We’ve all felt it before – that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise something is not quite right with your car and you’re going to have to pay someone else to repair it. Whether it was caused by bad luck, bad manufacturing, or our own bad maintenance habits, we all want to know how much it’s going to cost us.
When Canstar Blue surveyed Aussies in 2015 about how satisfied they were with their car servicing, a 60% majority said they’ve had to pay for repairs or maintenance they weren’t expecting. So it’s no wonder that 81% are wary of getting ripped off when getting their vehicle serviced.
But when it comes to legitimately-needed repairs that do take a lot of time and labour to fix, what are some of the most expensive car problems you can have?
A broken cylinder is probably a sign that you’ve ignored previous warning signs like multiple misfires. If you get regular services, you should never end up with cylinder failure. Which is good, because repair or replacement can cost you anything from $8,000 upwards.
That’s right, the expenses for hybrid cars just keep on going. Parts may not be readily available, so they may be expensive and you may have to wait for the part to ship here. It’s often hard to detect things like inverter failure, since the only warning sign is the “check engine” light. It doesn’t often happen, but when it does, a replacement can cost between $4,000 and $7,000 depending on the model.
Spark plug failure needs to be addressed immediately. You’ll know it when you get a misfire that makes the “check engine” light come on. The cost of the spark plug itself is $10, but when it fails, other stuff starts going wrong, too – expensive stuff. Stop driving and call your mechanic on the spot.
Unfortunately, the transmission is one of the most important parts of your car, but it’s expensive to repair or replace. Automatic transmission failures are almost always caused by not enough transmission fluid. But transmission fluid doesn’t need changing as frequently as oil, so lots of car owners forget about it if they’re not getting regular services. You can also wear out the transmission in a manual by riding the clutch or unnecessarily changing gears too often.
Transmission repairs can cost around $1,000 to $2,000 and a replacement for the whole assembly can cost between $2,000 and $4,000.
A blown engine is probably the worst news your average car owner could receive. Normal engine issues are the most common car problem reported to mechanics. But a ‘blown motor’ has so much internal damage that it needs extensive repair or a full replacement, which can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 depending on the type of engine.
The camshaft controls how your engine takes in air. It generally won’t break unless you neglect your servicing and oil changes, and let grime and dirt build up on the valves. A replacement camshaft is highly labour-intensive, so it can cost between $1,500 and $3,000.
The head gasket is vital because it seals the engine cylinders and stops coolant and oil from leaking. When the head gasket blows, it takes a lot of stuff out with it. You’re looking at an overheated engine, leaking coolant and oil, and white smoke from the exhaust. The gasket is cheap, the labour is not. Repairs can cost around $1,000 to $2,000.
Unfortunately, we can’t just get a copy of our car key from Mister Minit or the locksmith for $10 anymore. These days, a replacement electric car key has to be ordered, cut and coded, and it can cost anything from $250 to $750. If you’ve lost all the keys to your car, then you need to create and code an entirely new set of keys and have the entire car computer reset to match. This can cost around $2,000 to $5,000. And it’s not an overnight job, either, so you’ll have to get around without a car for a while.
The mass air flow sensor measures the amount of air sent to the engine and decides how much fuel to send to the engine in response. Failure of the sensor typically means that you didn’t replace your air filters regularly. Replacement air filters cost around $25. Replacement mass air flow sensors cost around $400.
The air compressor separates the high and low pressure air when cooling down your car and its engine. A compressor replacement costs around $200 to $600 depending on your car model. If you also need Freon charging, that costs another $100.
Most car problems can be easily and cheaply fixed if they are detected asap. This means getting your car serviced regularly, and doing whatever other maintenance you can do yourself.
Unfortunately, many Australians we surveyed said they take as long as they can between services to save money (52%), opt for the cheapest servicing option they can find (40%), and often skip scheduled services if their vehicle is running well (38%).
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to make repairs cheaper, so you don’t have to avoid them. Industry research by Drive shows a big problem you face with replacements is the huge mark-up on spare parts. Even replacing a tail light can cost upwards of $600 if you own a 4WD or a luxury car. Much cheaper to buy a replacement part from an auto store or even your mechanic, instead of going to the dealer or manufacturer. Many of these third-party parts will be acceptable under your warranty and insurance policy, as long as your mechanic is on the list of dealer-approved options.
When in doubt, call your mechanic.