Three Expensive Car Repairs & How to Avoid Them

Last Updated on December 14, 2023 by John Robinson

As a car owner, you can expect to foot the bill for some repairs at one point or another. While all repairs can be problematic and untimely, some issues can also be incredibly expensive to fix. In this article, we take a closer look at some of the most well-known, costly car problems that you might feasibly run into. 

We’ll discuss common causes, potential warning signs, the cost of repairs, and what you can do to proactively avoid problems in the first place. By taking great care of your vehicle, you can significantly reduce your risk of encountering these costly issues and ensure your car’s long-term reliability and performance. If one of these errors causes you to get into a crash, speak to a Portland car accident lawyer about your legal options for seeking compensation for damages incurred. 

Problem #1: Transmission Failure

For good reason, car owners cringe when a mechanic tells them that there’s something wrong with their vehicle’s transmission. The transmission plays a vital role in a vehicle, translating power from the engine to the wheels and ensuring smooth gear changes. As a complex piece of machinery that is essential to your vehicle’s operation, repairs tend to be quite costly and frequently don’t fall under general insurance coverage

Common Causes of Transmission Failure

  • Wear and tear: Over time, a car’s internal components may degrade and break down, and the transmission is no exception to this rule. Regular use and friction can wear down the transmission, which in turn may cause difficulty shifting, grinding gears, or slipping.
  • Lack of maintenance: Regular fluid changes and vehicle inspections are crucial to keeping your transmission operating at peak efficiency. Neglecting these essential components of maintenance accelerates wear and tear, leading to more significant problems in the future.
  • Harsh driving habits: Aggressive driving can significantly shorten your transmission’s lifespan. You should always avoid sudden acceleration, hard braking, and aggressive maneuvering whenever possible. 

Possible Warning Signs of Transmission Failure

  • Slipping gears: One of the most common signs of a transmission power is when the car begins to slip gears. When this occurs, you’ll notice that the transmission fails to engage properly. The car may “hesitate” or lose power suddenly as you’re driving. 
  • Grinding noises: The transmission may suddenly begin making previously-unexperienced grinding noises when shifting gears. This may occur due to worn-out gears or bearings.
  • Difficulty shifting gears: If you suddenly struggle to switch gears or are entirely unable to move from one gear to another, issues with the transmission may be to blame. 
  • Burning smells: A burning smell coming from the transmission can indicate overheating or internal damage. Generally speaking, any burning smell coming from under your car’s hood is not a great sign!

How Much Do Transmission Repairs Cost?

The cost of transmission repairs can vary significantly depending on some key factors, including the car’s age, the vehicle make and model, and how severe the damage is. Minor repairs like replacing a solenoid or sensor may “only” cost a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, a complete transmission replacement can run between $5,000 and $10,000. In some cases, the price of a transmission replacement may exceed a car’s value, particularly if the vehicle is older or not in great shape. 

Preventing Transmission Failure 

  • Regular maintenance: You should always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance milestones. Neglecting standard maintenance can result in issues being overlooked and going unrepaired. 
  • Gentle driving: Avoid aggressive and unsafe driving habits that put excessive stress on the transmission.
  • Check for leaks: Regularly check for leaks around the transmission pan, which can indicate low fluid levels or internal problems.
  • Address minor issues promptly: Even if your transmission still functions, don’t ignore seemingly minor problems such as grinding noises or slipping gears. Proactively addressing and repairing problems can keep you from experiencing ruinously expensive repairs in the future. 

Problem #2: Engine Trouble

If we compare a modern car to the human body, the vehicle’s engine is undeniably the beating heart of the machine. A fully-functional engine is essential to keep your car running at peak performance. If you come to the point where your vehicle requires a major engine overhaul, you might find that the bills quickly mount up! 

What Causes Engine Problems?

  • Excessive wear and tear: Similar to a car’s transmission, the internal components of an engine can easily wear down naturally due to regular use and friction.
  • Lack of maintenance: Foregoing regular maintenance, such as oil changes and filter replacements, can lead to oil sludge buildup or general wear and tear.
  • Overheating: Overheating can cause severe damage to the engine’s internal components, leading to costly repairs or even engine failure.
  • Poor-quality fuel and lubricants: Using the wrong type of fuel or low-quality lubricants can cause massive damage to your engine over time. If you’re uncertain what kind of fuel or lubricants to use, refer to the manufacturer’s guide or ask a reputable mechanic for advice. 

Warning Signs of Engine Issues

  • Excessive oil consumption: If you find yourself topping off the engine more frequently than usual, this could be a sign that the engine is burning excessive oil. 
  • Blue or black exhaust smoke: The presence of colored smoke can indicate burning oil or another internal issue with your vehicle. 
  • Loud knocking noises: Loud banging or knocking sounds coming from the engine can be caused by worn-out bearings or another problem. 
  • Decreased performance: If you notice that your vehicle suddenly has substantially weaker acceleration and power, engine woes may be the underlying cause. 

Determining the Cost of an Engine Overhaul

The average cost of an engine overhaul will vary depending on the car’s make, model, and how complex the engine system is. In general, you can expect an engine overhaul to cost $3,000 to $5,000. Repairs for a luxury vehicle may be even more pricey, potentially reaching or exceeding $10,000. 

Preventing Engine Problems

  • Regular maintenance: Stay up-to-date with your vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule for oil changes, filter replacements, and tune-ups.
  • Use high-quality fuel and lubricants: Similarly to your transmission, using the wrong fuel or low-quality lubricants can cause significant engine problems. To protect all of your car’s internal systems, always use the correct fuel and don’t underestimate the value of quality lubricants.
  • Avoid overheating: If you notice that your car is overheating, take immediate action to find out what’s causing the issue and fix it. Common culprits include broken thermostats or radiator leaks. 
  • Monitor engine performance: If your engine seems to be performing worse than usual, take note of any unusual changes. Power surges, engine noises, changes in oil consumption, and other issues are worth seeking professional assistance for promptly. 

Problem #3: Suspension System Issues

Your car’s suspension system can make or break your driving experience. A functional suspension system absorbs bumps and vibrations, ensuring that you benefit from smooth handling and optimal control. Unfortunately, neglecting the suspension system can lead to costly repairs.

What Can Cause Issues for Your Car’s Suspension System?

  • Overloading the vehicle: When you exceed your vehicle’s weight limit, you subject the suspension system to stress that it’s not designed to handle. This can accelerate the degrading effects of regular wear and tear on the system.
  • Potholes and road hazards: Hitting potholes or roadside debris can damage the suspension components. Serious impacts can cause leaks or alignment issues. 
  • Ignoring minor problems: If you notice detectable changes in your vehicle’s driving or handling, get it checked out right away. It’s easy to assume that minor problems like uneven tire wear or squeaking sounds won’t snowball into a bigger issue, but there’s always a chance of future complications. 

Warnings Signs of Suspension System Problems

  • Excessive bouncing or pulling: If you notice significant bouncing when your car travels over bumps or uneven roads, this could be a problem. Likewise, your car should not be pulling to one side without driver input.
  • Uneven tire wear: Uneven tire wear can be another sign of a suspension system issue. You should be able to visibly observe unusual tire wear, as the inside or outside edges will be noticeably more worn. 

How Expensive Are Suspension System Repairs?

The cost of suspension repairs varies depending on the specific components needing replacement and the labor involved. If you just need a single shock absorber replaced, you might get away with only paying a couple hundred dollars. On the other hand, a complete suspension overhaul can run upwards of $1,000.

Taking Steps to Prevent Suspension System Problems

  • Regularly check the suspension: Regularly inspect your car’s suspension for signs of wear and tear. Things to be on the lookout for include cracks, leaks, or loose components.
  • Drive carefully over road hazards: Try not to drive over potholes or roadway debris at a high rate of speed. Slow down and avoid obstructions to the best of your ability to reduce suspension damage. 
  • Get regular alignments: Get your car’s alignment checked and adjusted regularly. Unchecked misalignment can result in greater problems, such as suspension issues or uneven tire wear. 

Preserving Your Car’s Integrity & Your Wallet at the Same Time

If there’s one thing covered in this article that you ought to take to heart, it’s that you should always err on the side of caution and have your car inspected if you notice declining performance. Catching minor problems early on can save you a headache and a massive repair bill. We hope this article helps you keep your car running at peak performance for many years to come!

John Robinson
John Robinson

Howdy! I’m John Robinson from Levittown, New York. I am a mechanical engineer for 15 years and already had an established car repair company. I developed a personal relationship with cars since I was a kid. I always love the sounds and smell emitted by a car or truck and even at construction machinery. Since then I have been married but my love for cars only grew.