How do you know if car repair is taking too long?

How do you know if car repair is taking too long?

Whenever your car is off the road, either through an accident or wear and tear, it can be frustrating not having access to your vehicle while it’s being repaired. But how long should you expect to wait for repairs, and what do you do if the mechanic is taking longer than expected? 

In this article, we’ll give some guidelines on how long various car repairs take, and what to do if you feel like your mechanic is taking too long.

How long do car repairs take?

Depending on the car, the problem and the garage’s workload, car repairs can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 6 weeks, even longer in some cases. It’s advisable to check with the garage on the last point before dropping your car off.

How long is too long for a car repair?

If your mechanic has taken more than 1 week to complete suspension or servicing work, or more than 4 weeks to finish major engine work, it might be worth raising your concerns with the garage in writing. Almost all car repairs can usually be completed within 2-3 weeks, even major engine work.

What cars take longer to repair?

The type of car you drive affects the time taken to repair in a couple of different ways. Some cars are more complex, with a larger number of components used to construct them. This is especially important when dealing with engine components such as cambelts, water pumps and alternators.

Because these parts are generally buried in the engine bay, a car with a smaller, simpler engine will take less time to take apart than a complex high-performance or luxury car. A lack of space in the engine compartment will also hinder disassembly.

Parts availability can also cause delays, especially if your car is particularly old or uncommon. Even on run-of-the-mill vehicles, some parts can sometimes be hard to obtain.

How long do car insurance repairs take?

When you have an accident on the road, it’s likely your insurance company will take the car away for assessment. Depending on the severity of the accident and the age and value of the car this could result in a write-off. Regardless of the outcome, this process can take anything from 3 days to 6 weeks.

Some insurance companies will be able to fix your car sooner but it also depends on the demand of the repair centre, the time of year etc.

How long do car repairs take after an accident? 

If you’ve had a major accident, with an airbag going off and significant paint damage then you should expect the repairs to take from 2 weeks to 2 months before you get your car back.

Paintwork is usually the most expensive and time-consuming part of accident repair. Whilst mechanical components can be easily diagnosed, bought and replaced within a day or so, the numerous, complex and slow processes involved in paint repair can take much longer.  

Frontal impacts tend to be easier to fix where bodywork is concerned, as the bonnet, wings and bumper can be removed and replaced. ON modern cars though there are a lot of crash impact systems in the front, meaning these need to be thoroughly inspected and repaired. 

The rear of a car, apart from the bumper, is almost always made of one solid piece of bodywork including the roof. Damage to the rear quarter panels can require much more skilled bodywork repair and time. 

Do garages charge to look at your car for brake problems or strange noises? 

Many garages will offer free inspections or health checks, these would include looking over the braking system and suspension. These are often booked as a specific service but at no cost to the customer. 

It may be possible to take your car to a garage that does not offer this service, but bear in mind it may have to wait until their current jobs are completed before they can properly inspect your car. 

In some cases, the mechanic would need to take your car on a short test drive to hear the noises themselves. For a better understanding of what to listen out for if your car is making a noise,  check out our guide here

Do garages charge to look at your car for bodywork repairs? 

It’s advisable to find a garage that specialises in crash damage or bodywork repairs, as your standard MOT garage may not undertake this work. If you can find an insurance-approved garage this would be better still.

Most insurance repair garages will not charge to briefly inspect your car after accident damage. Bear in mind that although crash damage can look superficial and not too bad, the complex impact-absorbing systems inside bumpers and front chassis sections can be damaged even at low-speed impacts.  

For this reason, it's unlikely that most garages would want to give a quote on any work other than very minor, obvious repairs such as scrapes to doors, wings and such.

Typical car repair times

These are some rough estimates of how long to expect your car to be in for, these times will vary based on garage demand, force of impact and type of car.  

How long to repair headlights

The average time it takes to repair or replace headlights is one day. 

Most headlight assemblies can be bought from stock in the UK and received in a few days. On most cars, replacement headlights are an easy - but expensive - part to source from the manufacturer.  
Related: How much do headlight replacement bulbs cost?

Bumper damage - How long to fix?

The average bumper repair time is 1-2 weeks, depending on the level of painting needed. 

Bumpers are another part that is made to be replaced when scraped or damaged. The issue is that most suppliers of motor repair parts won’t carry them in the right paint colour - depending on the age of the vehicle this may not match anyway due to paint fade. 

For this reason, most body panels are bought in primer, and then colour matched by a body shop before fitting, hence the longer lead time. 

How long to fix the Suspension Damage 

Allow 4-5 days for most minor and moderate suspension damage. 

The severity of the impact that caused the damage is key here to affecting the time to repair. Minor bumps at fairly low speeds with curbs, potholes etc usually mean just the replacement of suspension arms, ball joints and bearings. These parts are all available off the shelf for most cars. 

If however the impact has caused damage to the subframe and chassis of the vehicle, much more work could be required - in most cases, bent subframes/chassis are not economical to repair and would be written off by the underwriters. If worth fixing, allow 2-3 weeks. 

Alloy wheel damage repair time

A new wheel would be shipped out in 3-4 days and fitted in a matter of minutes by a garage with the right equipment. 

Potholes or debris in the road can easily damage alloy wheels, 9 times out of 10 a wheel with anything more than curbing is not worth fixing. The good news is new alloy wheels are readily available both new and on the used market.  

Time taken to repair exhaust

Exhaust repairs are fairly commonplace, and usually only take 1-2 days. 

If your car is louder than normal, or you can smell exhaust fumes whilst driving, you may well have an exhaust problem, such as a hole or broken joint. This is a common issue, especially with older cars as the exhaust is subject to road water and salt constantly.  

Because typical exhaust parts are cheap and readily available, many garages are usually equipped to undertake this work and a specialist is usually not required.  

Engine servicing times

Most garages would be able to complete a full service in a few hours. 

Whilst not necessarily a repair, it is a vital task that should be done if you wish to prolong the life of your engine, maintain your car’s resale value and more. To read more on the benefits of car servicing, read our guide here

Wheel Bearing replacement times 

Wheel bearing replacement rarely takes more than 1-2 days. 

Wheel bearings are something that experience wear every time you move your car. They allow the wheels to spin relative to the suspension components in an efficient way. Due to poor road conditions and even normal driving, they wear out. 

How long to fix a head gasket 

Head gaskets are fairly labour-intensive to change, allow 4-7 days for this work to be completed.

Head Gaskets are a crucial component of an engine, separating the various fluids from mixing, as well as holding back the combustion pressure inside the engine’s cylinders. Because of this, when they blow the engine needs a large amount of work. 

Find out the prices to expect on a head gasket replacement here. 

Failed Cambelt repair time 

Typical  c will take 1-2 days if the belt hasn't broken, or 1-2 weeks if it has. 

Cambelts are another critical engine component, they keep the time between the engine's crankshaft and valves. Not only will an engine with a broken cambelt not run, but a snapped belt can cause considerable damage too. 

Variable valve timing fault time

Allow 2-3 days for repairing a variable valve timing fault. 

Most modern petrol engines use variable valve timing, many under different names such as VANOS, VVT, VTEC and more. Whilst the systems function slightly differently, the purpose of them is the same, to alter the valve opening based on engine load and speed. 

 It would be unlikely to have a fault with a VTEC system on a Honda engine, BMW Vanos systems and others require routine maintenance. 

Related Reading: BMW Vanos Replacement Costs

How do you know if a mechanic is taking too long with car repairs? 

If your car has been in the garage for longer than a week after the estimated time given, the first thing you should do is contact the garage for an update. Many garages will be upfront with the reasons why, typical hold-ups can be a delay in parts arriving, staff being ill or encountering unforeseen problems.  

Before dropping off your car, get an idea from the garage or mechanic on how long the repairs would typically take. Ask them for an idea of how long the parts take to arrive, so you know later.  

If your mechanic repeatedly cannot give a status update or reasonable reason as to why it’s taking so long, look into your rights with the motor ombudsman. For more information, you can read our guide here

Find a reputable repairer and split the cost into interest-fee car repair monthly payments with Bumper. Available at 1000s of partners across the UK.

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