Save Money on Car Repairs by Using These Free Services at an Auto Parts Store

If you’re not too keen on working on your own car – or if you don’t know how – then it’s easy to make it a habit to take your car to the dealership or local mechanic for every small job. The only issue is that most mechanics and dealers charge high labor rates and something as small as getting a “check engine” light looked at can cost you some money. Instead of paying a mechanic, you can save money by heading to your local auto parts store.

Auto parts stores offer free check engine light scanning

An Auto Zone auto parts store
An Auto Zone auto parts store | Getty Images

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Has your car’s check engine light been on for a while? Believe it or not, some mechanics will charge you $50 to $100 just to pull the code from it and tell you what the issue is. Fortunately, many auto parts stores nationwide like Autozone, Pep Boys, and Advance Auto Parts will check that light for free.

No, they won’t be able to fix the issue right on the spot and they might not be able to tell you what the exact issue is. But they will plug in their handy onboard diagnostic reader and at least be able to point you in the right direction of getting the issue fixed.

Other free services are available too

A mechanic changes the oil on a car.
A mechanic changes the oil on a car. | Getty Images

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Aside from checking on the pesky check engine light, stores like Auto Zone and Pep Boys will even check your car’s battery. They can run a diagnostic on your car’s battery and even charge it for you in around 30 minutes. Also, if you need a new one, they can change the old one out for you on the spot and recycle it.

Autozone also offers free repair tools through its Loan-a-Tool service and when you’re done changing your car’s oil, they’ll recycle that old sludge for you. Since Pep Boys locations have shops attached to them, the store also offers free brake inspections, free windshield wiper installation, and even a free tire rotation.

Speaking of tire rotations, Discount Tire shops offer free tire rotations and lifetime balancing if you purchase tires from them. But even if you don’t, you can get your tire pressures checked for free and they’ll even patch up any nails. With all of the different free services available around you, there’s typically no need to spend money on simple repairs.

Save even more money by doing it yourself

Man in the process of changing his lawnmower's oil outside a garage, using a disposable aluminum catch pan.
Man in the process of changing his lawnmower’s oil outside a garage, using a disposable aluminum catch pan. | (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

If you want to save even more money on car repairs down the road, then you can always buy a basic tool kit and do some of them yourself. Thanks to YouTube, there are plenty of step-by-step video tutorials on how to conduct simple repairs on your car. And even the owner’s manual in your car’s glovebox might have some maintenance guides.

When should you not take your car to an auto parts store?

If your car is overheating or if it seems like there is a major issue wrong with it, then you might want to head to your local mechanic instead of an auto parts store. While an auto parts store can assist you with minor issues, they typically can’t help with larger repairs.