How and where to get car repairs for free

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HOUSTON – Car repairs can be costly. Waiting at the repair shop can really throw a wrench into your day; but you may be paying more than you have to for basic repairs. Some basic services are free at dozens of businesses in our area. 

"Rev the engine up just a little bit," instructed Cass Weldon to a car owner as he looked under the hood.

Weldon may not be a mechanic, but he does know enough to keep drivers out of pricey repair shops for services they don't need. 

Every employee at every Advance Auto Parts store can test your battery, starter and alternator for free. If your check engine light is on, they can scan your engine to tell you what's wrong. 

"If it's something simple, you're not going to have to pay a shop to diagnose it and you can view that information and we can help with that," said Advance Auto's Brittany Moore.   

Advance Auto is not the only shop that performs the free services. Pep Boys and Auto Zone will do many of the same jobs; and Discount Tire will check your tire pressure, fix your flats and rotate your tires for free even if you bought your tires somewhere else! 

Buy your windshield wipers at Advance Auto; and they'll put them on at no charge. Purchase a new battery; and they'll install it for free with little to no wait. 

"In any given time, we can easily get you in and out in about 30 minutes," said Moore.  

To find out just how much you'd save, we priced a new battery from a local dealership for a Toyota Sienna. They quoted $130 plus $39, installation for a total of $169. 

At Advance Auto Parts, the same type battery is $130. If you buy it online and go to the store to get it installed, you can usually find coupon codes. We found one for 20% off, making the total price $104. That's a savings of $65. 

If you're handy under the hood, or you'd like to be, Advance Auto will loan you tools you need for certain jobs. You have to leave a deposit, but you'll get it back when you return the tools. You can watch DIY videos on its website to find out how to make some repairs yourself. Here are the list of free services offered by each business: 

Advance Auto Parts

Free check engine light scanning
Free battery installation
Free wiper blade install
Start & alternator testing 
Free loaner tools
Buy online (with a discount) and go to store to pick it up. 

Auto Zone

Free check engine light scanning 
Free battery installation & charging 
Free starter, alternator & voltage regulator testing
Loan-A-Toll program (free when returned)

Pep Boys

Free Services 
Battery Charge & Installation
Tire Rotation
Windshield Wiper Installation
Code Retrieval
Alignment Check
Brake Inspection

Discount Tire

Fix flats for free (no matter where purchased your tires)
Free rotation and tire inspection (no matter where you purchased your tires). Every 5000 miles. 
Free Tire Pressure Checks.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.