6 Upsells To Lookout For At Your Next Car Service

woman talking to mechanic
Janelle Gonzalez

Motoring Expert

Jan 04, 2017

Heading to the mechanic for what you thought was a routine service and being hit with a surprise bill in the thousands is a rude shock to the system. All those little extras certainly add up, don’t they?!

Although frustrating, we mostly just accept these extras. We’re told “they’re good for the car”, they “make it run better”, “perform better”, “extend its life” and more. However the facts are that the majority of extras are a complete waste of time, simply adding to your car service costs.

Here’s a list of the common upsell items you’ll find on your service bill, including when you need them and when you don’t.

    Additives, treatments, cleans and flushes are widely upsold by major dealerships through to small workshops as ‘performance enhancers’ and ‘cleaning agents’ for your car. However, modern fuel and engine oil has all the good stuff built in. If you’re servicing your car regularly then you’re already doing what your mechanic is claiming you need.

So what if you’ve missed a service? This doesn’t mean you need an engine oil flush—just service your car a little earlier next time.

Verdict: Waste of money.

    Wheel alignments are a common upsell at most services. You’ll probably be told that your tyres are worn out more at the front. The reality is that every car will wear its tyres out more at the front as the front wheels do more of the steering and braking! You just need your tyres rotated, which you should expect from all good mechanics at each of your services. A tyre rotation is where the tyres are swapped from front to back, and left to right, to ensure even wear on your tyres across their life.

You should expect a wheel alignment every two years or when your tyres are replaced, unless your car is pulling to one side or you’ve hit a large pothole.

Verdict: Every two years or when your tyres are replaced.

    Sometimes called a de-sanitising service, air-conditioning services are often upsold at each service. You may be told that the service will freshen your car’s smell and remove bacteria. And you will pay around $285 for the privilege.

The reality is an air-conditioning service is only very occasionally required in very old cars, or if your air-conditioner stops blowing air. If you’re recommended an air-conditioning service, ask your mechanic to check the air-conditioning filter first as a blocked cabin filter can cause a reduction of air. Cabin filter replacements are normally only required every 30,000 to 40,000kms, though this will decrease if you frequently park under trees, or drive behind trucks and consume their exhaust fumes.

Verdict: Rarely required. Instead ensure your cabin filter is replaced as per your logbook (typically every 30,000 to 40,000kms).

    You may be told that this type of service is required to clean your car’s injectors and valves, removing wax and carbon for smoother running and better performance.

Often mechanics claim this is required every two years or once the car reaches 20,000kms for a cost of around $165. The reality is modern fuel cleans out your injectors and valves, and build-up is rare and only occurs over many, many years, making this an unnecessary addition to your car service cost.

Verdict: Waste of money.

    Wiper rubbers are typically upsold if they leave streaks on the windscreen, and some workshops recommend changing them every year.

Instead, give them a good clean to make them work like new by simply wiping the blades with a damp cloth to remove excess dirt. If they still leave streaks after cleaning, it’s only then that they need replacing.

Verdict: Every five years.

    Replacing major parts early or too frequently is one way dodgy mechanics bump up their bill. Most major parts won’t need replacing until around the 100,000km mark, unless you’re a heavy footed driver or drive in harsh conditions.

Verdict: Every 100,000kms (or as per your logbook).

The best way to push back on the upsells next time you see your mechanic is to arm yourself with the information above. Clued-up, you will be able to confidently say “no thank you” to the list of extra’s and keep your car service costs where they should be.

 For more motor tips check out the Blue Toro Blog.


By Janelle Gonzalez

Motoring Expert

Corporate escapee and mechanic’s wife Janelle Gonzalez has spent the last 24 years in garages, pit lanes and on road trips. Living a double life - corporate by weekday, trackside on the weekends - she shares her husband’s passion for cars. She has now turned her skills to building Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise. Her mission is to help Australians trust mechanics by educating car owners and returning to good old fashioned service values, while changing the lives of mechanics and their families.


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