The top 6 mechanic upsells: how to reduce car servicing costs

Ever gone to a mechanic or dealership for what you thought was a routine service and suddenly you’re hit with a bill in the thousands? All those little extras add-up. And although frustrating, we usually accept these extras as we’re told they’re good for our car. They’ll make the car ‘run better’,

‘perform better’, extend its life’, and more. However, what most people don’t realise is that most of these up-sells are a complete waste of money, adding to your overall car servicing costs.

I used to work at a major dealership where I was incentivised to up-sell. I was told to say that an engine oil flush ‘enhances performance’ and ‘cleans out your system’. And most customers were compliant to pay the extra $50 on top of their large service bill because it was what was ‘best’ for their car. In fact, it was just an extra product to help the dealership’s hip pocket.

The truth is that many of these extras are unnecessary, are done too early or are done too regularly in an effort to turn profit and bump up the average bill.

So here’s my list of the common up-sell items you’ll find on your service bill, including when you need them and when you don’t.



Additives, treatments, cleans and flushes are widely up-sold by major dealerships through to small workshops as ‘performance enhancers’ and ‘cleaning agents’ for your car. However, modern fuel and other liquids have all the good stuff built in. If you’re servicing your car regularly than you’re already doing what your mechanic is claiming you need.

As a result, government departments and fleet companies don’t approve any additive costs as they know this is a waste of money and just a gimmick.

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: A waste of money.



Sometimes called a de-sanitising service, are often upsold at each service. You may be told that the service will freshen your cars smell and remove bacteria. And pay around $200 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.

The verdict: Rarely required.



You may be told that this type of service is required to clean your cars injectors and valves, removing wax and carbon for smoother running and better performance. You may be told that this is required every 2-years once the car reaches 20,000km’s for a cost of around $165.

The reality is modern fuel cleans out your injectors and valves, and build-up is rare over many many years, making this service unnecessary.

The verdict: A waste of money.



Wheel alignments are a common upsell at most services. You may be told that your tyres are worn out more at the front. Every car will wear its tyres out more at the front as the front wheels do more of the steering and braking. The reality is you just need your tyres rotated – which you should expect from all good mechanics at each of your services.

You should expect a wheel alignment every two years, unless your car is pulling to one side or you’ve hit a large pothole.

The verdict: Every 2 years.



Wiper rubbers are typically upsold if they leave streaks on the windscreen, and some workshops will recommend changing every year.

Instead, give them a good clean to make them work like new again 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 5 years.



Replacing major parts early or too frequently is one way dodgy mechanics can bump up your bill. Most major parts don’t need replacing until around the 80,000-100,000km mark, unless you are a heavy footed driver or drive in harsh conditions.

The verdict: Every 80,000-100,000kms.



Arm yourself with this information next time you take your car in for a service to avoid unnecessary car servicing costs. If your mechanic or dealership recommends any of these ‘extras’ you can tell them no thanks and save yourself some cash.

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Who is Elvio?

Elvio is a seasoned Motor Mechanic with 25 years experience in the automotive industry. Well-known for asking the most obvious questions and his bizarre obsession with Datsuns (having owned more than 10), he seems to think the 70s was the golden era of motoring. Current rumours suggest he owns more than 100 caps, prefers Belgium bier to Australian and has been confused with the real Speedy Gonzalez. Well-known at the racetrack for getting maximum performance on a budget and his obsessive attention to detail, he is now taking his passion for all things with an engine to help his customers in his blog. Ask Elvio.