Had a mechanic offer to vamp up your timing belt speed lately? Is the guy at the counter at the lube shop a real mechanic? Wondering how necessary a fuel injector cleaning is? Under most circumstances, it isn’t. And timing belt speed? It doesn’t exist, any more than the blinker fluid in the old “gotcha” joke. The person at the counter- NOT a mechanic, most of the time.

Knowing your car and knowing what it has and doesn’t have, what its needs really are, and what a deal really is can save you a lot of money and your car a lot of wear and tear. You’ve seen a billion coupons. Are they worth the glossy paper they’re printed on? Usually not, honest mechanics say. You get a corner- cut with a coupon, not a deal- especially when it comes to oil filters. Often, they’ll replace your filter with one that cost them about 19 cents and could end up costing you in engine damage. The good mechanics will spend between $2.50 and ten bucks for an oil filter.

If your car really needs a fuel injector cleaning, it’s because it was somehow contaminated- which is rare. Save yourself the money and skip it. And be careful about fluids. A mechanic I know recently did about $3,000 of work on a beamer that another mechanic had dumped a cheaper coolant into. Several expensive parts began to leak and had to be replaced.

A transmission flush is also only needed in cases of contamination, but will wipe your wallet clean if it isn’t. Some of the fluids utilized can run you up to 50 bucks a quart! It’s good to have a tranny flush every few years or so, but otherwise it’s not worth the trouble.

Most coupon deals are designed to get your car in and on the lift. Once you sign the paper and hand over your keys, you’re hooked in- but remember, you ALWAYS have the right to say NO to additional repairs and services.

Here’s a short translation of what the ads really mean:

Fuel Injector cleaning/ Transmission flush: “We have a payment due on the machine.”

$20 (or less) oil change: “a teenager will strip your drain plug, then paint it, install an oil filter that cost us less than a 2 oz bag of chips, and glug in 5 quarts when your car takes 4.”

Tune-up: “We pretend we did all the adjustments the computer does automatically. And we might change the spark plugs.”

Fuel- Saver Package: “Regular service interval- and you need new tires. And brakes. Definitely brakes.”

Free (insert number) Point Inspection: “We look under your hood and tell you you need new hoses and a radiator and that catalytic converter is a real piece of crap.”

Free Brake Inspection: “Some guy shines a light on your hubcaps and tells you to spend money.”

So remember, research your vehicle. Actually LOOK at the manual it came with, and if it didn’t come with one, buy one. If you’re suspicious, go to a shop where you can watch them work on your car- and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your car, and your money. Don’t forget it no matter how pushy the guy is.