When To Use An Auto Parts Store (and when NOT to)As the owner of an auto repair facility, you would think I would steer you away from Do-It-Yourself options at the auto parts store. But you would be wrong! There are several things that you can do yourself at the auto parts store that will save you time and money.
Your local auto parts store can sell you a good battery, install it, and dispose of your old one as cheaply as any auto repair facility. We buy our batteries from them and have to pay our techs to put them in, so you will save on batteries when you need them. They can also test your battery and alternator for free too.
You won't save a ton, but if you need a wiper blade, you can stop at the auto parts store and get a new one cheaply. They will even put it on for you. Shops generally charge a premium for these since people don't want to hassle with going somewhere else to have them installed.
Check Engine Light On
The auto parts store can be helpful in providing some direction for your check engine light. They use basic handheld scanners to provide you with a code and some suggestions. This trip can help you save a diagnostic fee for an errant code, a loose gas cap or an easy "do it yourself" job. However, you should use a qualified shop for any complex code, a blinking check engine light, or a recurring problem. By comparison, the code reader used by most auto parts stores is available for purchase online for around $100. The scan tool used by most shops costs around $8000 and requires $1000 updates every year. Sometimes you will get what you pay for.
Changing Your Oil
Here's one example of doing it yourself that doesn't save you a thing -- and can cost you in the long run. You just cannot change your oil as cheaply or cleanly as you can by taking your vehicle to a repair shop. Five quarts of oil and a filter will cost you $20.00 or so at an auto parts store. You can get an oil change most places for $20-$30.00. If you do it yourself, you have to get dirty, risk stripping your oil plug, and then you have to dispose of the motor oil. You also don't get the benefit of having someone put your vehicle on a lift and looking at your car from top to bottom. You miss having expert eyes on your car to see if you have fluid leaks, unusual wear on your tires, brake issues, etc. You just cost yourself so much more than you gain by doing an oil change yourself.
Air Conditioning Repair
Attempting to "refill" your a/c system with R134 is just plain foolish. Your a/c system is under high pressure, so if you attempt to hook up that little can to the wrong hose, you may have a rude surprise waiting for you. If you are low on R134, you usually have a leak and you can't fix that yourself.
So if you need a battery or a wiper blade or have a check engine light that needs checking, head to Advance, Autozone or Fisher Auto Parts. But for oil changes, a/c and complex repairs and diagnostics, head over to a shop. We would be happy to help you at Warehouse Auto Repair in Staunton, VA.