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auto repair February 12, 2018

From O2 Sensors to Catalytic Converters: A Pattern Emerges About Consumers and Auto Repairs

We have been following and posting some stories to our Facebook page that suggest an interesting pattern for consumers of auto repair services.

A recent study CarMD that takes a look at the cost of auto repairs revealed that total costs have been coming down nationally. Simultaneously the price of parts has been going up, making two auto repair stocks the darlings of Wall Street. AutoZone and Snap On tools have been proving to be a great investment even in this economy.

The same study that looked at auto repair costs revealed some interesting information about the kind of repairs that were the most common across the nation, as well as regionally. Across the board, however, the type of repairs seem to suggest a pattern of folks putting off small repairs, which is resulting in greater and more costly repairs. One can begin to see the connection between the behaviors of consumers and the success of auto repair stocks. And the economy is responsible for both outcomes.

People are holding on to older model cars to save monthly expenditures but then are letting small problems slide that end up costing them more down the line. Or they are trying to fix issue themselves without really knowing what they are doing. The owners – and the cars – are suffering in the end as they dig deeper into their wallet to resolve the problems.

The fact that catalytic converter repairs were the second most common reason the “check engine” light came on in Wyoming, where the cost of auto repairs were highest, was especially telling. This is indeed an expensive fix. Catalytic converter repairs are hardly common enough to make the top ten in most auto-shops, but when we do come across this issue in Northern Virginia, it is are often the result of putting off smaller, lower-cost repairs – particularly the replacement of the oxygen sensor.

So what was the most common repair nationally? At the top was the replacement of oxygen sensors. So car owners be forewarned. When not working properly, this issue can result in up to 40 percent drop in the fuel economy. (The CarMD Vehicle Health Index study’s findings showed that the top five repairs had negative impacts on gas mileage.) An engine needs oxygen to burn gasoline, but there is a perfect oxygen to gasoline ratio that ensures the engine is running efficiently. An oxygen sensor detects this ratio and provides feedback to engine to ensure the right amount of fuel is being delivered based on the oxygen levels.

Faulty oxygen sensors can be challenging to detect, but there are a few signs. You may experience a rough engine idle or feel like the engine is missing when at low idle. You might also hear pinging in the engine or experience a big drop in gas mileage. The problem might also present itself in emissions testing, as the sensor may be failing to keep emissions within the required limits. If you are experiencing any of these issues, you should drop in to visit with your mechanic for a quick check.

Don’t put off small repairs for too long. Wiygul Automotive Clinic would never say “we told you so” – we just aim to prevent you from spending more money down the road.

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