Once upon a time there was a television advertisement for Fram oil filters in which a mechanic was featured saying: “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”
That ad has disappeared, but its message still holds true. Yes, car engineering has become more sophisticated, and the need for “routine maintenance” has lessened — but don’t take that as a reason to ignore maintenance. That misjudgment can cost you thousands of dollars in corrective repairs or even car replacement.
“Manufacturers spend a great amount of time, money and effort making sure cars don’t have engineering defects. If there is a lemon, which is rare, they work hard to make sure it’s [replaced],” said Ben Perricone, territory manager, AAA mid-Atlantic, headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware “When you hear people say they don’t like [certain brands of cars] it’s often because of [lack of proper] maintenance.”
The shame is that most of us have all the maintenance knowledge we need at our fingertips — in the car owner’s manual. That helpful book details all the specific requirements — from oil weight to tire pressure — to ensure the car runs optimally for the longest time possible, but we too often ignore it.
Consider these five often overlooked maintenance tips that can save you thousands:
1. Change your oil
Dad told you to change the oil every 3,000 miles. Or every 7,500 miles. Dad was probably right for the cars of yesteryear. Today’s cars still need regular oil changes, but they generally don’t need them at those mileage markers. And they don’t need the same type of oil — such as the 10W-30 Dad recommended. Individual models need oil changes at specified times, as outlined in the owner’s manual, and that’s where the type of oil needed also is listed. Do not veer from manufacturer’s suggested oil type (synthetic or conventional) or viscosity, said Perricone. Also, buy brand-name oil. Don’t opt for a generic. The reason: Brand names have the additives needed to lengthen the life of your engine. “Saving pennies on oil can cost thousands in repair costs,” said Perricone. No matter what a mechanic says, don’t deviate from the manufacturer’s recommendation.
2. Check your tire pressure
“Everyone says they do this, and no one does,” said Perricone. Why’s that important? Underinflation is the main reason that tires wear out, tread separates and blowouts occur. Underinflated tires can also allow your car to hydroplane in wet weather, causing loss of control. Plus, underinflated tires cause a 5 to 10 percent loss of fuel economy. Check your owner’s manual for proper pressure. Tip: If you fill your own tires at a self-service pump, be sure to check your tire pressure with a tire pressure monitor you purchase at an auto store. Self-service pumps offer “wildly inaccurate” numbers, according to Perricone.
3. Change your cabin air filter
This is the equivalent of the air filter in your home furnace, trapping airborne dirt and debris. Fail to change a car’s cabin air filter and you may need to spend more on allergy and other medications. Changing the filter annually should be sufficient, even for those who drive in heavy traffic that fills the air with toxins.
4. Swap out windshield wipers in spring and fall
Few people think about their windshield wipers until they fail. Wipers are exposed to road grime, salt and air pollutants, plus the blades bake in the sunlight reflected off the windshield. Spend the few dollars it will cost to change them twice a year, and you may save yourself from an accident caused by lack of visibility.
5. Wash your car in the winter
On the first warm day of winter, you always see cars coated white with the remnants of road salt. Your car may look like that right now. Winter salt and grime piling up on your car doesn’t just damage the car’s paint. It also leads to an ever-increasing rate of failing brake lines, said Perricone. That’s often because salt brine, which sticks to the road, also bonds to the underside of your car. Pay a few dollars to have your car washed and save hundreds on brake line replacement.
How well do you maintain your car? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.