Preventive maintenance may seem like
an unnecessary car expense, but it often involves matters that
you'll have to take care of sooner or later, and paying for them
sooner will often be a less expensive undertaking. Most important is
the fact that preventive maintenance will help keep you and others
safe. And if you don't keep up with your car's preventive
maintenance, you may find yourself stuck or in need of repair when
you can least afford it.
Check all of your fluids
regularly. You may need some assistance from a parent or
mechanic to show you where to check if you are unfamiliar with the
process. You should check your oil, antifreeze, steering fluid and
brake fluid regularly. It's also a good idea to check your wiper
fluid. It is of the utmost importance that your car not run out of
oil, as this can destroy your engine. Your oil can get very dirty
and should be changed about every 3-5,000 miles or three months.
Antifreeze should not be allowed to get too low or your car engine
will overheat, which can do severe damage. Antifreeze should be
changed about once every two years.
Check your tire pressure often--at least once a week is a good idea.
Buy a simple tire gauge, then just stick it into your valve stem to
get a reading. The amount of pressure that your tires should be
inflated to can be found on the inside door jamb on the driver's
side of your car. Low inflation is dangerous because it can cause
loss of control and blowouts. It also causes poor gas mileage. You
should also check the tire tread for uneven wear and to see if there
is enough tread on the tires. Stick a penny in the tire tread, and
if you can see all of Lincoln's head, it's time to get a new tire.
It's also important to have your brake pads changed regularly. Brake
pads can last anywhere from 20,000 and 60,000 miles. You should also listen to see if you hear any
screeching or grinding. These signs will let you know if there is a
problem, but it makes sense to check often and get pads changed
early rather than late.
Air Filter and Battery
Two other important areas to check are your air filter and your
battery. Have Dan's Auto Service test your battery if it is over 3
years old. A battery will usually last about five years or more.
Take a look to see if there is any corrosion around the battery or
battery cables. If you think your battery is getting up there in
age, just go ahead and replace it. Spending a little bit of money
early is better than being stranded somewhere.
Your air filter is what keeps the air that runs through your engine
clean. The filter can get very dirty, and replacing it will make
your car run better. A dirty air filter can rob you of gas mileage.
There are a lot of pieces to a car, and everything should be kept in
good order. Bring your car in to Dan's Auto Service and we will
perform a vehicle inspection to ensure you are aware of any
potential problems with your car or light truck. Always, pay attention to any
dashboard trouble lights that come on and have them checked out
Value of Preventative Auto Maintenance
Spending more than $600 annually on maintenance and repairs may
sound like a lot, but it's nothing compared to the added expense of
buying a new car, especially if your current car is paid off. In
fact, by some estimates, every five years you drive your car after
paying it off saves you the monetary equivalent of a new car.
To understand how, let's compare a new car to a paid-off car with
standard maintenance. To make it interesting, let's stack the deck
in the new car's favor by saying that you drive 24,000 miles (38,624
kilometers) per year, which is double the national average. In five
years, that adds up to 120,000 miles (193,121 kilometers) under your
wheels, which translates to 35 to 40 oil changes. At $40 apiece,
you're looking at $1,400 to $1,600 -- let's call it $1,500. Figure
in another $2,200 for miscellaneous service costs (filters, hoses,
tire rotations and so on) and another $1,500 for a few major items
like a timing belt replacement, new brakes and shock absorbers.
Tally that up and you get $5,200, or around $1,040 per year.
Now let's compare that to a new car. According to the National
Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), the average price of a new
car sold in the United States in 2011 was $28,966, but we'll lowball
it and say you found a good deal at $24,000 and financed $20,000 at
7 percent interest for 48 months. That comes out to a monthly
payment of just under $479, which tallies to $5,747 per year
[source: U.S. Federal Trade Commission].
In other words, for the cost of owning a new car for one year, you
could own a paid-off car for five years, drive it into the ground,
and still have money left over for tolls.
According to Consumer Reports, the average life expectancy of a new
vehicle is around eight years or 150,000 miles [source: Weisbaum]. A
well-maintained car also means a safer trip for you and your loved
ones. And who can put a price on that?