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Do Americans Procrastinate?

Auto Repair Search Trends

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Published on 12/27/2016

Summary

  • 12 years of Google search trends for auto maintenance and repairs are examined.
  • Extremely regular patterns are present in the search data.
  • Symptoms for serious car problems are listed.

Introduction

Most everyone thinks they are keeping their vehicle running well and properly maintained. But are they really? Are we all getting regular oil changes and swapping out soiled engine air filters as promptly as we should be?

To answer these questions, carinorder.com took a look at Google search trends for common vehicle maintenance and repairs. The results showed surprising patterns, which give insight into the American auto owner.

Do or Dawdle?

Search query data for the U.S. was pulled from Google Trends, over a 12 year period. The following repair search queries are shown in the Figure below: air filter, spark plug, oil change[1]:

Auto Repair Search Trends: Graph #1
Figure 1: Twelve years of U.S. search query data for three vehicle maintenance items

Look at the pattern of these search queries! Every year there is a steep decline, followed by a valley (low point) during a certain time period. When do these valleys occur? Smack dab in the winter months, for northern latitudes.

This data implies that if we don’t act on auto maintenance/repair issues during the summer months, we are inclined to wait until warmer times in the future[2]. Sorry folks but that means we are all prone to procrastination when it comes to auto repairs!

The important question is: Does it matter that we avoid taking care of our cars at certain times of the year? The answer, of course, is that it depends. Putting off an air filter change for a small period of time is fine, but waiting to fix your car when a more serious problem is occurring can cost you dearly.

If your vehicle shows any of the following serious symptoms[3], don’t wait until next summer to see a mechanic:

  • Dashboard warning lights – check engine, oil pressure, oil level, etc.
  • Overheating engine
  • Leaking fluids
  • Strange car noises
  • Strong car vibrations or shaking
  • Smoke or abnormal auto smells

Conclusion

The trends indicate we search more for auto maintenance/repairs in the summer months. That in itself is fine. But during the winter, don’t just turn up the radio, ignore that check engine light, or convince yourself that the car sounds “better” today. Take it to a qualified mechanic before the issue snowballs and you are writing a sizable check.

How timely are you with auto repairs? We are running an informal poll on Facebook, so stop by and vote to let us know how you see it.


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Footnotes:

  1. Many other repairs show this cyclical trend. This graph adds in the search query “brakes”. Even more serious car repairs show this trend: for example see water pump, valve cover, timing belt. And for those wondering if “air filter” really represents searches for a car air filter, see this graph.
  2. For those who question that the three car repair/maintenance items shown is this article indicate procrastination for more serious car repairs, see water pump, valve cover, timing belt. The repairs shown in these graphs are of a more serious nature and also display the cyclical trends.
  3. The list of symptoms shown is not exhaustive. If you suspect your vehicle is not running correctly, take it to a mechanic for evaluation.