Car problems--should I take it to a dealer or a regular repair shop?
October 14, 2012 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I have a 1994 Nissan Altima. It is in great shape but has two problems. The cruise control does not work at all, and as of this morning my key does not work in the driver's side lock.

Normally when I have car problems I just take it to my Craigslist mechanic or to a local repair shop, but these are not the usual "it's making a noise" or "my brakes don't work." Are these specific-enough issues that I should take it to a dealer? I know that will be more expensive, but I'm just not sure if a regular repair shop will know what to do.

I'm in Milwaukee, WI, if that matters.
posted by Slinga to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
I've never used cruise control more than once or twice in my life, so I dunno. Maybe a regular mechanic can fix it, maybe not. I'd actually be surprised if your dealership had much more expertise with the problem than a good local mechanic. (fwiw on both cars I currently have, my local mechanic has done better with diagnosis and repair than the dealer)
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:46 PM on October 14, 2012

A competent repair shop can handle these issues; there's no need to go to the dealer unless you want to spend more money for some reason.
posted by Forktine at 7:04 PM on October 14, 2012

A three dollar can of
may solve the door problem.

(Or a two-dollar
tube of graphite lubricant
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:08 PM on October 14, 2012

Cruise control systems of that vintage are pretty simple - they're usually just vacuum actuators attached to the throttle with a cable, and a computer with a couple of wires. Any mechanic will be able to diagnose them, especially if it's one of the several completely obvious ways they can fail. Once the simple stuff is ruled out, it's probably time to take it to a specialist (or a dealer) if your typical mechanic is more the 'shade tree' type.

Any locksmith can help you with your door lock, too. I'd try spraying some lubricant in, and jiggling the key a bit as you turn it in the tumbler, but be (fairly) gentle. If that doesn't work, find a locksmith that does work on cars. If the lock needs to be replaced, you can have your regular mechanic do the replacement with Nissan parts.

One of the real benefits of 1994-era cars is that they're all relatively mechanically simple.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:02 PM on October 14, 2012

FWIW, I had similar problem with a 97 Prizm door lock. I drove the car to a locksmith, he sprayed some lubricant, and it's been fine for the last year or so. I think the guy did it for free, but it's kind of a foggy memory. I at least would have remembered if it was more than $5. Hope it's an easy fix for you too.
posted by eelgrassman at 8:33 PM on October 14, 2012

I had this issue with a 99 Accord. Does it have a key or a computerized key (where you can't cut one, you have to go to the dealer and get a $*#()@*# reprogrammed cut key).

If it's a comp key, you likely can just go to the dealer, have new keys cut (not cheap) based not on the old key but your VIN. That's what my mech did.
posted by tilde at 8:59 PM on October 14, 2012

« Older IANAA, RU?   |   Are these mixed signals intelligible? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.