For some folks, getting a new car can cost the equivalent of a year’s after-tax salary. After spending that much on four wheels and an auto body, you’d think it would run trouble-free for a decade.
That’s a lovely dream. The reality is that regular maintenance and vigilance are required. That way, a small issue won’t turn into a huge, expensive problem.
Maintenance and vigilance pay off in the long run, too. Today’s cars can last 200,000 miles if you take care of them.
Following are some easy fixes that can help you avoid big repair bills later.
1. Respect the ‘check engine’ light
That “check engine” light could mean something as simple as a loose gas cap. Or, it could be an issue with the oxygen sensor, which can cost about $250 to fix.
Put off fixing an oxygen sensor, and two things can happen: decreased mileage now and a big, fat repair bill later. So, get that light checked out.
2. Fix the PCV valve
Mileage still bad? Engine somewhat sputtery? It could be your PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve.
If that’s the issue, fixing it now could cost $100. By contrast, ignoring it could lead to costly engine damage later.
3. Repair small windshield cracks
Suppose the vehicle in front of you flings a piece of gravel straight into your windshield. The resulting ding isn’t pretty, but it isn’t a big crack. So, you consider ignoring it.
Don’t. The small chip can expand into a giant crack that impedes your vision and ultimately leads to the need for a new windshield. Driving with a damaged windshield can also lead to a ticket.
The sooner you repair a ding, the better. For example, Edmunds reports that with chips in the glass, rain can drive dirt into a crack and make it harder to fix.
4. Pay attention to puddles
See a puddle under your parked car? Be afraid. Be very afraid. Then, get your vehicle looked at right away.
Whether it’s leaking oil, transmission fluid, water or gas, this is something that needs to be fixed now to avoid potentially bigger problems and expenses later.
Some experts suggest taking a minute to walk all the way around your vehicle and look for puddles before you get in it.
5. Don’t put off scheduled maintenance
Many drivers believe that scheduled maintenance translates into “another way the dealer can gouge me.” In addition, being without your car even for part of a day can be a major hassle.
It might be tempting to put off oil changes and other maintenance. But ignoring your ride can cost you.
Maybe the vehicle drives just fine right now, but perhaps you have been lucky. If it helps spur you to act sooner than later, picture yourself standing by the side of the highway, waiting for a tow. Now, picture it late at night or in the winter.
Besides, remember how much you spent to buy that vehicle? For the maximum return on your investment, follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and keep an eye on things in between.
To help make sure preventive maintenance gets done correctly, check out “11 Keys to Finding a Car Mechanic You Can Trust.”