Recommended Automotive Services: Should I Have Them Done?

I was in my local Canadian Tire today getting my winter tires swapped out for my all-season tires (despite the snow we got yesterday and last night). When the job was finished, I was not surprised that they "found" a few things that needed my attention. First, they said my all-season tires had uneven wear and that I needed an alignment (= not cheap). However, I knew that when I had the winter tires put on late last Fall, I had them align the wheels. Moreover, there was no uneven wear on the winter tires when I took it in today to get them swapped out. So, I declined nicely.
Second, it was "recommended" that I have them replace my cabin and engine air filters. I can tell you with utmost confidence that they do not need replaced. I just replaced them at my last oil change. I am fairly certain that the techs did not actually look at either of the filters. Also, they would have charged me way too much for that job. Honestly, replacing these filters is a very simple DIY job in most cars (although, admittedly, the cabin air filter in my '08 Saturn Astra is a bit of a pain). But on my '16 Hyundai Santa Fe, they are super simple to replace and the filters don't cost that much (I usually buy them on Wix 24013XP cabin air filter is $16.61 CAD but I have purchased NAPA ProSelect before; a Hengst E1269L is $14.18 CAD). Here's a 1:30 video of cabin air filter replacement on the Santa Fe. Here's a 46 second video on replacing the engine air filter on the Santa Fe. Again, it's not always a simple job on all makes and models, so if you want to do it yourself, consider getting a Haynes manual or some sort of shop manual for your car (or search YT) to learn how to change these out on your automobile. Then you can decide if what the repair shop wants to charge you is worth it or not.
A few recommendations:
  • Meticulously maintain a robust record of repairs and maintenance on your vehicle(s) so that, like me, you will know if you have just done a job (or the shop you are at has already done the job recently and just didn't take time to look at records); then you can make an informed decision regarding whether to have the work done or not.
  • If you DIY, be sure that you purchase quality parts. I do NOT recommend buying parts on Ebay at all, and I urge great care and caution when buying on your local version of Amazon. There are a lot of fake / knock-off parts being sold on these sites now. RockAuto is about the only online auto parts retailer I trust nowadays. And, of course, you can go to your local auto parts store, but be prepared to have sticker shock (esp. at Napa).
  • If you can find one, buy and have on hand a Haynes manual for your car. These books are super valuable and can arm you with expert knowledge. Even if you don't do the work yourself, you could at least check to see what is involved in certain repairs to see if what a mechanic shop wants to charge you for it seems fair.
  • On smaller items like air filter replacement recommendations—or even "uneven tire wear"—don't be afraid to ask the tech/mechanic to show you your filters or tires and offer you an explanation for their recommendations. I recommend that you meet them in the parking lot or, if they allow it, go with them into the shop where they can pop your hood or get behind your glovebox to pull out your actual filter to show you. I mean, hey, it's your car and it's your money. Exercise your right as the owner.
  • Finally, don't be afraid to say "No" to a service recommendation and then take your vehicle elsewhere for a second opinion. Of course, use your head. If the mechanic or tech says, for example, that your wheel is about to fall off because of a bad ball joint or inner or outer tie rod, ask them to show you the symptoms. If it's legit and is a safety issue, get it fixed.
What other recommendations would you add to this list? Post them in the comments section below.