Does Your Neighborhood Auto Repair Shop Do a Comprehensive Maintenance Inspection with Each Service?

By Stephen Daniels

Sixth Avenue Auto

Considering that auto maintenance is a routine part of car ownership, it's important to find a mechanic who is honest, reliable and thorough. Taking a car to the auto shop for regular services such as an oil change, tire rotation and even a tune-up is necessary, but how much more valuable would the service be if the mechanic performed a comprehensive inspection of the entire vehicle? High-performance vehicles, especially, often require more attention to detail, but all cars and trucks benefit from more in-depth maintenance. The life of an automobile usually relies on regular servicing and maintenance. A periodic comprehensive inspection is a great way to know that everything is working as it should be, or get a heads up on what needs some service.

A typical auto mechanic will perform the maintenance and/or make any repairs you ask him to do. Some shops, however, routinely offer full vehicle inspections designed to uncover any and all potential problems. In effect, it is a preventative checkup of the vehicle's many working parts. Catching small problems early could save the average auto owner substantial sums in major auto repairs. For example, a small overlooked oil leak can eventually lead to ruined valves.

While it varies from mechanic to mechanic, a comprehensive vehicle inspection typically includes a check of 100 or more points or areas of concern. Not only is a visual inspection done, but with almost all vehicles these days being computerized, a computerized check up should be included as well. A checkup is usually broken down into several primary categories:

* Performance

* Under hood

* Body

* Under body

The performance inspection covers the general functionality of the vehicle. Lights, wipers, instruments, turbo function, heating and air conditioning are all tested. How well the car stops, handles and changes gears is noted.

The under hood inspection focuses on the engine, electrical, fuel, cooling, intake and exhaust systems. All hoses should be examined for wear, leakage, and potential breakage. The battery and starting system should be tested as well. Especially during colder months, a weak battery should be replaced before the driver finds themselves stranded somewhere because the car won't start.

The levels of oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid and power steering fluid all need to be checked, as these are all vital to the health and optimal performance of the vehicle.

The body check includes mirrors, glass, seats and seatbelts, while the under body inspection focuses on the steering, suspension, brake system and tires. The axles, exterior exhaust components and transmission should be checked, too.

Such an in-depth inspection helps a mechanic advise you on the work that should be done to the car, what can be put off for a while, and which items might be causing less than top performance. Oftentimes, these inspections are performed on pre-owned vehicles so prospective buyers know what they're getting into.

It's always best to have an ASE-certified Master Technician perform any vehicle inspection. There are eight certification areas, and while an ASE-certified technician is qualified in one or more of the areas, only master technicians are certified in all of them, making them the top choice for whole-vehicle inspections.

Owners of high-performance import automobiles are well advised to find a specialty mechanic. Mercedes service, for example, will differ from Audi service, so it's important to find a skilled technician certified to work on your particular auto manufacturer.

While you're having an inspection, or anytime you have work done on your car, it's a good idea to ask whether the work is guaranteed and for how long, if OEM parts or generic aftermarket parts are being used, and whether this shop can handle big jobs like engine rebuilds or replacement. With good preventative maintenance and a little luck, your car may never need to have its engine switched out, but it's helps to have a mechanic you trust ready to take care of big jobs, should they be necessary.

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