Ever gone into a workshop for what you thought was a routine service and suddenly you’re hit with a bill in the thousands? Ouch. All those little extras certainly add up. And, although frustrating, we mostly just accept these extras as we’re told “they’re good for the car” – make it ‘run better’, ‘perform better’, ‘extend its life’ and more. Most people don’t realise that the majority of extras are a complete waste of time, simply adding to your car service costs.
So here’s our list of the common upsell items you’ll find on your service bill, including when you need them and when you don’t.
ADDITIVES/ TREATMENTS/ CLEANS/ FLUSHES
Additives, treatments, cleans and flushes are widely upsold by major dealerships through to small workshops as ‘performance enhancers’ and ‘cleaning agents’ for your car. However, modern fuel and engine oil has all the good stuff built in. If you’re servicing your car regularly then you’re already doing what your mechanic is claiming you need.
So what if you’ve missed a service? This doesn’t mean you need an engine oil flush—just service your car a little earlier next time.
The verdict: Waste of money.
Sometimes called a de-sanitising service, air-conditioning services are often upsold at each service. You may be told that the service will freshen your car’s smell and remove bacteria. And you will pay around $285 for the privilege.
The reality is an air-conditioning service is only very occasionally required in very old cars, or if your air-conditioner stops blowing air. If you’re recommended an air-conditioning service, ask your mechanic to check the air-conditioning filter first as a blocked cabin filter can cause a reduction of air. Cabin filter replacements are normally only required every 30,000 to 40,000kms, though this will decrease if you frequently park under trees, or drive behind trucks and consume their exhaust fumes.
The verdict: Rarely required. Instead ensure your cabin filter is replaced as per your logbook (typically every 30,000 to 40,000kms).
ON-CAR INJECTION SERVICE
You may be told that this type of service is required to clean your car’s injectors and valves, removing wax and carbon for smoother running and better performance.
Often mechanics claim this is required every two years or once the car reaches 20,000kms for a cost of around $165. The reality is modern fuel cleans out your injectors and valves, and build-up is rare and only occurs over many, many years, making this an unnecessary addition to your car service cost.
The verdict: A waste of money.
Wheel alignments are a common upsell at most services. You’ll probably be told that your tyres are worn out more at the front. The reality is that every car will wear its tyres out more at the front as the front wheels do more of the steering and braking! You just need your tyres rotated, which you should expect from all good mechanics at each of your services. A tyre rotation is where the tyres are swapped from front to back, and left to right, to ensure even wear on your tyres across their life.
You should expect a wheel alignment every two years or when your tyres are replaced, unless your car is pulling to one side or you’ve hit a large pothole.
The verdict: Every two years or when your tyres are replaced.
Wiper rubbers are typically upsold if they leave streaks on the windscreen, and some workshops recommend changing them every year.
Instead, give them a good clean to make them work like new by simply wiping the blades with a damp cloth to remove excess dirt. If they still leave streaks after cleaning, it’s only then that they need replacing.
The verdict: Every five years.
Replacing major parts early or too frequently is one way dodgy mechanics bump up their bill. Most major parts won’t need replacing until around the 100,000km mark, unless you’re a heavy footed driver or drive in harsh conditions.
The verdict: Every 100,000kms (or as per your logbook).
The best way to push back on the upsells next time you see your mechanic is to arm yourself with the information above – use this infographic on how to avoid car service upsells to print and refer to. Clued-up, you will be able to confidently say “no thank you” to the list of extra’s and keep your car service costs where they should be.
About the author
Janelle Gonzalez is the owner of Blue Toro, Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise, one of the fastest growing automotive repair businesses in the country. She is an advocate for the hard-working mechanics who want an ethical and profitable way to better support their families. Her mission is to disrupt the automotive repair industry by exposing the rip-offs and returning to old-fashioned service values that car owners want.