Read these tips before exhausting your bank account to pay for auto repairs.

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When the mechanic tasked with diagnosing your car’s latest issue tells you that he can fix the problem for $1,000 – or thousands of dollars – you may simply pay with a credit card and resign yourself to one more debt. But what if you could spend less for auto repairs?

By devoting time to research and preventive maintenance – along with treating your car, truck or SUV like a friend rather than a metallic beast of burden – you may be able to save money that you’d otherwise spend on expensive auto repairs.

1. Ask around for mechanic recommendations

Unless you’re stranded on the side of the road in an unfamiliar town, you likely have many mechanics from which to choose.

Rather than just picking the auto repair shop or dealership closest to home, ask friends, family, and coworkers to point you towards honest, knowledgeable and skilled mechanics. If you’re on a neighborhood Facebook group or online forum, ask there, too.

Find out: 10 Easy Ways to Save Money on Cars

2. Stick with a good mechanic

When you find a good mechanic that you trust is honest, stick with him. Not only will he know more about your car and its history than a mechanic who’s looking at the vehicle for the first time, but he’ll also appreciate the recurring business and opportunity to develop a business relationship based on trust.

Unlike some disreputable mechanics, someone you have an established relationship with isn’t as likely to rattle off a long list of unnecessary repairs needed. And if he does, an honest mechanic will give you a realistic timeline for which repairs you should take care of immediately and those you can put off longer.

3. Perform troubleshooting research

When your car makes grinding, roaring or other noises, you can glean helpful information on causes from auto forums, especially those focused on your vehicle’s make and model. You can also narrow down possible issues on an auto diagnosis site such as AutoMD.

That way, you’ll have a bit of knowledge before you take the vehicle to a mechanic. Be careful, though. Not everything you read online is accurate.

4. Get a second opinion

Unless you have no choice but to get a high-priced repair from an unfamiliar mechanic, it pays to get a second or third opinion. If you can drive your car to another mechanic for diagnosis, that’s best. But even if you can’t, you can still call around to find out if the price quoted is close to average for your area.

Check sites such as RepairPal to find the typical cost in your area for a specific repair.

5. Read online reviews

Check reviews on Yelp and other review sites to get a feel for the auto repair shop’s expertise and honesty. Keep in mind that review sites always have at least one person with a gear to grind, so try to look at the overall satisfaction level.

6. Drive like you care about your car

Riding the brake or clutch wears auto parts out faster. Racing over potholes can damage tires, wheels, suspension and steering. Switching from reverse to drive without stopping can wreck the transmission. And running with low fuel on a regular basis can hasten the need for a fuel pump replacement.

7. Follow maintenance schedules

Read your vehicle owner’s manual for recommended maintenance schedules and replacement of certain parts. Even if you can’t afford to replace a part on schedule, putting that potential expense on your radar allows you to save up or set aside enough for new brakes, tires, timing belt or chain or other parts that wear out eventually.

8. Get regular oil changes

Changing your oil regularly is one of the best things you can do for your vehicle. That’s because when your engine runs, bits of metal, dirt and carbon get into the oil, causing greater wear on your engine, according to automotive marketplace CarGurus.

“The non-synthetic oil that was traditionally used in the past always had a 3,000-mile rule of thumb, but most cars today run on synthetic, which can safely last between 5,000 and 10,000 miles, depending on the type,” according to CarGurus. Consult your owner’s manual for suggested frequency.

9. Buy your own parts

Purchasing auto parts yourself may not always be possible, and some mechanics may not allow it. However, if you can buy parts from an auto store or reputable online dealer, you may pay less than a dealership or auto repair shop would charge.

When it comes to small parts like brake light bulbs and windshield wipers, don’t pay a mechanic for parts and labor that you or the auto parts store employee can easily install for minimal cost.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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