The Five Most Expensive Unexpected Car Repairs

Do you set aside a bit of money each month to pay for unexpected car repairs? Surveys suggest that most people don’t; perhaps other matters seem more important when your car isn’t giving you trouble. Your priorities can change quickly, though, when you suddenly can’t get to work or experience a breakdown while driving. 

How much can an unexpected car repair cost? These are the top five repair bills that you never want to see.

1. Engine Replacement or Overhaul

Cost: $2,500-3,500 and up

The engine is the most vital component of any car. If your car’s engine suffers a major failure, you’ll lose the use of the car until you pay a large repair bill. Most commonly, an engine suffers complete failure due to improper lubrication. If an engine has an oil leak that isn’t fixed promptly, the resulting friction eventually causes metal-against-metal contact and overheating. When an engine overheats, critical components can bend or crack. Driving a car through deep water can also cause engine failure.

The cost of an engine replacement or overhaul can vary greatly depending on the availability of used engines and the amount of labor involved. Replacing the engine in a popular older Japanese car may be relatively inexpensive. Replacing a turbocharged engine in a late-model German car will be costly.

2. Transmission Rebuild

Cost: $1,500-2,500 and up

Your car’s transmission uses the engine’s power to drive the wheels. It’s a complex assembly full of gears, springs and seals — and some of those parts can fail after tens of thousands of miles. Like an engine, a transmission may also fail because of improper lubrication. If you fail to repair a transmission fluid leak promptly, the resulting metal-on-metal contact can destroy the transmission’s delicate internal components. 

In most cases, it’s possible to reuse a damaged transmission’s hard outer case. A mechanic will open the transmission and use a rebuild kit to replace the broken internal parts. If your car needs a transmission rebuild, it isn’t the parts that’ll sting your wallet. Paying for the hours of labor, though, will definitely hurt.

3. Steering Column Replacement

Cost: $450-1,100

The steering column is the primary way in which you interact with your car. It gives you control over the wheels, the ignition, the cruise control, the turn signal and the windshield wipers. In many cars, the gear selector is also part of the steering column. If your car’s steering column is faulty, it can impair your ability to avoid an accident or maneuver the car in poor weather. Although the cost of a new steering column is often fairly low, you’ll pay dearly for the mechanic’s time due to the complexity of the replacement.

4. Hybrid Battery Replacement

Cost: $2,500 and up

If you own a hybrid car, you enjoy the great fuel savings that come with having a battery-assisted drivetrain. Hopefully you’re putting some of that money away for a rainy day, because your hybrid battery will eventually stop holding a charge. When it does, you’ll learn that replacing a car’s hybrid battery is a very expensive proposition. 

In many hybrid cars, the battery is a required part of the drivetrain; the engine can’t start without it. If a hybrid car has a 12-volt battery, though, it may be possible to start the engine without the hybrid battery — but the car will use some of the engine’s power to operate the hybrid battery generator. Between the weight of the dead battery pack and the usage of the generator, a hybrid car driven as a conventional car will have extremely poor fuel economy.

5. Fuel Pump Replacement

Cost: $1,000-1,200

Your car’s fuel pump sends gasoline from the tank to the engine. It’s necessary to start the car, and it keeps the car going as you drive. If your car hesitates when starting, bucks while driving at a constant speed or doesn’t respond when you push the accelerator, it’s possible that the fuel pump is failing. Since the fuel pump is inside the gas tank, accessing it can be a time-consuming task. Expect to pay your mechanic for several hours of labor.

Consider Protecting Your Car With an Extended Warranty

If you drive an older car and don’t have the cash available for a major repair, you don’t need to experience the constant stress of wondering if car failure will leave you stranded on the highway or prevent you from getting to work. An extended warranty covering a car’s critical components such as the engine, transmission, fuel delivery system and electrical system costs much less than a major repair job.

Are you still uncertain whether an extended warranty is right for your car? Consider the fact that you’re not just paying for parts and labor when your car is in the shop. You’ll also need to pay a towing company to take the car to the shop. You’ll still need transportation, so you’ll need to pay for a rental car. If you’re far from home, you’ll need to pay for food and a hotel stay. A good extended warranty will cover those expenses.

About the Author

Jason Artman is a freelance writer and SEO consultant who specializes in getting traffic without AdWords. Without utilizing traditional paid advertising, Jason helps corporations generate targeted leads and increase their organic search engine visibility.

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The Five Most Expensive Unexpected Car Repairs