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Monday, January 24, 2011

Preventative Car Maintenance is the Best Way to Save Money

With the economy as it is today people are always looking for ways to save money. There are lots of ideas floating around the Internet suggesting ways to cut corners in your everyday spending, teaching you how to save money in the long run. One area that simply cannot be cut however is in the area of car maintenance.
An old TV commercial once quoted a mechanic who was advertising oil filters as saying, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” What he meant by that is, you can spend $50 on car maintenance and replace your dirty oil filter today, or you will be paying me $500 to replace your ruined fuel pump later.
Auto maintenance is required if you drive a car. Spending several hundred dollars to change an engine’s timing belt is far less expensive than spending the thousands it would cost to rebuild the entire car engine. Preventative car maintenance is a much better way for saving money in the long run when it comes to car repair.

10 Money Saving Car Maintenance Ideas

Even though car maintenance is a must, there are some smart ways to save money when you do it. Here are 10 money saving ideas when it comes to auto maintenance.
1) Become familiar with your car owner’s manual- Probably buried somewhere in the glove compartment of your car is a little book called the owner’s manual.  The owner’s manual outlines the appropriate maintenance procedures and intervals to keep your car in top condition.  One of the first and possibly most effective steps to proper car maintenance is to become familiar with the factory recommended maintenance schedules for your particular car.  If you have misplaced your owner’s manual you can buy one from your local car dealer or download it from your automakers website.
2) Keep on Schedule- Most automakers suggest a “normal” or “severe duty” schedule of auto maintenance required to keep your car running in top shape.  The more “severe duty” schedule will require more frequent oil and fluid changes.  It is important to honestly consider how you use your car, and decide what the best car maintenance schedule is for you to follow.  Even if you don’t think you put a lot of miles on your car, continued stop-and –go driving like you might experience in larger cities may put your car in the “severe duty” category for car maintenance.
3) Check your car’s oil level monthly- Even though automakers usually recommend oil changes do be done at intervals of 5,000-7,000 miles it doesn’t excuse you from checking your car’s oil level more frequently, or between changes.  Approved Auto Repair shops are reporting that they are seeing more cars coming in for oil changes with their oil level being several quarts low on oil.  Low oil is a recipe for disaster when it comes to engine failure. Remember it is normal for an older car to use more oil as it gets older, with even up to one quart per every 1,000 miles.
4) Keep your coolant level up- When you check your oil level each month, you should also make sure to check the coolant level at the same time.  You can look at your owner’s manual to find out where the coolant reservoir is located on you automobile.  Look for signs of seepage around the radiator and for cracks, or strange bulges, in the radiator hoses.  These signs may be a clue that your car requires some preventative radiator maintenance.
5) Check your car battery- Typically a car’s battery life is about three to five years before it needs to be replaced.  Some batteries have a charge indicator “eye” which shows you if your battery is fully charged.  Although this indicator is not always accurate, the eye should be green if your battery is in good shape.  Most batteries are sealed, but are not entirely maintenance free like you might think.  One of the most common problems that can occur when it comes to your car battery is the corrosion that can form on the battery terminals.  If it looks like your terminals have grown moss, gently scrub them with an old toothbrush and a 50-50 mix of water and baking soda.  Clean terminals allow for your battery to have a solid connection.  Be sure your battery cables are tight to the terminals, and look for cracks or fraying on any belts that drive the alternator or other engine components.
6) Check under your car- Make sure that you check the ground after your car has been parked.  Your car holds a number of different kinds of fluids and theoretically all of them should remain in your car, not leak on the ground.  An occasional drop of engine oil or a trickle of condensed water from the air conditioner is no cause for alarm, but puddles of fluid is. Make sure the fluid on the ground is not yellow, green, red or pink.  These colors are signs of serious issues with such components as breaks, transmission or cooling systems.
7) Change your filter regularly- It is important to change your air and fuel filters regularly, with the higher emphasis on the fuel filter.  The most common cause for fuel pump failure is because of a dirty fuel filter.  Also, make sure to fill your car with gas often to avoid running too low on fuel.  The ethanol in gasoline allows for sediment to remain at the bottom of the tank causing sediment to form on the fuel filter when used.  This can be prevented by not running on empty, and refilling more frequently.  Air filters on the other hand are not as critical to change as often.  Research has shown that fuel economy may even increase with a slightly dirty air filter.
8) Check your car’s tire pressure- Buy a gauge to check your car’s tire pressure.  Make sure the pressure in the tires is what the automaker suggests in the owner’s manual.  By maintaining proper tire pressure it will prevent premature wear on your tires.  Proper tire pressure also increases your car’s handling ability and braking capabilities.  Don’t rely on the gauge on the hose at the gas station to be accurate; it has been misused far too many times.  You can buy a gauge at an auto parts store for about $5.00. If you car doesn’t have a tire-pressure monitoring system consider replacing the valve stem caps with caps that warn when the pressures are getting low.  This set of valve stem caps is usually under $20.00.

9) Maintain the looks of your car- If you keep your car shining with frequent car washes, and twice a year waxes, it will enhance the resale value of your car by maintaining the interior and exterior of your car. You will also feel better about driving a clean, shiny, car. A little touch up paint, that you can purchase from the car dealer, will do wonders for small chips and nicks in the paint too. Make sure if you get a ding in your windshield from a rock or other flying object that you get that crack filled immediately.  If you see a windshield repair specialist before the crack spreads, you may avoid the costly replacement of the whole windshield later.
10) Get to know your mechanic or service technician- One of the best things you can do is to build a relationship with your mechanic.   The cost of repairs differs considerably from shop to shop so make sure you do your homework when it comes to repair service.  Once you have found a mechanic you can trust, take your car to be repaired there in the future.  It is even a great idea to create a relationship with a car dealership service person.   Ask for your preferred technician by name and only get your car maintenance done with their care. The service technician will come to know you and take better care of you when you develop a relationship with them.   If your budget is limited they can help you prioritize your maintenance and repair tasks.

Your car will thank you for practicing good car maintenance.

If you practice these ten steps of car maintenance you will save money on your car repairs by avoiding costly problems.  Stay informed with current car repair information, and always try to follow the auto manufacturer’s suggestions with maintenance schedules. 

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