Ignoring your car may mean steep repairs

LOS ANGELES Domenic DiSiena has seen a lot of car repairs that could have been avoided in his 35 years of working as a mechanic.

"The young lady was driving the car with a check-engine light on for approximately a week. Now, if she would have had the check engine-light diagnosed, it would have told her that it's just coolant," DiSiena explained about a customer's Volkswagen Beetle.

Instead, the car overheated, the motor blew and it'll cost $3,000-$4,000 to replace it.

Consumer Reports has spoken to automotive mechanics across the country who told equally scary and costly stories.

"Routine maintenance and early fixes when something starts to go wrong can save you plenty," said Jon Linkov of Consumer Reports.

Exhibit A: A transmission rebuild can cost you about $3,000.

"If your transmission fluid is too low, it's probably because of a leak. If you do have to add fluid, don't overfill. That'll make it worse," explained Linkov.

Exhibit B: An engine replacement can be a $3,000-$6,000 job.

"To prevent this, check your oil level once per month, and remember to change your oil and the timing belt according to the maintenance schedule in your owner's manual," advised Linkov.

Exhibit C: A new catalytic converter can cost $900.

"A catalytic converter can become overtaxed if your engine isn't tuned and starts to malfunction. So don't ignore that 'check engine' light when it comes on, and make sure you get regular tune-ups," advised Linkov.

Your owner's manual is your friend. You don't have to read the whole thing, but do take a look at it. It will tell you that you need to take it in for everything from oil changes and tire rotations to tune-ups.

The bottom line is that catching car trouble early will spare you expensive car repair bills down the road.

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