Top 10 Vehicle Repair Issues and The Costs

There are any number of vehicle repairs that you might need to make during the course of ownership. How much do certain repairs costs? Is it worth keeping your vehicle when you are staring down repair bills? Here is a look at the most common vehicle repair issues and their associated costs. Is a vehicle service contract right for you? In most instances, it will be!

Replacing a Vehicle's Engine

A car's engine features pistons, valves, a combustion chamber, numerous cylinders, an intake manifold and a camshaft. If an engine produces a noise that is similar to the sound of knocking, the owner may have to replace the motor within 100 miles to 3,000 miles. When an engine starts to generate smoke, the component could be overheating, and the excessive heat may be caused by a lack of coolant, an insufficient level of oil or a fan that has malfunctioned.

Typically, an engine has a market value of $3,000-$8,000. However, mechanics can sometimes find used engines for less than $2,000. When a repair shop installs a motor, the project's total expenses will generally be between $4,000 and $9,000. While examining a vehicle service contract, a driver will generally determine that, if still in effect, an auto warranty may cover the cost of a new engine as long as the damaged motor contains a sufficient level of oil.

Adding a New Alternator

An alternator features numerous key components, such as the diodes, the rectifier, the case, the central bearing and the voltage regulator. When the main bearing spins, the part comes into contact with brushes, which consist of metal. These brushes deliver electricity to the voltage regulator, and this component sends the power to the car's battery.

Generally, a new alternator has a price of $135 to $235. If an expert installs the alternator, the total costs will generally be between $320 and $480. Furthermore, mechanics sometimes use refurbished alternators that have fresh brushes and new diodes, and these components may feature a price of less than $125.

Installing a New Head Gasket

This part is situated between the cylinder head and the cylinder block. If the head gasket becomes damaged, coolant could begin to leak from the section that is situated above the engine's block. Subsequently, the motor may rapidly overheat, and as a result, the automobile will generally require a new engine.

Surprisingly, a head gasket's market value is usually only between $150 and $200. But when installing a head gasket, the process typically has a duration of more than 10 hours. Consequently, the repair may require total costs of $1,100 to $1,400. Sometimes, mechanics will also have to replace pistons or valves because the motor became too hot. These additional repairs can raise the price by at least $1,400.

Installing a Transmission

If a vehicle's transmission automatically changes the gear while the automobile is moving, the owner may have to replace the transmission. When a transmission does not shift into other gears, the vehicle might only require a neutral safety switch or a cable that connects the shifter to a lever that is linked to the transmission.

Various analyses have shown that a new transmission commonly has a cost of $800 to $2,500; however, customers could find a used component for $350 to $2,500. If experienced mechanics install a transmission, the repair costs will almost always exceed $1,500, and many projects are associated with prices of more than $3,500, depending on the vehicle. When a driver chooses a vehicle service contract, it will typically cover the costs of a new transmission.

Selecting Rotors

Rotors are circular components that consist of metal, and the parts come into contact with a car's brake pads when the vehicle stops. Eventually, the rotors may become particularly thin, so the components could cause the brakes to place uneven pressure on the wheels. If the rotors are rusty, the parts could also generate a noise when the driver steps on the brake pedal.

Each rotor will usually have a price of $55 to $115, but when a mechanic installs four new rotors, a repair shop will commonly charge $350 to $700. Moreover, a business will generally add thick brake pads even if the vehicle does not necessarily need new brake pads, so the extra tasks and the additional parts may raise the costs by more than $150.

Replacing an Oxygen Sensor

This tiny sensor is located in the exhaust manifold, and if this component malfunctions, the part could activate a light that will appear on the dashboard. The device analyzes the level of oxygen that the engine has not utilized. If an oxygen sensor is not examining the air, the vehicle's computer will not be able to compare the concentration of oxygen to the amount of fuel that the motor requires.

Various reports have shown that an oxygen sensor typically has a price of more than $116. If a mechanic installs the new sensor, the specialist will commonly specify repair costs of more than $245.

Adding an Ignition Coil

Before 2001, many vehicles featured distributors, which provided electricity to numerous components of the vehicle. Currently, most automobiles have ignition coils and specialized sensors that offer electricity for certain parts. The ignition coil is connected to multiple wires and the vehicle's battery. If the part fails, the engine may not receive sufficient electricity.

When automotive specialists replace an ignition coil, a business will typically choose a price of $350 to $550. The mechanics could also add new wires, which may have a cost of $50 to $150.

Installing a Fuel Pump

The fuel pump features a bearing, brushes, various lines that deliver fuel, a device that protects the component and connectors that are designed for small wires. If a vehicle's motor is not receiving sufficient fuel, a repair shop may also have to replace the fuel filter, the sensor that controls the fuel pressure or the fuel injectors.

Generally, a mechanic will install a fuel pump for a price of $450 to $850. The costs of the project will increase considerably if the mechanics have to remove the fuel tank, which is connected to more than three lines and numerous wires.

Choosing a Serpentine Belt

Once a serpentine belt has become excessively loose, the part could squeal when the engine is spinning at a speed of at least 1,500 repetitions per minute; however, an especially tight belt may damage multiple components, such as the compressor that controls the vehicle's air conditioner, the alternator and the tensioner. Moreover, apertures can slowly form in a serpentine belt, and if the component breaks, the vehicle will automatically stop.

In order to add a new serpentine belt, experienced mechanics will regularly charge $350 to $550. If a dealership's experts repair the automobile, the price will regularly exceed $700.

An Exhaust System or a Muffler

A vehicle's exhaust system is connected to the intake manifold, which delivers the byproducts of combustion and gases that are especially hot. The exhaust system's lines must have an optimal diameter in order to pressurize the gas, and consequently, the components can significantly increase the automobile's horsepower and generate a desirable sound.

When a repair shop replaces a muffler, the company will generally charge $350 to $650, yet the price of a muffler is commonly between $90 and $250. In order to install a new exhaust system, mechanics regularly specify a price of $500 to $750.

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About Lynette Carrington

Award-winning wordsmith Lynette Carrington has more than 14 years of print, online and television media experience at both local and national levels. She has amassed a portfolio encompassing more than 14,500 published articles, book contributions and duties co-hosting a magazine television show. Lynette sits on the Board of Directors for Southwest Kids’ Cancer Foundation in Arizona. Her work can be seen on Geocentric Media, Inc. sites, including Additionally, her work is featured in her own syndicated column through Geocentric Media, Inc.