The most expensive car repairs (and how to prevent them)

Some mechanical failures can be catastrophic, both for your car and for your bank account

Some repairs can turn out to be quite expensive.
Some repairs can turn out to be quite expensive.

All brands advise servicing your car periodically in order to improve safety and avoid breakdowns. However, even when the proper measures are taken in a timely manner, unexpected problems can arise. Some mechanical failures can even lead an owner to consider getting rid of the car, or just stopping using it, due to the difficulty of the repair or the price of the parts.

The following are some of the most expensive repairs you can face, accompanied by tips on how to avoid them, or at least delay their appearance as much as possible.

The whole engine

It is a very serious breakdown, and more common than you think, all due to a simple cause: a broken timing belt. If this happens, the elements of the engine will desynchronize and start to scrape against each other, moving out of rhythm. In this case, the entire engine will have to be changed, since the damage will be significant.

The total cost of changing the engine may vary a lot, depending on the cylinder capacity, the model and other factors, but the bill could easily reach $9,000 or more.

To avoid this breakdown, you must strictly follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and change the timing belt at the indicated mileage. If you take your car to the shop for some other kind of maintenance, it would not hurt to ask them to take a look at it too.

Changing the entire engine is the most expensive car repair.
Changing the entire engine is the most expensive car repair. Dirk Daniel Mann


After the engine, a broken gearbox is the second most expensive item you can face. Even more so if it is automatic. In this case, the expense can set you back $8,000 or more, with about 10 hours of labor.

If the gearbox is manual, the bill can amount to $5,500 or $6,500. To avoid gearbox breakdowns, it is essential to carry out the proper maintenance of the oil that lubricates its gears; driving smoothly and without sudden bursts of acceleration will also extend its useful life.

The gearbox of a car.
The gearbox of a car.

Cylinder head

The cylinder head gasket seals the combustion chambers. To preserve it, you have to keep up to date with oil and coolant changes, and monitor their levels regularly.

The most expensive part of the repair is the labor, because accessing it, changing it and reassembling everything takes 15 to 20 hours. A job like this can cost up to $4,000.

The cylinder head gasket of a vehicle.
The cylinder head gasket of a vehicle.


This is one of the most delicate components in the engine, and it is easy to preserve it for a long time. When starting the car, waiting about 30 seconds before you start driving is enough. It is also important, maybe even more, to wait a while when you stop. Before turning off the engine, leaving it idling for a minute or two will allow the turbocharger to cool down gradually instead of suddenly, which is terrible for its parts and can lead to seizing.

The repair doesn’t take too long, but the component itself is expensive. The total bill can exceed $3,000.

The injectors spray the fuel inside the combustion chamber.
The injectors spray the fuel inside the combustion chamber.


These are responsible for atomizing the fuel and spraying it into the combustion chamber. Repairing them is expensive due to the price of the parts, although the job can usually be done in less than two hours.

The price of the repair can be close to $2,000; if you want to avoid it, the fuel filter must be changed at the indicated mileage. You should also pay attention to the fuel that you use and the gas station where you buy it.

A particulate filter.
A particulate filter.

Other breakdowns

In addition to these, there are other problems that can also take a good bite out of your bank account. Among them, there is the air conditioning, whose most critical part is the compressor. If it must be changed, it will cost more than $1,500.

The particulate filter is especially sensitive in vehicles that move around big cities. If you don’t want it to get damaged, it is recommended to go out on the open road from time to time so that it warms up and regeneration is more effective. Its cost can also exceed $1,500.

The clutch also becomes a very common failure after many thousands of miles, as it is one of the parts that suffer the most wear. This bill will be close to $1,000.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS