What auto service shoud I get and where?
August 26, 2021 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Here in Seattle I have a 2008 Honda Fit which I've been getting serviced at local dealers for its entire life. Recently, I've become a bit fed up with their recommendations, which I consider dubious and would like some advice about what service is really needed and where I should get it.

The car currently has around 73k miles. After a recent oil change, the service recommendations indicated the following:
  1. Filter, Pollen/A/C - Replace, observation: pollen filter is dirty and filled with debris. recommend a new filter, estimate $50 + 0.3 hours labor
  2. Battery - Replace, observation: Battery failed ED-18 test, measuring 282 out of 340 Cold cranking amps, estimate $160 + 0.3 hours labor
  3. REPLACE 4 TIRES, observation: due by age and condition. tires on vehicle are 7 years old and should be replaced with new ones. (BULGE ON PASSENGER FRONT TIRE SIDEWALL) RECOMMEND NEW TIRES, estimate $782.56 + 1.20 hours labor
Here's why I'm skeptical of this assessment:
  1. Perhaps there's a difference between the "cabin air filter" I had replaced in April 2019 and the "pollen filter" being suggested, but the prices look similar. I haven't detected any issues with air quality in the car, so I'm not sure how to evaluate how necessary this is.
  2. I had the battery replaced in Nov 2016 for ~$100 including installation at a Batteries+Bulbs in and haven't had any issues starting lately. I have a jumper battery pack I keep in the car, so I'm inclined not to bother until it gives me trouble.
  3. I had the tires replaced in April 2016 (at another Honda dealership), which is less than 5.5 years ago, so I'm not sure where they're getting 7 years from. I regularly check my pressure and visually inspect them, and I haven't noticed an obvious bulge in the sidewall, though maybe it's very subtle.
So, people more automotively knowledgeable than me, what would service would you get done and where?
posted by Cogito to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no car guy but at face value none of those seem crazy to me to be honest. April 2016 feels like yesterday but I wouldn't be surprised if the tires need replacing after five years.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: After 5 years but only 16k miles, though?
posted by Cogito at 6:24 PM on August 26, 2021

Best answer: 1: They are saying it is dirty and full of debris. This should be relatively easy to validate. If it is dirty, it needs changing.

2: Battery - 5 years is a reasonable life for a battery. If it failed the test it will fail on you when it is least convenient - usually when it starts to get cold. It is preventative maintenance to replace it before it craps out, but that's a risk you can weight yourself.

3: There is a manufacturing date on the tyres. If it is 7 years ago, that is a decent lifespan for tyres. UV degradation and sidewall cracking is the biggest issue, and a major cause of blow outs. You will see little tiny cracks in the vertical face of the tyre if it is showing signs of UV damage. So that is not a wild ass recommendation. 5 years is a good rule of thumb for UV exposure for tyres, and any longer than that is a risk unless the car doesn't see a lot of sun or is parked inside a lot or whatever mitigating factor you want to to use.

In short - not one of these is unreasonable to suggest.

The problems:

You are getting an old car serviced at a dealer. A dealer is the A-class of service. You pay for better (arguably) service/parts and all their recommendations are erring on the side of caution. Their target is for the car not to fail on you AT ALL or have issues because it looks bad on the brand, which they want to protect. So on the grey scale of 'could it be done or could it be left for a bit' on any given service item, they err on the side of caution.

You only go to a dealer if you want that kind of maintenance. That's the only point of doing it that way - genuine parts, changed according to manufacturer recommendations, sometimes this is over-cautious. If you don't want to pay for that, then IMMEDIATELY switch to a local, independent shop. There is zero value in dealer servicing on a car that old in any resale sense, and if you want to pick and choose maintenance, then find a local mechanic and have them service the car.
posted by Brockles at 6:26 PM on August 26, 2021 [12 favorites]

<>After 5 years but only 16k miles, though?

2 things at issues here - tyres wear out and have insufficient tread to keep safe road holding. This is mostly purely a function of miles driven (with some factors for incorrect pressure affecting that). Structural integrity of the tyre is an age thing and is very much affected by UV exposure. So the mileage becomes irrelevant after 5 years. It's more about the integrity of the rubber.
posted by Brockles at 6:28 PM on August 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, the recommendations on tire age are calculated from the date of manufacture, not the date you bought the tire. All tires have a date code stamped on them that lets you know the week and year of manufacture. It's entirely possible to have 7 year old tires that were installed 5.5 years ago, if they were sitting on a shelf for 1.5 years before you bought them. Here's an Edmunds article that talks about how there's no universal replacement age recommendations, but 6 years is fairly common.

For the future, the shop should also be willing to point out the bulge to you while you're in the shop.
posted by yuwtze at 6:29 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: > If you don't want to pay for that, then IMMEDIATELY switch to a local, independent shop.

Yes, I'm asking for exactly such recommendations in this question
posted by Cogito at 6:31 PM on August 26, 2021

Those are all pretty reasonable, although I wouldn’t consider any an immediate need to replace. But all would be a good idea to get done during your next oil change if not sooner (assuming the standard 3000-5000 mile interval. )

Tires are recommended to be replaced around six years after manufacture date regardless of wear. Even if it was only 5.5 years ago you had them installed I’m guessing they were made 7 years ago. You can check this yourself.

Typical battery life is 3-5 years. Often you won’t know they’re dying until they’re dead, and it’s usually not at a convenient time.

The air filter may be fine, I feel like that often gets added to the service recommendations as soon as it starts looking dirty at all. If your location is accurate it’s been through at least one pretty smoky period and replacing it is probably a good idea, but it can certainly wait until your next scheduled oil change.

Regarding dealer vs independent shop. The independent shop I go to recommended all of these aside from the tires (they were just done last November) when I went in for an oil change in February. I didn’t bother to get them done. My battery died on me in June (in a surprisingly convenient place, but still would have been better to replace before that), and I really should get that air filter done. Some car things just need regular replacement, and three of them are on your list.
posted by Jawn at 6:35 PM on August 26, 2021

None of those services seem out of line. You can certainly get all of them done elsewhere for less. Heck, most national auto parts chains will sell you a new battery and install it on the spot. It’s easy to do yourself, too.

As for the tires...I’d be okay with continuing to drive on them as long as the tread is still adequate.

I’m just stunned you have an ‘08 Fit with only 73k miles on it. My wife’s 2010 Fit has over 200,000 miles on it.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:48 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nthing that these are reasonable. Batteries do last about 5 years and frankly I wish I had a heads-up, but no, I learned that the hard way more than once. Don't do that.

Same for tires. Know how underwear wears out? Much more catastrophic for tires. Mine wear out from mileage, but I would absolutely replace tires that are 5 years old and have a bulge.

Also support finding an indie shop, tho those prices don't look off by a large factor to me, and an indie shop may not look out for you like this (and frankly they are). Not all dealer shops are bad. Many are, but this is fine.
posted by Dashy at 6:50 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you’re looking to save money the battery and air filter are pretty darn easy to replace yourself. Instructions and how to videos for your specific car are readily available online. You’ll end up spending $100+ on the battery (mine was $150 a couple months ago), and I see Honda Fit air filters available online for around $25.

Tires aren’t something you want to attempt on your own. For those just go to your local Les Schwab or equivalent tire shop. You can probably save a couple hundred bucks, but I would still expect to spend at least $500 to replace all four.

Do remember that your tires are one of your most important safety features. The cheapest tires available are a good deal right up until they’re not. Especially in a hilly and rainy area filled with terrible drivers.
posted by Jawn at 6:56 PM on August 26, 2021

Best answer: Yeah, there's a reason they're called "stealerships". The recommendations might not be totally out of line, but you can do a lot better in terms of pricing at independent garages.

Of their recommendations:
Filter, Pollen/A/C - Replace, observation: pollen filter is dirty and filled with debris. recommend a new filter, estimate $50 + 0.3 hours labor
All dealers and garages will offer to replace your cabin air filter, given the opportunity. It's an easy job, a part with a big markup, and a third of an hour's worth of labor. Easy money. There's nothing wrong with replacing the cabin air filter periodically, but it looks like a really trivial job and the parts only cost about $8 to do it yourself. At the very least you should open it up and take a look at the filter yourself before paying to have it replaced!
Battery - Replace, observation: Battery failed ED-18 test, measuring 282 out of 340 Cold cranking amps, estimate $160 + 0.3 hours labor
Eh, 282 out of 340 amps? That's still putting out a fair amount of juice. You don't specify where you're located. If you're in, like, northern Maine, I might replace that before the winter. If you live in San Diego, I might not bother. Personally, I have never replaced a battery prophylactically, and I have a certain amount of side-eye for the idea of doing so. I ride those bastards right into the sunset, then when they die I jump-start the car and go buy a new one. (Or, you can always call AAA, their prices on installed batteries are surprisingly reasonable.) But if jump-starting your car wouldn't be an option if it failed to start one morning, I suppose you could always get the battery replaced early. $160 isn't actually that bad for the battery; AutoZone in my area charges $180 for a mid-grade Duralast Gold with free installation.
REPLACE 4 TIRES, observation: due by age and condition. tires on vehicle are 7 years old and should be replaced with new ones. (BULGE ON PASSENGER FRONT TIRE SIDEWALL) RECOMMEND NEW TIRES, estimate $782.56 + 1.20 hours labor
Again this is a bit of a personal risk/reward tradeoff angle. If you got the tires replaced in 2016, I personally wouldn't replace them purely because of age. But I might start thinking about it. Warehouse clubs like BJs and Costco often have good prices on tires (sometimes a week or so of ordering time is required), so I'd start shopping around.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:59 PM on August 26, 2021

Response by poster: > You don't specify where you're located

"Here in Seattle…would like some advice about what service is really needed and where I should get it."
"posted by Cogito to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA "
tagged "seattle"


Not to be a jerk, I just am mostly looking for specific shop recs and this point and thought I'd been pretty clear on that point
posted by Cogito at 7:08 PM on August 26, 2021

Well, you did say you "would like some advice about what service is really needed and where I should get it." You've been getting a lot of great advice on what service is and isn't needed. You're only going to get advice on specific garages in Seattle from people who live in (or have lived in) Seattle. Hopefully some of them will show up. And I'd think you'd want to be more specific about where in Seattle you are. Most people get their cars serviced near either where they work or live because it's rarely worth having your car repaired someplace that's not convenient to get to.

Also, keep in mind that you don't need to get everything done at the same place. It's nice to have a mechanic you can trust for everything, but that's rare and not always convenient. There are probably multiple tire places in your area that let you see prices online. Look for one that includes everything in the price like mounting and balancing. These places are also generally going to be able to offer a wider price range of tires than a neighborhood garage. A lot of these places also do batteries and filters. Batteries are easy to replace, but on small cars can be a pain in the rear to get to. I owned a car that required the front left tire to be removed to access the battery. So if you plan on trying to do it yourself, make sure it's easy to get to.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't forget that new tires is what they recommended because that's what they sell. Used tires are also an option, particularly if you are looking at getting a replacement car in the near future. (13 years is maybe middle aged for a Honda, and if that's all they recommended, it's in good shape, but nothing lasts forever.) I've used Lake City Tires before, and had good results replacing 2 tires on my old college ride, a balding Ford Escort. It's right where Northgate Wy meets Lake City Way.

What I didn't know about then, I know now: it's a very short walk to Tubs Gourmet Subs, the best sandwiches in the city (fight me, Paseo fans), and it'll take time to swap your wheels. Sandwich time. There are plenty of used tire places on Aurora Ave, and they'll all be more or less next door to Pho places.

You can visually inspect the tires yourself before deciding to buy.

The battery and cabin filter i'd do myself, but you do you. Many local shops will let you buy the parts and they'll do the install and charge you for an hour of labor for the two jobs. I'm relatively new to having a car, after a roughly 20 year gap, so I don't have a local shop, myself, but know a couple nearby and look in the window for VWs now and then; you can pretty much go anywhere except a German-specific auto repair place.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:48 PM on August 26, 2021

Response by poster: For the record, I'm in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, but don't mind driving a bit if that's what it takes to get to a good, independent shop.
posted by Cogito at 7:51 PM on August 26, 2021

Best answer: Not sure where you are and what's convenient, but we've been very happy with Matt's in Greenwood & Aurora, they've been servicing our old CRV and less-old Prius for years with no complaints. I've also heard good things about High Road in Ballard and Johnson's in Wedgwood.
posted by sapere aude at 7:51 PM on August 26, 2021

Best answer: I’ve had good service from Kenmore Automotive - including advice NOT to do an expensive repair on an older used car I owned. If they can’t do something, they’re upfront about it.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 8:05 PM on August 26, 2021

Best answer: Repair Revolution will treat you right and not screw you over. Plus they’re cool.
posted by fleecy socks at 9:17 PM on August 26, 2021

For an older car, you need to know what's essential and what is nice.
The cabin air filter? I've never replaced one. I didn't know you could. If you're dedicated to keeping a favorite car in perfect shape, go ahead. Otherwise don't.
The battery? The oldest one I ever replaced was I think twenty-four years old. On a fuel-injected car you have to turn over the engine about once to start it. I'd never replace a battery until it struggles to start the car. It won't hurt anything, and if you have an external battery pack, that'll get you through a day or two until you can get a new one. Around here batteries fail in winter, but I don't think Seattle gets that cold.
Tires? From your mileage you don't drive a lot. Tires are very important, but five years isn't long. If the tread is shot, or if you do a lot of highway driving, consider it. If there's really a bulge, get them replaced today.
You can spend a lot of money proactively replacing parts. Get a mechanic you trust and treat him well. A good mechanic will tell you what not to do, and that's worth a lot.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 9:34 PM on August 26, 2021

One thing that might happen with a clogged cabin air filter in a cool area with lots of rain like Seattle is fogging up inside the car on high humidity days. Less so if you habitually have AC on, but it's a tell-tale for whether it actually needs replacing.

Out of that lot, I'd go for the tires, which are an actual safety issue. At a dedicated tires-only shop.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:20 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Do the work. The battery will leave you stranded. Your old tires WILL kill you if left to continue to rot. I have the shop replace the filter in my car because they have to drop the glove box, and I just can’t be bothered.

Don’t neglect maintenance on your car. Get the work done.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 3:42 AM on August 27, 2021

Bulge on sidewall? I missed this. DO NOT DRIVE THE CAR AT HIGHWAY SPEEDS. You may have a blowout and roll your car over. Get the tires replaced ASAP.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 3:43 AM on August 27, 2021

Bulge on sidewall? I missed this.

Yes, I missed this too. I read it as 'no bulge' for some reason - any tyre with a bulge is immediate replace, and always change a pair at a time. If you don't change all 4 that's your risk but at least change the bulge pair.
posted by Brockles at 10:32 AM on August 27, 2021

Also, this just came up in my facebook feed for seeing tyre age:


Damn facebook listening to me.
posted by Brockles at 10:33 AM on August 27, 2021

Keeping a safe, working set of tires is an absolute must in Seattle, especially when stopped at intersections on steep hills, such as in Queen Anne and Capitol Hill. You can do the penny trick to see if the tread is low. Any bulges are a must-replace-ASAP scenario, as noted.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the input.

Regarding the tires, the tread depth is good: 6/32" on all 4. Part of my dubiousness about the bulge as well as the overall report is that I wasn't informed about the details or offered an opportunity for a tech to show me at the time of service. This was only detailed in an email I received several days later.

Here is a photo and closeup video of the tire in question. I can't see any bulge. Do any of you? Is it possible it's on the inner-facing sidewall? The report just says:
due by age and condition. tires
on vehicle are 7 years old and
should be replaced with new
posted by Cogito at 6:06 PM on August 27, 2021

Did you check the inside sidewall? It doesn't say it is on the outside.

There is a good cut in the sidewall on the outside of that one. And the age of the tyre is of concern to me, but if I wasn't driving on the highway much I'd probably risk it if I was tight on money.
posted by Brockles at 4:16 AM on August 28, 2021

Response by poster: Update: I got the tires replaced at Les Schwab. I asked them to do an inspection beforehand and they found a bulge on the rear passenger side, but not the front (as reported by the dealer). So, I felt the replacement was fully warranted, and also that the dealer was sloppy enough that I won't be returning.

I'll look into doing the air filter myself, and I remain unconcerned about the battery, given my possession of a jumper pack and experience using it when I had a battery die previously.

Thanks again for all the recommendations and feedback.
posted by Cogito at 10:48 AM on August 30, 2021

When they talk about a battery dying after 7 years, they don't mean "runs out of juice," but they mean "decays into a state of being unchargeable." A jumper pack will get your car going, but if your battery stops charging, then you'll have to jump it every time until you get to the place that sells new car batteries. Fortunately, you're probably not in a huge rush, so you can shop around for deals-- maybe a Labor Day sale or a Black Friday Sale. Just make sure you have a $160+tax in the couch cushion somewhere so you can get the battery if the car can't wait.

There's probably one bolt that's hand-tight that's holding your battery in, plus a bolt holding each terminal. Disconnect the ground (black) first, as is the custom, and if you want to be absolutely the most safe, disconnect black, make sure the loose terminal can't touch the battery, and wait 20 minutes (as various energized parts of the car run out energy stored in capacitors and such).

And most importantly, find the part in the manual where you can reset the clock and reprogram your radio stations.

Battery being off is also a good opportunity to replace bulbs in headlights, often, because plenty of cars have headlights that require battery removal to access.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:52 PM on September 1, 2021

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