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Like most Canadians, you probably rely on your car every day. There are nearly 900,000km of roads across the country, and the average person drives over 16,000km per year. That’s a lot of wear on the nation’s millions of vehicles, so it’s not surprising that an entire industry exists to care for and repair our beloved cars.
Automotive services can seem a little opaque though. How much maintenance does your vehicle actually need? Who should be performing routine care, and how often? How can you be sure you’re going to the right place?
We’re here to answer all these questions and more in our definitive guide to the world of automotive services. Let’s start with some of the most trusted providers in the country; see the table below for their information, service details and contact information.
Automotive services is a general term describing a vast network of professionals, mechanics and technicians who perform a range of maintenance, inspection and repair work on vehicles of all types.
Most commonly we think of our own passenger cars when considering vehicle service, but professionals exist for all types of vehicle, including:
Automotive services come in all shapes and sizes, but fall into a handful of general categories, shown below:
Inspection services encompass all of the inspections that the government requires a vehicle to pass, as well as more general safety inspections. Every province has their own set of standards that road vehicles (of all kinds) must meet; for example, some provinces have emissions tests that passenger cars must pass at regular intervals, to prove that the car is not exceeding mandated levels of pollution emission. Similarly, many provinces have roadworthiness tests to ensure cars are safe to be driven before sale or resale. There are also privately-requested inspection services available, to check the health of a vehicle (either for peace of mind, or when considering a purchase). All of these services rely on trained technicians performing a thorough inspection and analysis of a vehicle’s condition and performance.
Diagnostic services are a little different than inspection services; you can have an inspection done almost anywhen, but you’ll need a diagnostician if there is something amiss with your car, but you don’t know what. Diagnosticians have access to a range of specialized tools that help them to identify problems within the ignition, electrical and engine management systems. These problems can then be addressed by a mechanic. Diagnostic services are becoming increasingly important as new cars rely ever more on high tech electrical systems.
Maintenance services may be the most commonly used automotive services; if you’ve ever had an oil change or a tire rotation, you’ve used them.
Maintenance covers all manner of routine checks and actions, such as:
Regular maintenance checks can alert you to potential safety issues, before they occur, and as such they are recommended at least yearly.
If your vehicle is involved in an accident and sustains damage, you will need the help of repair services. These often come in the form of auto body repair shops, who deal exclusively with repairing damage caused by a collision, and not with more routine mechanical issues. Among repair shops, there are some specialists that cover the most commonly needed work:
While general automotive service providers and garages often provide nearly all of the car care you’ll need, there exist some specialists that focus on individual areas of importance. These specialists can be a great source of knowledge and assistance if you have a single distinct need, and they include:
A recent Canadian study showed that the top ten most commonly performed automotive services are:
So you might now have an idea of the kinds of service that you can get for your car, truck, bike or other vehicle, but where should you go to get work done? This can be a very personal decision, so let’s take a look at the different options:
Many car dealerships have attached repair and service shops, with mechanics that perform high quality work and who have access to all of the parts associated with the cars the dealer sells. Many dealers offer guarantees for their service work, and if you purchase a new vehicle, you may be under warranty to have work performed by the dealer. This can make using a dealer’s service hassle-free and convenient, but if you are not already affiliated with the dealership, this can be an expensive route.
Lastly, there are a number of specialty businesses that cater to one single need. You have probably seen adverts for brake specialists, tire specialists, exotic car specialists, and so on. These businesses have a deeper knowledge base about these single issues, so can be very useful if you know you just need your brakes replaced, or new tires, and so on; but they are less useful if you are seeking more general maintenance or care.
Canada is home to over 125,000 auto workers, and the number of mechanic workshops is expected to reach nearly 30,000 in the next few years. So no matter where you live in the country, you almost certainly have a choice of independent garages and mechanics. Some of these businesses offer comprehensive services, and others are focussed on one or two specialties. The most common business model is for independent mechanics to provide 90% of automotive maintenance services, but to refer you elsewhere for specialized work.
Even though this route is often cheaper than working with a dealership, it’s important when considering an independent garage or mechanic to look at their past customer reviews, so you find one that can be trusted and who will take good care of your car. You can also check to see if they are associated with a school or professional body, or if they have their qualifications.
Note that if you have an extended warranty of some kind, you may be required to perform maintenance more frequently, or have other restrictions that dictate how to keep your warranty valid. Some more significant maintenance tasks are recommended at specific age or mileage markers - for example, changing the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles.
Automotive services are all the services that relate to the maintenance, care and repair of vehicles - largely passenger cars, but also trucks, motorcycles, and larger vehicles. There are thousands of automotive service businesses in Canada, offering a wide range of general to specialty service for vehicles of all kinds.
That depends on your budget and needs. Dealerships have reliable, high quality workshops that can provide specialized service to car brands matching those they sell, as well as general service for all cars. They are likely to have the best supply of parts for a dealer-related brand. However they are also one of the more expensive options. Independent garages and mechanics are often cheaper, but it is important to choose wisely, as reputability can vary. And specialty garages are a great option if you need specialized knowledge or know there is just one, simple task to be performed (e.g. replacing brake pads).
That depends on where you live; different provinces have differing regulations regarding emissions tests, roadworthiness and other issues. If you are buying a car from a dealership, all of these tests should have been automatically performed. But if you’re buying a car from a private seller, double check the requirements in your area to ensure the car meets them.
The expense of maintaining a car varies according to the type of car you have, how much you use it, the age of the car, where you go to perform maintenance, whether you have any warranties or maintenance programs in place, and many other small variables, such as whether your region salts the roads through the winter. All of the factors that influence the rate of wear on the car impact how often maintenance will need to be performed and the associated cost.
Most auto insurance policies do not have a specific requirement that requires drivers to perform maintenance tasks on a set schedule. However, many will require that you keep the car in “good condition.” Insurance also does not cover the cost of routine maintenance.
That depends on the type of car you use, where you live and your expectations for road conditions. While many people get away with all season tires year-round, it’s worth noting that use of winter tires can get you a discount on your auto insurance.
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