vehicle's Maintenance Schedule

Most of the major, expensive car problems can be avoided by simply attending to a vehicle's maintenance schedule, which should be found in your owner's manual, said Sally Dawson, owner of Foxy Auto & Truck Repair 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 said.

Related: How to Cut the Cost of Car Maintenance and Repairs

Fuel Pump Replacement: $250-$1,000

Fuel Pump Replacement: $456 to $717

While a fuel pump replacement can be expensive, preventive care doesn't cost much beyond what you're already paying to use and maintain your vehicle. "Keep your fuel levels up," said Lauretta Wagner, service writer at Woosters Garage in Weston, Wisconsin. "Don't let your vehicle completely run out of fuel."


Suspension System Replacement: $1,000 to $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 said. 

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

Clutch Assembly Replacement: $977 to $1,502

Demeny Pollitt, owner of Girlington Garage in Burlington, Vermont, said when it comes to auto maintenance, the best answer is often the "easiest and cheapest thing": An easy way to keep the clutch from wearing out prematurely is driving more gently.

Brake Fluid
Ratanapon Sangounsiritham/istockphoto

Complete Brake Repair: $278 to $425

One of the ways to avoid having to entirely replace brakes is simply changing the brake fluid. "Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs water," Pollitt said. "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." 

Brake Fluid Change: $74 to $94

Throttle Body Replacement: $700-$1,000
Vitalij Sova/istockphoto

Throttle Body Replacement: $753 to $1,274

Throttle body problems may not be entirely avoidable, but as with most car repairs, the more you take care of your system, the easier and less expensive repairs can be. The throttle body 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," Wagner said. "Do repairs as needed to avoid major problems later on."

Throttle Body Cleaning: $226 to $290 ($5 to $7 to DIY)

A Visit Would Include An Oil Check

Engine Replacement Cost: $1,000 to $7,500

"Many cars on the road today allow more oil consumption between oil changes than is in the engine," said 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 said, to "check your oil level on a regular basis and add oil if it is low."

Oil Change: $25 to $50

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

Tire Rotation

Tire Replacement: $525 to $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," Dawson said. The front wheels do all the steering, carry the weight of the engine and transmission, and have a broader range of motion. Tire rotation evenly distributes the wear and tear among all four tires. 

Cost of Tire Rotation: $40 to $80

Related: Tire Installation Cost Comparison: What's the Best Place to Get New Tires?

Car Wash

Fuel Tank Replacement: $1,300 to $1,520

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

Underbody Wash: No more than $25 as part of a complete car wash

Brake Line Replacement: $200-$350

Brake Line Replacement: $200 to $350

This is another easy-to-prevent rust damage issue when you're getting an underbody car wash every week or so (again, at a cost of no more than $25, which includes washing the rest of the car).

Manual Transmissions

Transmission Replacement: $1,800 to $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 said.

Transmission Fluid Change: $90 to $250

Find a Mechanic You Trust

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," Dawson said. "The best thing you can do is find a trustworthy independent mechanic and develop a good relationship with them. 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."

Working On Car With Children
Hailey Seelig/istockphoto

Don't Be Afraid to DIY

"Give it a try! There are plenty of easy-to-tackle repairs that you can do in the driveway," Dawson said, 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. Taking on a small repair can result in big savings when you don't have to pay a shop to do it."

Related: Lies Your Mechanic Has Told You