No car owner likes to pay the bills to repair their car. While maintaining a vehicle is rule number one for keeping it reasonably operational long-term, some auto repairs are more common than others. Not only that, but with proper maintenance, some can be at least temporarily postponed.

In a recent survey, AutoMD took a look at the top 10 auto repairs of 2013. Not surprisingly, brake pad replacement came in at number one. Preventive tips for this include: no jamming on the brakes, no quick acceleration and panic stops, paying attention to noises and brake pedal travel, and regular servicing.

Other top auto repairs last year, in order, are:

  • Alternator replacement – see our 2011 article on how much replacing an alternator costs, then bump up the cost by at least 10 percent.
  • Water pump replacement – Auto experts say that by the time the original equipment water pump reaches 70,000 miles or more, the failure incidence due to coolant leaks ratchets up quickly. Over 100,000 miles, and it’s only a matter of time before the water pump fails and needs replacing.
  • Timing belt replacement – Look for this replacement at around 60,000 miles for older model cars, whereas on newer ones, it’s typically around 100,000 miles. What can happen, particularly if the timing belt has never been changed is that it will suddenly break and fail. The belt itself isn’t that expensive, but labor costs to get at it can mount up, if it’s hard to reach. If the timing belt isn’t replaced and it breaks and damages the valves, repair costs can be in the thousands of dollars.
  • Spark plugs replacement – Spark plugs are an inexpensive and common auto repair. Many car owners can buy replacement parts at Pep Boys or other auto supply stores and perform a do-it-yourself job. In the event spark plugs are inaccessible, a professional mechanic will need to do the job.
  • Fuel pump replacement – A fuel pump, as contrasted with the water pump, usually begins to fail at around 60,000 miles. And they often fail with no warning, although some will buzz or cause hard starting, hesitation or stalling problems. Be prepared to shell out several hundred dollars, more if it’s in a later model car where the fuel pump is an electric model located inside the fuel tank, making it difficult and expensive to replace.
  • Brake rotor replacement – Usually, when brakes fail, dealerships and professional mechanics check the rotors for wear and replace pads and rotors as necessary. Sometimes, the pads are all that need replacing, but often it’s both. This can add up to several hundred dollars for brake rotor replacement (plus pads).
  • Radiator replacement – This replacement cost will vary depending on the make, model and year of the vehicle. The average radiator cost is between $100 and $200. Having a certified mechanic replace the radiator can cost between $500 and $1,000.
  • Engine mounts replacement – When engine mounts go bad, it’s recommended to replace all four. The engine sits on the motor mounts, and you want it to be secured. There is no repairing; they have to be replaced. Most of the cost to do so is in labor.
  • Catalytic converter replacement – With a lifespan between 30,000 and 40,000 miles before they clog up and need replacement, catalytic converters can be an unexpected repair bill. Fortunately, the cost of the catalytic converter itself isn’t all that expensive, under $100. Labor, on the other hand, will go by hourly prices, which can range from $60 to $90/hour and the job generally takes about two hours.

Suppose your car is a 1990s model Chevrolet Tahoe or a 2001 Ford Taurus with 100,000 miles on it. Or, perhaps you have a newer model vehicle but drive it hard and long, taking regular lengthy commutes or frequent business or out-of-town trips. Keep in mind that the more you drive and rack up miles, the more wear and tear on your vehicle – all parts of the vehicle.

By keeping your vehicle properly maintained with oil changes, proper tire pressure, taking it in for regular service, you’ll help prolong the life of your car and its all-important parts – and save yourself time and money in the process. When it does come time to replace brake pads, rotors, fuel or water pump and so on, don’t delay. Get the repairs done as soon as possible so the costs don’t escalate further.


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