Just in case you need proof that most Americans are suffering in this stagnant economy, try this experiment: next time you’re at shopping mall or discount store, take a look at the cars around you. Expect to see bald tires, in some cases tires that are worn down to the radial belts. You’ll find scored brake rotors aplenty, too, evidence that a front brake job simply isn’t in the budget, no matter how dangerous driving with worn-out brake pads might be. If you could look in on drivers starting their cars (not something we’d recommend, by the way), we’re sure you’d see quite a few “Check Engine” lights glowing on instrument panels, too.
It’s one thing to have a hunch about the state of car repairs, but now AAA is backing this up with data. According to a recent AAA survey, one in four Americans could not afford a car repair expense of $2,000, and one in eight Americans couldn’t afford a car repair totaling $1,000. In other words, more than 12 percent of the drivers around you couldn’t afford to replace brakes, rotors and tires on their cars, at least not at the same time. Double that number of drivers couldn’t afford significant repairs, such as an engine or transmission replacement, or the cost of a new ECU.
As AAA points out, reaching that $1,000 or $2,000 threshold isn't difficult, especially if you've put off scheduled service to pay other bills. Even a transmission repair can top $2,000, and four new tires for contemporary vehicles with factory wheels larger than 18 inches can easily exceed $1,000.
As you’d expect, American drivers are also holding on to existing cars longer, and are delaying or ignoring both required maintenance and repairs. Ignore something like a “check engine” light long enough, and you could end up replacing an expensive catalytic converter instead of a relatively inexpensive oxygen sensor.
Still, when there are other bills to be paid, it’s easy to put off upkeep and repairs on your car until it no longer starts or leaves you stranded by the side of the road.
[American Automobile Association]