Common car repairs to look out for… and how to prevent them

Written by

Luke Hilton

Luke Hilton is a Warrington-based email content writer and designer in the financial services industry. He enjoys mixing analytics and creativity and can usually be found with his head buried in stats, piecing together the patterns that make good content. In his spare time, the drive to figure things out continues with what can only be described as a love-hate relationship with DIY. With a keen love of the outdoors, Luke is usually up a mountain somewhere or in his garden growing his own oasis.

Friday 17th May 2024

UK drivers often spend thousands of pounds on car repairs each year, with studies suggesting almost two-thirds have to pay for repairs annually.

Unexpected car repair expenses can come as a shock. But what are the most expensive car repairs and how can you avoid them?

Tyre replacement

Cost: From £45 to £250, depending on the quality of tyre chosen [1]

While industry experts suggest the average lifespan of a tyre is around 20,000 miles, your tyre tread provides a good rule of thumb for when it needs changing. The legal limit is 1.6mm, but you should consider changing the tyre when its tread is less than 3mm. If you rarely drive and your tread is still fine, you should think about getting your tyres professionally checked when they’re over five years old to ensure they remain in peak condition.

You should also consider getting your wheel alignment checked, particularly if you’re having one of your tyres replaced. Something as simple as going over a pothole or kerb could throw your wheels out of alignment, which can impact the car’s handling and cause uneven tyre wear.

Keep your tyres in good condition by regularly checking your tyres for low pressure or any visible signs of damage. A small puncture, for example, may be able to be repaired quickly and cost-effectively – but if you wait and the damage gets worse, the tyre will need to be fully replaced.

You could also extend the life of your tyres by rotating your front and rear car tyres at regular intervals, as your front ones typically wear out faster.

Brake repairs

Cost: From £300 [2]

Brake pads wear down naturally, and there’s not much you can do to prevent that. However, it’s vital you replace them when necessary – along with any other required brake maintenance. If your brakes are making a grinding noise or feel spongy, get them inspected as soon as you can.

Brake pads will typically need replacing after 20,000 to 40,000 and brake discs after 30,000 to 50,000 miles though it’s usually more cost-effective to get them both replaced at the same time.

Windscreen repairs

Cost: From £200 [3]

It’s an offence to drive with a damaged windscreen so, if you spot even a small chip, get it sorted as soon as you can before it turns into a bigger crack. While a small chip could cost just a few hundred pounds to repair, you could be looking at up to £1,000 for a full windscreen replacement depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

Avoid windscreen damage by driving slowly and carefully along roads that may kick up stone chips and debris.

Clutch repairs

Cost: Over £1,000 [4]

You may be able to tell if there’s a problem with your clutch if your left pedal feels spongy, you have difficulty changing gears, the car has an unusually high biting point, or you can smell burning whilst driving.

While there’s not a huge amount you can to do prevent clutch issues, the way you drive can have an impact. For example, don’t hold the car on the clutch while on a hill – use your handbrake instead.

Car body repair

Cost: Various, depending on repairs required [5]

Your car’s exterior might need all sorts of repairs, from scuffs and scratches to dents or rust. The severity of the damage, plus the make and model of your car, will determine how much it costs to fix but you could be looking at hundreds of pounds for even a small repair.

While there’s not a lot you can do about scuffs or scrapes that happen while out and about, you can protect your car from dirt and debris that could cause damage to the body by giving it a good wash regularly.

New catalytic converter

Cost: Up to £1,000 [6]

Your car’s catalytic converter cleans up harmful substances in exhaust gas so, if it’s faulty, you need to get it sorted straightaway as your car will release harmful emissions into the environment otherwise. If you notice poor engine performance or dark exhaust smoke, you may have a clogged catalytic converter.

Basic tips to prevent your catalytic converter from becoming clogged include keeping your exhaust clean, using high-quality fuel, and maintaining your engine though you should always ask a qualified mechanic to inspect your car if you have any questions or concerns.

Battery replacement

Cost: Around £200 [7]

Car batteries should last between three and six years, and some may even come with a warranty. Their efficiency will naturally decrease over time but the way you drive can make a big difference to the battery life. Keeping your lights on when the engine isn’t running, only doing short journeys, leaving your car unused for long period of time and residue build-up can all contribute to a battery packing in much sooner than it should do.

If your engine takes longer to start or there’s a battery warning light on your dashboard, don’t wait to get it checked out by a mechanic.

A new alternator could be pricey to repair, too – expect to pay upwards of £350. It is responsible for recharging your car’s battery so, if there’s a fault, your car might struggle to start or you might notice strange noises coming from the engine.

Timing belt replacement

Cost: from £250 to £1,000 [8]

According to Halfords, a timing belt ‘keeps essential components of your car engine working in-sync’. When your timing belt needs to be replaced will depend on the car and manufacturer, though it’s usually between 40,000 and 100,000 miles.

If your timing belt needs replacing sooner, you’ll hear a rubbing sound coming from the engine or notice decreased engine performance – if your car even starts at all.

There’s not a lot you can do to prevent your timing belt from needing to be replaced. However, getting it replaced at the recommended interval means it’s less likely you’ll experience an unexpected broken timing belt.


Cost: £100 to £300 [9]

Your car’s radiator prevents the engine from overheating so, if your radiator is damaged, this could swiftly become a major issue.

If you spot pools of coolant under your car or notice your engine is often overheating, this could be a sign of a faulty radiator and you should get it inspected by a mechanic as soon as you can.

Maintain your radiator properly to extend its life. For example, use antifreeze mix when filling up your radiator to prevent corrosion or damage.

New suspension systems

Cost: Around £300 [10]

Suspension systems helps to create a smooth ride by maximising the friction between the tyres and the road.  You’ll usually notice if something’s gone wrong with your suspension system if your can leans to one side when stationary or feels bumpy/ bouncy.

Your suspension system can be damaged by bumpy roads or potholes so the best way to look after your suspension system is to avoid driving over poorly-maintained roads – particularly at high speeds.

Head gasket fault repair

Cost: Over £700 [11]

The head gasket prevents oil and coolant from leaking into the cylinders and mixing together. Failures are typically caused by the engine overheating so make sure you keep your cooling system in good condition.

As with most car repairs, spotting the signs early can prevent more costly repair fees – particularly if you can prevent a blown head gasket or damage to your engine. Look out for signs such as an overheating engine, white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe or a decrease in engine power.

The best ways to prevent car issues

Know your vehicle

Stay on the look-out for any changes in your car’s performance, and regularly inspect your vehicle to identify minor issues. It’s usually a lot cheaper to rectify a small problem so don’t take a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to car maintenance.

Get your car serviced regularly

While you may be able to tell if something has gone ‘wrong’ with your vehicle, you shouldn’t just wait until symptoms appear. An annual service alongside your car’s MOT will identify any issues so you can hopefully get them fixed before the damage becomes serious.

Your service may also include fluid checks, an engine oil change and filter change, to help you keep up with your general car maintenance.

Drive carefully

The way you drive and where you drive can impact wear and tear. For example:

  • Avoid driving on poorly-maintained roads
  • Drive slowly over speed bumps
  • Keep revs low when starting your car
  • Avoid abrupt stopping and starting
  • Change gear smoothly
  • Stop riding the clutch or brake
  • Don’t overload your car
  • Never ignore warning lights on your car dashboard

Funding unexpected car repairs

An out-of-the-blue car repair can be alarming – particularly if you don’t have the funds saved up to pay for the repairs outright.

In an ideal world, you might prefer to take money out of your savings or emergency fund to pay for car repairs as this would save you paying interest charges. However, if you don’t quite have enough money saved up or you’d prefer to spread the cost over time instead then you may wish to borrow the money you need instead.

With a Novuna Personal Finance car loan, you could borrow from £1,000 at low rates from just 7.4% APR Representative (£7,500-£25,000). Use our loan calculator to work out how much it could cost to borrow the money you need.