If you’ve ever owned a pre-owned vehicle then you know that unexpected car problems can arise at the most inopportune times. Even if you’ve purchased your vehicle brand new you can expect to deal with common car complaints at some point during the time you have your vehicle.
The cost of car problems can range from as low as the price of lunch with a friend to as high as thousands of dollars to resolve. However, a car repair estimate is usually a low-ball figure. So when your neighborhood mechanic tells you to prepare a grand for your busted axle, be ready to shell out more.
Are You Financially Ready?
Unexpected car issues can occur anytime. They can also be financially devastating especially if you cannot drive and you need a car for work.
Even if some minor repairs left on the back burner could allow you to continue to drive your vehicle without forking over the repair cost. those unresolved minor repairs will lead up to more costly repairs as parts wear and give out.
Unfortunately, the most common car issues are often the most costly. Let’s take a look at 28 of the most common car complaints that will cost you $8,747 or more if you don’t plan ahead.
When you think of costly car repairs your mind may instantly go to transmission repairs, which is one of the top 10 most common car problems.
The transmission works by transmitting power from your engine to your wheels. If your transmission goes out, then you’re quite literally stuck.
- $2,800 – $3,800 – rebuilding the transmission
- $4,000 – $8,000 – replacing the transmission
Your vehicle’s suspension system allows you to enjoy a smooth ride without feeling every the jolt and bump in the road. It contains your shock absorbers, struts, control arms, tire-rods, and springs.
Replacing a single component of this system will not break the bank. However, because it’s a system that works together if one part has an issue then another part would probably also become affected. It’s not uncommon to find another part has worn out as well.
- $200 – $1,500 – strut or shock absorber replacement, higher for luxury vehicles
- $1,000 – $5,000 – suspension system replacement
3. Hybrid Battery
Eco-friendly hybrid cars are becoming more popular as drivers buy more fuel-efficient vehicles to save money. While hybrid car batteries can last a long time, they eventually need to be replaced due to depletion or to a malfunction. Selecting third-party bumper to bumper extended warranties can lessen the blow of hybrid battery replacement cost.
- $6,000 – hybrid battery replacement
4. Camshaft Repair
The camshaft pulls outside air into the engine so that it can properly function. You could call the camshaft the lungs of your vehicle.
However, failing to maintain regular oil changes and valve cleanings can result in your car’s camshaft becoming clogged. But even if you stay on top of your regular maintenance, the unavoidable effects of aging could cause your camshaft to break.
Replacing or even repairing your camshaft is labor intensive which makes repairs very expensive.
- $1,500 – $3,000 dollars – camshaft replacement
5. Engine Cylinders
Regular maintenance can extend the health of any vehicle and is especially important in maintaining the life of your vehicle’s engine.
Most engine issues will be costly. For example, if you fail to maintain regular oil changes or if there is a blockage in your engine system, it can cause your engine to lock its cylinders.
Taking care of minor problems that occur with your engine before it reaches this state will save you greatly. Moreover, neglecting car maintenance will void your car warranty, whether a third-party extended warranty or the original new car warranty.
- $2,250 – $4,000 – engine replacement
- $5,000 – $10,000 – engine replacement luxury or European car
6. Engine Control Unit
The amount of fuel that is injected into your engine is controlled by the engine control unit or ECU. A bad ECU could result in your vehicle not starting, your engine misfiring or stalling, and other engine performance issues. Jump starting your vehicle on reverse polarity can cause you to have issues with your ECU.
Check your extended warranty if you have adequate coverage as ECU problems, even for new cars, can be quite pricey.
- $1,000 – $3,000 – ECU car repair estimate
7. Airbag Replacement
Most vehicles today are fitted with at least one of these, usually on the driver’s side. The estimated cost of to replace a malfunctioning airbag could make you put this repair on the back burner as not urgent.
However, neglecting this repair could cost you more than money. It is estimated that airbags have saved over twenty-eight thousand lives in the US alone. That’s pretty compelling evidence to give you a reason to repair a broken airbag.
- $207 – $1,000 – airbag replacement
8. Head Gasket
Your vehicle’s head gasket keeps coolant and oil from leaking. When your vehicle blows a head gasket coolant and oil will spray everywhere causing your engine to overheat and the telltale sign of billowing white smoke.
Not having enough coolant in your vehicle or having a coolant leak are the top reasons your engine could overheat and cause a blown head gasket. Extreme weather temperatures could also be the culprit. But regardless this repair is estimated to cost you a hefty price.
- $1,000 – $2,000 – head gasket repair
9. Diesel Particulate Filter
A clogged diesel particulate filter can cause you to feel like your engine has lost its power. The diesel particulate filter or DPF, removes soot from the exhaust gas of diesel engines, reducing pollution. These soot traps can also be a bit pricey to replace.
- $2,000 – $4,000 – DPF replacement
10. Catalytic Converter
Catalytic converters convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. This process makes your vehicle’s emissions less toxic and allows you to pass emissions tests that are required in many states.
A new catalytic converter is not necessarily an expensive part but the labor involved increases the cost. Problems with catalytic converters account for the sixth most common car complaint in the U.S.
- $205 – $2,500 – three-way catalytic converter part (for cars made after 1981)
- $75 – $200 – installation labor per hour
- $600 – $3,000 – total estimated cost of parts and labor
11. Fuel Pump
You will feel the effects of a bad fuel pump at the pump. A faulty fuel pump can decrease your gas mileage causing you to spend more to fuel your vehicle and potentially cause other problems that can result in additional costs such as a blown head gasket due to rising temperatures.
Most car owners are surprised on the high cost of replacing the pump considering the price of parts. Most replacements are time-consuming and labor intensive thus the hefty price tags of common car problems.
- $49 – $689 – fuel pump parts
- $669 – $1,009 – fuel pump replacement
12. Power Steering
A leak in your power steering pump or not properly maintaining these fluids can cause your power steering to fail. Even the ever-reliable Toyota is known for its steering problem.
Sure you can drive without power steering but it will be incredibly difficult to maneuver your vehicle without it.
- $157 – $600 – power steering parts
- $100 – $250 – labor costs for repairs
- $600 – $1,000 – power steering replacement
13. Power Seats
If the engine in your power seats go out your seat could be stuck in a position that makes it hard or impossible to drive safely. While it’s possible to move most power seats if the engine goes out, this isn’t always a certainty and your seat could be stuck until it’s repaired.
- $640 – $700 – seat replacement
14. Timing Belts
Timing belts work with the camshaft in the engine by opening and closing necessary valves. These belts should be routinely replaced to avoid additional costs should they wear and break. However, if your timing belt becomes damaged, your car complaints will be compounded exponentially.
- $150 – $900 – routine belt replacement
- $2,000 – belt repair or replacement due to damage
15. Fuel Tank
A leaking or damaged fuel tank can cause a sudden drop in your fuel gauge and result in more spending at the pump. Because of how fuel tanks are constructed making them difficult to patch, if a leak is detected then you may end up with a recommendation to replace your fuel tank.
Fuel tank problems are the 7th most common car complaints in the U.S. Older cars are also vulnerable to them and other common car complaints.
- $1,200 – $3,000 – fuel tank replacement
16. Air Conditioning Compressor
When an air condition fails it usually has something to do with its compressor. The estimated repair cost for air conditioning compressors has a pretty large gap with a cost depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
If you live in a colder climate then having your air conditioner malfunction may not be that big of a deal but even in some of the colder parts of the US it does occasionally get uncomfortably hot and a working air condition can seem divinely sent on hot days driving.
- $150 – $4,000 – air condition repairs
17. Seat Belts
This relatively inexpensive repair is another one you absolutely do not want to put off. Seat belts save an estimated fifteen thousand lives each year in the US. Not only is it illegal to not wear your seat belt in most states, not wearing your seat belt could cost you in hospital fees should you be injured in an accident while not wearing one.
- $65 – $200 – car repair estimate or replacement cost for a single seat belt
18. Power Windows
Power windows can be more costly to repair than manual ones but the one thing both of these types of windows have in common is that typically when one goes out the other three are not far behind.
- $200 – diagnosis
- $100 – $900 – repair or replacement
19. Heating System
Coolant leaks are commonly the culprit when you have issues with your heating system. Other issues such as a broken heating fan or a bad heater core could be the reason your heating system isn’t working. Repairing your heating system isn’t the most expensive repair but it certainly isn’t the cheapest.
- $300 – $1,000 – estiated cost to repair issues related to your vehicle heating system.
20. Infotainment System
Your vehicle’s infotainment system controls its audio and video information, and entertainment panels. This includes your radio, CD player, tape deck, digital media, and any touch screens that have been pre-installed in your vehicle.
This complex system can be costly to repair or replace depending on the type of vehicle you have and the extent of your infotainment system problems.
- $299 – $699 – repair service
- $1,200 – $1,400 – refurbished infotainment replacement
- $3,000 – 4,000 – infotainment replacement
21. Central Locking System
Power door locks make it possible to simultaneously control the locks of all of your vehicle’s doors. Problems with your central locking system can make it impossible to use certain doors in your vehicle.
- $50 – $600 – repairs only
22. Car Axle Complaints
The car shaft or CV axle connects your transmission and your wheels. A damaged axle is quite dangerous too. If you feel there’s something wrong with your vehicle’s axle, check it out ASAP.
A crack in your shaft can easily become a full-blown break. Since your CV axle also rotates your wheels, your problems are going to be much bigger than just repair costs.
- $170 – $990 – repairs
- $100 – $200 – labor cost
- $168 – $799 – axle shaft replacement
- $235 – $1178 – double axle joint replacement
Some car problems cannot be avoided despite your vogilant maintenance. Take your alternator for example. If your lights are failing or you notice your headights dimming, first check your battery.
Battery replacements can run as high as $175, but if you need to replace your alternator that cost is going to be higher. Parts and labor can be costly, though pickup owners can expect a lower price.
- $300 – $500 – alternator replacement using remanufactured alternator
- $500 – $1,000 – alternator replacement using brand new parts
24. ABS Module
The anti-lock braking system prevents your car from skidding. It’s practically saving your life when driving on slippery roads. Not only will your ABS module keep traction, it will also prevent your wheels from locking up.
For your peace of mind, check and replace, if needed, your ABS module. Depending on the car model and age, costs can range between manageable to hefty.
- $440 – $1,345 – ABS module replacement
25. Starter Motor
The starter motor powers up your engine when your car’s battery ignites the starter solenoid. It’s part of a complex system that starts up your engine as soon as you turn the car’s ignition.
For cars with an accessible starter motor, repair costs will be manageable. However, if your starter motor is buried under other car parts, the cost of labor will shoot the price to nearly two grand.
If you start hearing strange noises such as grinding or clicking sounds when you turn the key, it’s time for a check-up. Don’t wait for starter motor failure. Remember Murphy’s Law, it will get worse.
- $150 – $600 – starter motor repairs for easy-access cars
- $300- $2,000 – repairs in harder-to-access starter motors
- $800 – $1,367 – starter motor replacement
26. Mass Air Flow Sensor
Lack of proper maintenance to your air filter can cause issues to arise with your mass air flow senor. This sensor is responsible for determining how much fuel to send to your engine and measures the amount of air that passes through your engine.
- $25 – $35 – air filter replacement
- $100 – $400 – mass air flow sensor replacement
27. Water Pump
Your vehicle’s water pump ensures that the moves through the engine block and radiator. The water pump also prevents your vehicle from overheating by maintaining the best-temperature environment at all times.
The bad news is when you start getting water pump issues, you would probably end up replacing it. The good news is your powertrain warranty will cover the replacement cost.
$150 – $800 – water pump replacement
Another crucial part that keeps your vehicle from overheating, issues with your radiator can mean problems for other parts of your vehicle. Some of the signs of a radiator on the fritz are leaking coolant or low coolant, the presence of sludge, and your vehicle overheating and possibly causing billowing smoke.
- $65 – $400 – radiator repairs
- $292 – $1,100 – radiator replacement
Some Last Words
These 28 common car problems can cause more than a headache if you’re not prepared when they happen. The good news is that you can plan ahead for these bumps in the road by considering an extended warranty for your vehicle that will give bigger savings and peace of mind for costly repairs.
Save yourself from future headaches and costly car repairs that can drain your life and budget! Your $60 monthly can cover $2600 of common car complaints.
One for the Road – The 4 Most Expensive Car Repairs
Cheap parts but labor-intensive repairs can mean thousands of dollars in costs. You will end up using your own money unless you are covered by an extended warranty.