Car Care 101: The Ultimate Auto Repair Guide About Caring for Your Car

auto repair being performed on car

You count on your vehicle daily to reliably get where you need to go. However, most drivers don't think too hard about how it happens or what this process entails. Inside your vehicle are various interdependent systems that all work together to transport you to your intended destination.

Unfortunately, most of the components within these systems don't last forever, making occasional auto repair an inevitable part of owning a vehicle. Acknowledging the intricate nature of these vehicle systems can help you better understand the significance of addressing your car repair needs as soon as possible.

Being attentive to the warning signs of issues, familiarizing yourself with the basics of auto repair services (and what to expect), and embracing preventative maintenance can empower you to care for your vehicle confidently. In exchange for your attentiveness, it could ultimately extend the lifespan of your vehicle and prevent you from having to visit the auto repair shop more than necessary.

In this guide, we've covered everything you need to know about caring for your vehicle, including how to know when auto repair service is needed, the most common services, how to find a reliable auto repair shop, and more.

Warning Signs That Auto Repair Service Is Probably Needed

Being aware of the early warning signs of vehicle problems is extremely helpful in treating your vehicle as best as possible. By knowing what to look out for, you can help stop minor issues from becoming much bigger, more serious, and more expensive problems.

The possible indicators that your vehicle may need auto repair service include:

  • Your “check engine” light is on: If this light is illuminated, it is a clear indication that something is wrong. This check engine light can be triggered by a variety of things, so it's important to have it inspected and diagnostics done ASAP at a professional auto repair shop.
  • The engine won’t start: If you can’t get the engine to start, it could be due to a problem with the starter, ignition system, or battery.
  • There is a noticeable power reduction: there could be an engine or transmission issue if the vehicle is not accelerating as fast as normal or if it's struggling to climb up hills.
  • The vehicle is making strange noises: If your vehicle is making any unusual noises, like knocking, squealing, rattling, or grinding, it needs to be checked out as soon as possible. This could be a sign of a serious problem.
  • Fluid is leaking underneath the vehicle: If you see any oil, brake fluid, coolant, or anything besides water leaking from the vehicle, it's important to have it inspected as soon as possible. Extremely low fluid levels can cause serious damage to your engine and other system components.
  • The vehicle feels strange when driving: If it is vibrating, hesitating, pulling, or bouncing when you drive, there could be a problem with the transmission, fuel system, suspension, alignment, or brakes.
  • You’ve noticed a significant reduction in fuel efficiency: If you notice that your vehicle is burning through gas much faster than normal, it could be an indication of an issue within the fuel system or the engine itself.

If any of the above is happening with your vehicle, you need to have it inspected at a professional auto repair shop in the Dallas-Fort Worth area ASAP. Ignoring any of these signs can quickly lead to much more in-depth and expensive auto repair needs.

The Most Common Auto Repair Services Mechanics See

Your vehicle’s main systems endure normal wear and tear over time from everyday driving. These systems include the engine itself as well as the starting, charging, electrical, fuel, transmission, brake, suspension, and A/C systems. So, the auto repair tasks that mechanics handle daily usually involve parts within these systems. These services include:

When you have a reputable auto repair shop in Dallas-Fort Worth that you can count on for complete auto repair and maintenance services, the experienced auto mechanics are able to properly address any service needs that your vehicle may have.

How to Find a Reliable Auto Repair Shop in Dallas-Forth Worth You Can Trust

When you need auto repair (and routine maintenance service), you need to find a professional shop that you can count on for high-quality auto service. There are a couple of things you should do to decide on one confidently:

  • Ask local friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. Getting referrals from people you trust is one of the best ways to find a good car repair shop.
  • Read the online Google and Yelp reviews (both good and bad) for the shop you’re considering. 
  • Look for a shop that has ASE-certified mechanics and holds other certifications from reputable organizations.
  • Get several different estimates before deciding on a shop.
  • Ask about any warranty coverage or payment options that the shop offers.

What You Can Expect at Your Auto Repair Appointment

Once you've confidently decided on an auto shop, schedule an appointment to ensure the most efficient service. Either when you schedule the appointment or after you get to the shop, the mechanic will ask you to describe the vehicle's symptoms, as well as probably ask about the vehicle’s maintenance history and driving habits.

This information will start to give them a pretty good idea of what the problem is. The mechanic will then confirm their suspicion with a diagnostic test. This usually means scanning the vehicle's onboard computer for error codes, visually inspecting the appropriate system, or taking the vehicle for a test drive.

After the mechanic has confirmed the auto repair work that is needed, you’ll receive a repair quote as well as the estimated timeframe to complete the work.

Pro Tips to Help You Get the Best Possible Auto Repair Service

Of course, you want to get the best possible service and to have your vehicle back on the road as quickly as possible. Here are a few pro tips to help ensure that that is exactly what happens:

  • Have as much information ready as possible: Before heading to the auto repair shop, write down, in detail, exactly what your vehicle is doing. This includes any dashboard lights that are on, strange sounds or smells (and exactly where they’re coming from), if the vehicle is operating differently, etc. Be sure to also have the previous service records on hand. All of this information will help your mechanic properly assess the situation and more accurately and quickly diagnose the issue.
  • Ask any questions that you may have: The service team at a car repair shop doesn’t know how much or how little you know about auto service and the related terms. They would rather you ask a ton of questions than encounter a misunderstanding after your service.
  • Get the estimate in writing: Make sure to get a repair estimate in writing before the mechanic starts any work. This keeps you protected in case there are any problems after the fact.

In doing these things, you’ll help ensure that you get high-quality service that will keep your vehicle running optimally.

The Different Types of Auto Parts: New, Rebuilt, and Salvaged

On your estimate for auto repair work, you may notice different classifications of auto parts: new, remanufactured, or salvaged. It is helpful to understand the differences between these and why, in some cases, one type may be better than the others. Here is an overview of each type:

New Parts (OEM or Aftermarket) 

These are new parts that are either made by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or an independent company that meets the original manufacturer's specifications. They usually have the highest price tag but are often covered under the vehicle’s warranty. (Make sure to double-check your warranty information.)

If the vehicle is new or it is a critical part that needs to be replaced, most mechanics will recommend the use of new parts. But, no matter what the age of the vehicle is, aftermarket parts can be a good option if the part that needs to be replaced normally has a short lifespan anyways. As long as aftermarket parts are purchased from a reputable vendor, they can be a reliable and more affordable alternative to OEM parts.

Rebuilt/Remanufactured Parts 

These are used parts that have been rebuilt/restored to bring them back to good working condition. They’re usually covered by a warranty from the manufacturer, but the labor to put them in will not be covered.

Salvaged Parts 

These are used parts that have been removed from another vehicle. They have not been modified and do not come with a guarantee. If the part that needs to be replaced in your vehicle is very expensive when purchased new, going with a used part like this can be a smart choice. For example, when the catalytic converter needs to be replaced.

The first place you should go for a reliable source of salvaged parts is a local, established auto parts shop. They’ll usually have reasonable prices for their used parts and may even provide warranty coverage. Plus, if you’re dealing with a reputable vendor, their service reps can usually provide helpful guidance on purchasing the replacement parts that your vehicle needs.

Bonus Auto Repair and Maintenance Tips for You & Your Vehicle

Even though it is an unavoidable aspect of vehicle ownership, a need for auto repair can still be a stressful situation that disrupts your daily routine. But, these tips can help make things go as smoothly as possible and even help prevent the need for some repairs in the first place:

  1. Do not rely just on self-serve kiosks that can scan the onboard computer in your vehicle for error codes. These can’t pinpoint exactly what service a vehicle needs like a professional mechanic can. The last thing you want is to find out that the parts you bought aren’t what is actually needed.
  2. In most cases, the list of recommended services/repairs that you receive from the auto repair shop will be in order of priority. So, start at the top and work your way down if you can’t afford to do everything at once.
  3. Make sure to keep all your service paperwork together in one, easy-to-find spot so that you can quickly grab it later in the event of an issue. 
  4. Before you put a new car battery in your vehicle, get professional advice from your mechanic to ensure you get the right kind for your vehicle, driving needs, and climate. Expensive electrical damage can occur if the wrong type is put in.
  5. Your vehicle endures added stress if you frequently tow heavy loads. So, make sure to ask your mechanic what type of oil will sufficiently keep your engine protected.
  6. You may be surprised to learn a vehicle that is clean and tidy inside is easier to work on. Some parts of a vehicle can be more easily accessed from the inside of the cabin. So, make sure to remove any clutter from the seats and floorboards before leaving your vehicle at the shop.
  7. Keeping your vehicle’s exterior clean is also important. Significant damage can occur from tree sap, hard water deposits, bird droppings, mud, salt air deposits, etc, being left for too long. Regularly washing your vehicle (both the visible exterior and the undercarriage) will help prevent long-term, damaging effects.

Why Keeping Up With Preventative Maintenance is So Important

Proper preventative maintenance is critical to ensuring that you always have a well-running and safe vehicle. The manufacturer’s recommended maintenance routine usually includes oil/filter changes, periodic tire rotation, brake inspections and service, fluid checks, alignment service (when needed), air and fuel filter replacement (when needed), etc.

It may seem like a significant up-front investment in time and money, but staying on top of the recommended maintenance will save more over time by preventing bigger and much more expensive problems. Things that will keep your vehicle in the auto repair shop for significantly longer. Plus, not following the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines can void your vehicle’s warranty.

Your vehicle’s resale or trade-in value can also be boosted by following the proper maintenance routine and maintaining detailed service records.

How Often Should You Take Your Vehicle in for Maintenance

Your owner's manual is where you’ll find the exact breakdown from the manufacturer of when inspections and maintenance service should be done on your vehicle. Here you’ll find the specific recommended service schedule for everything needed to keep all of the vehicle’s systems running optimally.

As automotive technology has advanced over the last several decades, the general recommendation for oil change frequency has changed. Previously it was suggested every 3,000 miles, and is now between 5,000 or even 7,000 miles, depending on the type of oil being used and your driving habits.

Along with regular oil changes and routine tire rotation service, vehicle manufacturers also recommend inspection and replacement of certain components and fluids at the 30,000-mile, 60,000-mile, and 90,000-mile marks. Again, make sure to look in your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the exact breakdown of the manufacturer’s recommended preventative maintenance.

When you bring your vehicle into a professional auto repair shop for maintenance work, like Driver’s Edge, the mechanic will also perform a multi-point vehicle inspection. This inspection will include checking fluid levels, filters, and other components, as well as rotating the tires (if requested). You can usually count on the mechanic to check the following:

  • Tire tread, sidewall, and air pressure
  • Car battery
  • Level of the windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, etc.
  • Cabin air filters
  • Brake system
  • Suspension
  • Belts and hoses
  • Windshield wiper blades
  • Horn and lights
  • Undercarriage

If the mechanic sees any problems during the inspection, you’ll get an estimate for the work that is needed. Remember, this is when you should ask any questions that you may have before any auto repair work is started.

Trust the Local Dallas-Fort Worth Experts for High-Quality Auto Repair & Maintenance

Remember, it is very important not to ignore it if your vehicle is operating unusually. To prevent a potentially minor issue from quickly turning into a much bigger and more costly problem, bring your vehicle to your closest auto repair shop in the Dallas-Fort Worth area ASAP. But, staying on top of the suggested preventative maintenance routine will help keep your vehicle running optimally for longer and reduce the need for auto repair in the first place. 

Coming in for maintenance service will also enable you to build a working relationship with your auto shop. They’ll get to know your vehicle and will have a record of all of the work that has been done. This is very helpful to have on hand for any future repairs that your vehicle may need.

When you need a shop that you trust for complete auto repair and maintenance service, you can count on the ASE-certified technicians here at Driver’s Edge Complete Tire & Auto Service. We proudly meet the auto service needs of local drivers by providing top-quality repair and maintenance at reasonable prices, backed by unbeatable customer service.