Having your car break down, whether in New Zealand or overseas, can be a nightmare situation. Your transmission might fail, or your brakes might need emergency repairs so that the car is functional and safe to drive again. Getting your car fixed can be a stressful experience, and to make things worse, it can be hard to tell between a ‘something that can wait’ issue and an imminent disaster. We’ve put together a guide to help you decipher between these two issues, and to help you figure out what to do when your car needs repairing in New Zealand.
What to do if the car needs to be repaired
First of all, there are many ways to keep your car healthy and avoid breakdowns in the first place. These include checking that the oil and oil filter is maintained regularly, that the engine coolant is at the required level, that the pressure and tread is correct, and that all the lights and indicators are working as they should. The New Zealand AA recommends that cars should be serviced at least once every 12 months, or after every 10,000km for everyday cars, to prevent avoidable damage.
However, it’s important to look out for the signs that something is wrong also. One of the first signs of a car problem is either something visibly wrong with the car, or when the check engine light starts flashing. The first situation makes it easier to take action and find out what’s wrong with the vehicle. For example, a flat tyre means a puncture, and hearing squeaking noises usually implies that the fan belt is old and needs replacing. The second scenario is more difficult. This ‘check engine light’ comes on when the computer that monitors what’s happening inside the car is trying to notify the driver that there is an issue. The computer can check hundreds of different systems, and if one is underperforming, the light starts to flash. This may not be an immediate cause for concern, but the owner should take action to identify and resolve the underlying problem.
When it becomes clear that something is wrong, it’s essential to make sure the car is safe to drive. The last thing anyone wants is for the brakes to fail on a car moving at speed. However, it’s important to note that doing DIY repairs on your car can have significant impact on warranties and your insurance policy, so you need to consult with your dealership or insurance company before choosing to take this path.
If the diagnostics are more complicated, the best course of action is to seek the advice of a reliable mechanic. So, what are some common problems faced by some cars, and what should you do if something goes wrong?
Problems with the engine
The engine is the powerhouse of the vehicle. Without it, the car simply won’t move. This means that it’s imperative to notice and resolve problems with the engine before they get worse. Owners should always consult a mechanic when they suspect engine problems. The most common types develop from regular wear and tear, which is more common on cars with a high mileage, with other causes being poor fuel consumption and overheating. The engine may need to be replaced if the problem is serious.
Problems with the transmission
The transmission has lots of moving parts that work together, which means they’re subjected to a lot of heat and friction, increasing the risk of damage from wear and tear over time. Repairing the transmission can be very expensive if the problem develops into something more serious.
Common problems include the gears being worn out and the clutch not working correctly. Another issue that happens quite often is caused by the fluid within the vehicle. When it becomes clear that there’s a problem with the transmission, it’s imperative that you get a diagnostic analysis.
Problems with the brakes
The brakes are the most important safety feature in the car, and if the driver suspects a problem, they should immediately get it checked out. When the brakes fail, the chances of an accident occurring obviously increase significantly. The typical symptoms of ‘unhealthy’ brakes include hearing a grinding sound or feeling vibrations when the brakes are applied. It’s also not uncommon for brake fluid to leak. If this happens, you should take your car to the mechanic, and they should be able to fix it for you relatively easily.
Problems with the suspension or steering
The suspension is what makes driving smooth. Steering and suspension problems develop over time from wear and tear and being close to flying debris from the ground. As the car drives over holes, small bits of debris fly up and can cause damage. Typical signs that something isn’t quite right include bouncing over bumps or the wheels feeling a little bit wobbly. The driver may also hear a screeching sound. Most of the time, these kinds of problems aren’t catastrophic, but they can be expensive when they’re not addressed.
Choosing a mechanic
You need to take the car into a repair shop to have it assessed, so that you can receive a quote detailing how much the repairs are going to cost. It’s important to make sure that the mechanic you’re dealing with is a member of the Motor Trade Association, as this means they’re monitored for their standard of service and are expected to deal with their customers in an honest, fair manner.
An added benefit to this is that if for some reason you enter a dispute with an MTA member, the organisation offers a mediation service to help deal with the problem. To find out the legitimacy or reputation of a business, you can perform a quick online check for reviews before going there. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe that there has been unsatisfactory servicing performed on your car and the mechanic is not an MTA member, you can turn to the Disputes Resolution Tribunal for further assistance and advice. If the dispute involves the discussion of payments, the repairer has the legal right to hold the vehicle until they have been paid for the work they have completed, as long as no further work has been performed on your car without your permission, and you have paid the original quoted price. If you refuse to pay and leave your car at the garage for more than two months, the Wages Protection and Contractor’s Liens Repeal Act gives the garage the right to sell your car at auction to recover storage costs.
You should aim to request several quotes from several different mechanics before you decide on one, to make sure you’re not getting ripped off. From the quote, you need to establish the hourly labour costs that the mechanic charges, if they use new or second-hand vehicle parts, their various company policies and their payment options. It’s also important to note the differences between ‘quotes’ and ‘estimates’ – quotes are legally binding prices, hence why it’s important to get them in written form, however ‘estimates’ are simply an estimation of the repair cost, and are liable to change.
Getting a car repaired after an accident
It doesn’t matter how well someone takes care of their car – accidents can still happen. Whether it’s the fault of the driver or someone else, the damage always needs to be sorted out. This can range from something as minor as a few dents, to completely ‘writing off’ your car. When this happens, the best action is to evaluate the damage and contact your insurance company to lodge a claim, and then you’ll be able to explore the options available to you from there. You’ll need to describe the repairs that are required, and then see if these can be completed through your insurance policy. Insurance will usually cover road accidents and collisions, but not common wear and tear. Different insurers have different policies on their preferred mechanics and what dollar amount will be provided for the repairs, so it’s important to contact your insurer as soon as possible to see what can be done to help you.
This can obviously be a stressful time for the driver, who may also have injuries from the accident. But, it’s also important to think clearly and be pragmatic. It may be very expensive to repair a car after an accident, and sometimes buying a new one isn’t a bad option.
The driver also needs to remember that they’re not going to have the repairs finished straightaway. These can often take weeks, and alternative forms of transport are an important consideration. Some mechanic shops may offer a courtesy car for the time while your car is being repaired, which can be very convenient. However, it’s important to establish who would be liable if any accidents or injuries were to occur while using the company car.
If the accident is bad enough that the car is towed away at the scene, then it’s important to note that under the Consumer Guarantees Act, it is the right of the vehicle owner to be consulted before any repairs adding to the service cost are undertaken to their car.
How to finance the repair work
Money and payment are one of the biggest stresses that car owners face. Payment for accident repairs are made once both mechanic and owner are satisfied, and usually your car will be available for collection immediately after the work has been completed and the payment received. Not everyone has enough money to cover the cost of the emergency repair work. So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
The most obvious and accessible way to finance repairs is to get a car loan to help with getting you back on the road as quickly as possible. With an Admiral Finance Car Loan, the application process is straightforward, with the money for your repairs or your new car usually being with you or the repairer within 24 hours. All the driver needs to do is fill out an online form with their details, income details and bank account information and get a quote for the repairs, and we’ll assess your loan eligibility as soon as possible. If it’s approved, the emergency work can be started and your car can be repaired and ready to go much more quickly than if you had to source the extra funds yourself, from friends or family for example.
Some financial institutions may need a written quote before the repairs are started, and in most cases they will want to pay for the bill directly themselves. Paying back the funds is then the car owner’s responsibility, and the financial institution will often use the car as security over the loan.
Understanding repair processes in New Zealand
Getting your car repaired in New Zealand doesn’t have to be as daunting as some people think. If the owner takes care of the car and is receptive to developing problems, they can be resolved quickly. It’s better to repair now before they become something more serious. And owners can take advantage of Admiral Finance car loans to help finance unexpected and costly repairs.