The Difference Between Car Maintenance and Car Repair
Before you consider where to take your vehicle for maintenance or repairs, you need to understand the difference between the two. Routine maintenance measures are listed in your owner’s manual as part of your vehicle’s service schedule. These steps are intended to keep your vehicle in top operating condition. Repair includes services that must be performed to fix problems. Where you take your vehicle may depend on whether it is maintenance or repairs that need to be performed.
Scheduled maintenance can be provided at any dealership; you don’t have to go to the one where you purchased your vehicle. Likewise, you can take your vehicle to an independent auto-repair shop or franchise, which are typically less expensive than dealerships. Federal law gives you the right to service your vehicle wherever you like without affecting your warranty coverage. (Note that some lessees may be required to have all service performed at a dealership.) Mechanics are specifically trained and certified in all aspects of your model’s service needs and should be equipped with all of the necessary diagnostic equipment. Because maintenance work is fairly basic, however, any professional auto shop should be able to perform the necessary tasks.
Wherever you go for service, make sure the dealership or auto-repair shop has access to the manufacturer’s latest technical service bulletins (TSBs), which provide instructions on how to fix common problems with a particular model. Often, an automaker will do TSB repairs for free, but you’ll have to go to one of their dealerships to get the work done.
Repairs can range from basic tasks such as a brake job or auto-body repair to complicated services like overhauling a transmission or diagnosing an electronics-system malfunction. Go to a dealership if your car or truck is covered by the original warranty and you want the manufacturer to pay for the fix. You should also use a dealership if your car or truck is subject to a safety recall or “service campaign,” in which the automaker offers to correct a defect. If you have an extended warranty, check the terms to see who must perform covered repairs.
If the vehicle is out of warranty, the type of problem may determine where you take it for repairs. A reputable, independent shop should be able to handle most common repairs. Shops that specialize in your vehicle’s brand are more likely to have the proper training, equipment, and up-to-date information. A good technician will let you know when a problem warrants a trip to the dealership or a specialty shop; for example, if there is an issue with a system that’s exclusive to your vehicle model or automaker (especially electronics, like a navigation or multi-function control system), consider taking the vehicle to a dealership.