Avoid car repair rip-offs (part 7)

When it comes to repairing your car, how do you avoid the trap of paying for services you don’t really need?

One of the most common ways car repair facilities can rip off unsuspecting customers, is to oversell items – services you don’t need, or don’t need just yet.

This is the seventh in a series of articles, developed exclusively for readers of CARP.ca and 50PLUS.com by X-Mechanic Inc. that explains how to avoid this trap.

In all, we’ll cover 14 separate items that are prime candidates for being oversold.

#7 – Power Steering Flush

The rip-off:
Selling this service to you when not required

What it is:
In order to describe the power steering flush we need to describe what power steering fluid actually does. Power steering is a hydraulic assisted steering system. Most systems use a belt driven power steering pump that pressurizes the power steering fluid. This pressurized fluid is routed to what’s called a rack and pinion (basically a cylinder), that helps push the wheels in the direction that the steering wheel is turned.

What the service consists of:
When performing a power steering flush or service as it is also referred, the mechanic will remove the return line of the power steering pump and install the flushing machine. They will usually suck out some old fluid and install a flushing fluid. Then the steering will be moved back and forth several times to remove any dirt or debris. For there, they will suck out all the old fluid and fill it with new fluid.

When should you have it done?
The power steering flush doesn’t need to be performed on a regular basis. It is not a “scam” per se, but it is a way for a repair facility to generate more revenue. You can go to any vehicle manufacturer’s web site and find the maintenance schedules for your specific vehicle. You won’t find any mention of a power steering flush or service. Under normal conditions the power steering fluid doesn’t have to be changed as vehicles go 300,000 kms and 25 years with the same power steering fluid with no adverse effects.

There are only two exceptions to this rule:
1. In the rare event that the manufacturer recommends it at a certain interval in your owner’s manual that came with your vehicle. (Not the dealer, whose “advisors” are on commission).

2. If the power steering pump went bad and there is debris throughout the power steering system. It would then be a very good idea to have the system flushed out to remove the pieces of the pump that have contaminated the system to avoid any power steering related issues resulting from the debris .

With these two exceptions, don’t let them sell you a power steering flush or power steering service at all.

Read the rest of the articles in this series: