There’s no denying the fact that car repairs can be costly. The costs can be even more from simple mistakes, like using the wrong type of oil or forgetting to change it regularly. The more you know about how to avoid these blunders, the longer life you’ll get from your car and the fewer repairs you’ll need to make over time.
Good preventative maintenance practices
Preventative maintenance includes a list of things to do and check to avoid mechanical issues related to your car. Proper vehicle maintenance will not only keep your vehicle working, but working optimally.
A properly maintained car will need fewer repairs over its life. It will also operate more efficiently, meaning you’ll get more mileage from your gas and experience fewer sputters, fits, and breakdowns along the way.
The following routine maintenance practices will help you keep your car running in tip-top condition for many years to come.
- Change the oil regularly. A good rule of thumb is to change the oil every three months or every 3,000 miles – whichever marker comes first. However, check with your vehicle’s owners manual to be sure of your engine’s requirements, both regarding frequency of oil change and type of oil. Be sure you are using the right type of oil, whether that be synthetic, synthetic blend, conventional, high mileage, or some other type — and that you use the correct weight (i.e. 10W-30, 10W-40, SAE 5W-30) for your vehicle and climate.
- Invest in routine tune-ups. Tune-ups might include some, or all of the following: replacing spark plugs, checking the distributor cap, checking engine timing and making needed adjustments, checking idling speed, cleaning fuel injectors, checking the battery, installing new air filters, replacing PCV valves and fuel filters, checking ignition wires and performance and checking fluid levels, belts, and hoses. This should be performed every 30,000 miles or every two to three years. Your owner's manual should establish manufacturer recommendations for this type of maintenance.
- Change filters as needed. Changing filters allows the filters to do their jobs more efficiently leading to less stress on the vehicle.
- Rotate tires and check air pressure. Worn tires and improper tire pressure can lead to blowouts while driving and accidents that result in much costlier repairs, not to mention the potential for personal injuries. While you cannot prevent all blowouts, you can prevent many with proper rotation and monitoring of air pressure.
- Failing to replace brake pads. Failing to take care of this maintenance point can lead to much more expensive problems down the road. Brake pads are far less expensive to replace than rotors, and there isn’t much time between those first squeaks from your brakes and when rotors become damaged.
Awareness of Symptoms of Car Problems
It’s important to be aware of how your car sounds and behaves when it is operating optimally— and when it’s not. Sometimes, unusual sounds in the operation of your car are first indicators that problems are on the horizon, although many of today’s newer cars provide warning lights to alert you to an issue. Be sure to heed these warnings:
- Car is sluggish when switching gears or slides into gear awkwardly.
- Strange sounds from the engine.
- Your car keeps overheating.
- Oil pressure indicator.
- Smoke under the hood.
- Steering wheel vibrations.
- Squeaking brakes.
- Indicator lights (i.e., check engine, check gauge)
Any of these things could be a sign of trouble for your car, and is well worth the peace of mind a trip to your local mechanic or dealership service center to have it checked out.
Best practices when under repair
To avoid costly repairs and to make sure your car is getting the right service, read all documents carefully. Make personal notes about the problem and the specific type of repair needed.
Get a written estimate before repairs begin and make note of any differences between the repair you agreed to and the final repair price. Let the repair staff know that any differences in the repairs must be approved by you and your estimate adjusted before you agree to the changes. Ask questions and get answers when the quoted price and actual price are different.
Be involved in the process from preventative maintenance to the repair shop. This will help you become a more informed consumer and create a car less likely to suffer from mechanical failure and needed costly repairs.