This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong.
We get a lot of pitches at Get Rich Slowly. Despite the underlying marketing agenda, sometimes these pitches contain useful information that is worth sharing. Case in point, Pep Boys emailed us a whole array of free services they offer. My ears perked up for a few reasons:
- I was impressed with just how many services they offer.
- It made me wonder about other places that offer free car maintenance services.
- A Pep Boys shop just opened downstairs from my building (selfish, sorry).
Not every city has a Pep Boys store, I know. But there are a handful of other places that offer free services too. At any rate, I thought I'd find out more and put together a list.
Tire repair & rotation
Stacey Hamilton is manager of Pep Boys' Services Sales and Operations. She told me, “Our free tire repair is probably our most popular service.”
When I lived in Texas, I bought my tires from Discount Tire. The few times I got a nail stuck in them or something, I'd take my car to Discount, where they'd repair it at no cost since I was a customer. Pep Boys will do the same thing for free, customer or not. Good to know if your tire is losing air and there's a store nearby.
Same story for tire rotation. Many places from which you buy your tires will rotate them for free. You can get this done for free at Pep Boys too.
Also, if you're a Sam's Club member, your membership includes free flat repair.
Windshield wiper installation
“Windshield wiper installation is also popular,” Hamilton said. I asked what the catch was. “You have to buy the wipers at Pep Boys, right?”
“There's no purchase necessary, ever,” she told me.
Most places, including AutoZone, O'Reilly and Advance Auto Parts will also replace your wiper blades for free if you buy them at their store. Really, if you buy wiper blades, chances are the place you're buying them from will put them on for you at no cost.
And, again, if you have a Sam's Club membership, this service is free.
I'm all for doing things myself, and I can replace my own wiper blades. But hey, free is good too.
If your battery seems to be losing it but you're not entirely sure whether you need a new one or it's some other problem, lots of places will test it for free then tell you what the problem is. Pep Boys offers this service, and so do AutoZone, Firestone and Advance Auto Parts.
According to AutoZone's website, they will also charge your battery for free:
“We have a Duralast Fast Charger that can charge your battery for free while you wait. The fast charger charges 12-volt batteries in about 30 minutes.”
Some AAA facilities also offer free testing and charging.
Ah, car problems. If your brakes are making that dreaded squeaking or grinding noise, you can usually get them inspected for free. According to Pep Boys:
“Our free car diagnostic test can help you determine whether they're safe or need to be replaced. Let us remove all four wheels to check pad wear, measure rotors and drums, and check all the related fluids.”
Meineke and AAMCO also offer free brake testing. Similarly, Pep Boys offers a free alignment check.
TPMS light and check-engine-light evaluation
If your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light turns on, they'll evaluate that too:
“This can mean reduced gas mileage and even hazardous driving. When your TPMS light goes onâ€¦we'll give you a free car evaluation — and check your air pressure.”
Similarly, if your check-engine light comes on, you can take your car to Pep Boys and they'll help you figure out what the problem is.
“Pep Boys offers free engine light code retrieval designed to provide the answers you need when your Check Engine light comes on.”
AutoZone and O'Reilly also offer this service. Most auto repair shops do too, and that's not surprising. After all, if you've got problems, you've got to get them fixed somewhere.
But seriously, what's the catch?
The catch is, of course, these places want you in the door. It's the same with credit card rewards. Free stuff — they just want you in the door so you'll spend money, if even eventually.
But the services are totally available for you to take advantage of, even if you don't want to spend anything. Hamilton did tell me that three of Pep Boys' services require enrollment in their rewards program (flat repair, brake inspection, check-engine light). But that program is free and works like a store loyalty program.
“The new or first-time customers are always surprised,” Hamilton said. “The services we offer are services that are usually occurring in a pinch, when you weren't expecting it. And a lot of people think of Pep Boys as retail only. So part of offering the services is, we want to let people know we can take care of service needs too.”
I was surprised as well. I didn't realize just how many maintenance services were available at no cost. Next time I have a car issue, this knowledge will definitely come in handy.