BOISE – If your vehicle is long overdue for a tune-up, you’re not alone.  According to AAA, 35 percent of Americans put off needed repairs and routine maintenance.  October Car Care Month is a good time to catch up before the cold, wet weather returns.

The average age of the American automobile fleet is 11.6 years, the oldest ever.  As vehicles age, delayed repairs can quickly lead to a roadside mishap – last year, AAA rescued 33 million people who were stranded by dead batteries, fuel shortages, misplaced keys and flat tires.

“No matter how old your vehicle is, it’s important to recognize the warning signs of a mechanical issue.  Dripping fluids, hard starting, and spongy brakes are all indications of problems that need to be addressed right away,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “It’s a good idea to regularly check your fluid levels and tire pressure and inspect your battery terminals for corrosion.”

Newer vehicles are often equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that rely on carefully-positioned cameras and sensors in order to work properly.  As a result, these vehicles are generally more expensive to repair than older models.  Even routine maintenance can cause this highly-sensitive equipment to move out of alignment, limiting its effectiveness.  AAA encourages owners of vehicles with ADAS to confirm that their repair shop has the expertise to re-position the sensors as needed.

According to previous AAA research, many vehicle owners do a good job of relying on a windshield sticker, the manufacturer’s recommended mileage, or a reminder from the car’s onboard computer to know when it’s time for an oil change.  But when it comes to questions about battery replacement, brake fluid, and vehicle warranties, confusion abounds.

“Nearly half of all drivers are not aware that the average life span of a car battery is between three and five years.  And one in five incorrectly assume that brake fluid never has to be changed,” Conde said.  “Nearly a third of drivers are convinced that all service must be completed by the dealer in order to maintain a vehicle warranty.  But by no means is that your only option.”

Dealers are very familiar with the vehicles they sell and have factory-trained technicians, which can be helpful in some instances.  On the other hand, independent shops may be less expensive, and it may be easier to develop a relationship with the shop owner and mechanics, but these shops may also vary widely in terms of quality and cost.

Selecting a repair shop

2 out of 3 U.S. drivers are skeptical that a repair shop will charge fairly or complete the work correctly.  To alleviate these concerns, AAA recommends the following:

  • Ask around. Talk to friends and family members about the shop you’re considering.  Was the work completed on time and at the agreed-upon price?  Were the employees friendly and informative?
  • Give the shop an “audition.” Have the repair facility tackle a smaller job first, like an oil change or tire rotation.  If you’re happy with the results, then you can trust them to complete a major repair.
  • Go with a pro. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops are regularly inspected to ensure that they meet high industry standards of service and quality, provided by ASE certified technicians.  For more information, visit com/autorepair.

“In our experience, consumer trust comes down to the three C’s – confidence, cost, and convenience,” Conde said.  “There are some great repair shops out there, and those that check all the boxes will earn the loyalty of their customers.”