If you have a car, it can be tempting just to ignore any type of maintenance unless something goes wrong.
I probably don’t have to tell you that this is a bad idea. However, not everyone agrees on what preventive maintenance is, what you should do and when you should do it.
Let’s clear that up, and give you some tips that’ll apply to any vehicle.
Anyone who’s ever worked on cars or spent a ton of money getting their car repaired will tell you: Don’t ignore preventive maintenance. The basics, like changing your oil, checking your tire pressure and getting scheduled inspections and work done are like getting regular checkups at the doctor. They keep you healthy and give you—and the experts—a chance to catch anything serious before it becomes a major problem. With your car, that can save you thousands.
First, read your owner’s manual
Pay attention to your owner’s manual. Regardless of the vehicle you drive, your regular maintenance schedule is inside it, and you’ll never fall for old car myths like, “You should change your oil every 3,000 miles,” (unless of course, your manual says you should, but odds are it doesn’t). You will, however, discover how often your manufacturer really does suggest you change your oil (it can vary widely by vehicle), your filters, any drive or timing belts in your vehicle and more. You’ll even find out whether you’re using the right kind of oil in the first place. All really good things to know since you’ve probably invested a good chunk of change in your car and want it to last as long as possible.
Seriously—you wouldn’t fire up a complicated piece of technology or a massive new home appliance without checking the manual to make sure you know what you’re doing. Most car lovers already know how important this is, but it’s still important even for people don’t consider themselves interested in how their car works. If you’re using the wrong oil, for example, it could cause damage that’ll cost more to fix than you’d save by using the cheap stuff.
Preventive maintenance every vehicle needs
When we covered the ways you can save serious money on car repair, more than a few people pointed out that preventive maintenance is probably one of the biggest ways you can save money—not actively, but in the long term. Spending a little money now on these basics will save you from more costly repairs later on:
- Do your own inspection. It’s basic, but give your car a once-over periodically so you catch anything that looks out of the ordinary. Make sure all your lights are working. Check the air pressure in your tires every two weeks or so (and buy a cheap tire air pressure gauge and keep it in the glove compartment). Doing so is good for your tires, gets you better mileage and saves you money on petrol if you discover that the pressure is off. Listen for any strange sounds, inside and out. Make sure your tires have enough tread. If anything’s out of the ordinary, don’t ignore it.
- Learn to check your fluids. Even if you don’t ever learn how to change your coolant, power steering, or even your wiper fluid (although seriously, don’t let someone charge you to change wiper fluid), you should learn how to check those fluid levels. In some cases, you can see the tank level directly, but most have gauges or dipsticks you can pull out to check current levels against a notch that indicates optimal levels. Even if your owner’s manual doesn’t have much to say about checking your transmission fluid or coolant, don’t be afraid to open the hood and see if you can find it. If you’re running low, add more (if you can) or get it changed. Most importantly, never ignore a leak.
- Inspect and get your timing and serpentine belts replaced when necessary. Many people will tell you to get your timing belt replaced every 60,000 miles or so, and your serpentine belt replaced every 40,000 miles, give or take. Again, your owner’s manual will offer real numbers for your type of vehicle. If you can’t find the manual, look around online. You’ll probably find the actual recommendation for your car.
Continues next week…
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