How to Save Money on Car Maintenance

How to Save Money on Car Maintenance

Car maintenance can drain your wallet dry. And it's not just because car parts and repair services are expensive. In many cases, one-time big time repairs that require major overhauls are not really the ones that take a huge chunk of your budget. Oftentimes, it's really those "little things" that add up over time. Things like changing oil regularly and buying gas are just some of those expenses you might take for granted because they don't cost as much. But try adding them all up in a year's time and you'd be surprised at how much you've spent getting your car waxed twice a month. You'd suddenly wish you did all the waxing yourself.

Mechanic checking up a car's engine ©

There's a thin line between maintaining your car and spending way too much in the process. There are times when you really need the help of a mechanic to help you with your car. But there are also times when you can do them on your own. Finding the right balance can be tricky, but you can always start by being smart and finding areas where you can spend less. Here are some ways to do this:

Check your fluid levels

Every car has its own maintenance schedule, and you can do this even without the help of a mechanic. Checking if your oil, wiper fluid, brake fluid, power steering and transmission fluids are all on the right levels can help you save a lot of pesos in unnecessary repair bills. Don't wait  for those nasty red lights to blink on the dashboard. In most cases, you've let things slide for far too long when they occur. Usually, more serious problems will follow, and you'll have to spend more paying for these repairs.

Read your manual

We've said it before and we'll say it again: READ YOUR MANUAL. So many drivers treat their manuals like a newspaper: they browse through the contents and forget about it afterwards. Your car's manual is there for a reason, and it's not just there to let you know how many languages it has been translated. It's there to guide you on how to properly maintain your car and troubleshoot common problems, so we beg you to please read them.

Girl in the car reading her car manual ©

This will save you time and money, especially when replacing your car's parts. But more than that, it's important because it contains all the information you need to keep your car in tip-top shape.

It's like this: When you want to know the exact specifications of a house, you look at its blueprint. Similarly, if you want to know the exact specifications of your car, you read its manual.

Don't just browse through it, though. If you have time, read it entirely from start to finish. You'd be surprised at how much you'll learn. Things like how to maintain your car's parts, the size of your wiper blade, ideal tire sizes and air pressure, and what type of oil to use are just some of the information you'll learn. The more you know, the more you save time and money in the long run.

Change your oil- when needed

Many have their own ideas about when to change their car's engine oil. Many "car experts" would recommend that you do it when you reach 3,000, 5,000, or 10,000 miles, depending upon the car's condition. Now, we're not saying they're wrong, but we'd rather trust the one who made the car, not someone who knows a lot about cars. In the end, it's better to stick to what your manual suggests for oil changes.

And while it's advisable to change your oil regularly, doing more than what your car manufacturer suggests is really just a waste of money.

Don't idle

Stop idling car sign ©

Waiting for your date? Don't park your car on idle; instead, turn the engine off. Car idling is a waste of fuel, and can cause you to lose a quarter to a half-gallon of fuel per hour.

Drive prudently

Don't make it a habit to suddenly speed up or accelerate your car. Sure, you might think that car racing is really cool, but don't do them when you're driving on Metro roads. Practice them when you have the right car, tires, and place to do them safely. Besides, we doubt if you can even get past a few feet before you get stuck in traffic again.

When you drive through potholes or humps, slow down. Driving fast without slowing down can cause a myriad of problems, like tire and wheel rim damage, suspension damage, steering wheel misalignment, exhaust system malfunction, and engine defect. By the way, just because you're slowing down doesn't necessarily mean you'll step on your brakes like the Hulk. Hard-stepping on brakes not only wastes a lot of gas, but it will also wear out your tires fast.

Keep your tires at the right gauge

We know we sound like a broken record here, but we'll repeat it anyway: make sure your tire has the correct air pressure. Regularly check for cracks, wear, bulges, holes, and slipped belts while you're pumping gas. More importantly, don't under-inflate nor over-inflate your tires, because they can reduce your fuel by as much as 15%. On the other hand, a properly inflated tire can increase your gas mileage by about 3.3%.

Another problem caused by improperly-inflated tires is that they can cause handling and maneuverability problems that can lead to accidents. Besides, tires are expensive. Over- or under- inflating them will cause it to wear out faster than when you maintain it at its proper gauge.

You probably noticed we're very keen on tires here. That's because our lives depend on them. And they wear out the fastest as well. These remarkable, underrated, and often neglected workhorses are the ones constantly exposed to the harsh elements outside. Not only do they carry the entire weight of the car and everyone else while you're driving, but they also need to endure the constant friction between their rubber and the road at all times.

Your tires are extremely valuable. Be considerate with them, and they'll last far longer than their average life span.

Clean your car

Car with a ©

When was the last time you cleaned your car? Really? A clean car is not only pleasant to look at, but it also prevents dirt from accumulating in time. There are times when environmental conditions like rain, moisture, sunlight, and other factors can cause minute particles to stick to the car paint, making them hard to get rid of. Eventually, your car's paint corrodes in the process. And if there are microscopic nicks there somewhere, then expect metal corrosion as well.  You can easily avoid this by cleaning your car regularly. It's safer and far less expensive than having its entire body repaired and painted all over again.

Warm your engine

Starting a cold engine is the primary reason why a car wears out fast. This is because the oil just sits at the bottom and isn't circulated around the moving parts. Lubrication is essential to lessen friction, and not having enough oil to lubricate the engine can be damaging to your car.

Moreover, when your engine runs without getting warmed up, by-products from combustion like water and dirt will collect in the oil and create a thick, nasty sludge that attacks your car's motors. It's only a matter of time before your car's engine parts break down in the process.

Ideally, you should turn the motor and wait for the water to eventually boil itself out. This can happen when you do long trips. But if you have a habit of taking short drives, like moving your car from outside your house to the garage, or driving to a nearby store without warming the engine first, then chances are you're contributing to your car's demise much earlier than you think.

So what's the proper way of warming up your engine? Most car manufacturers recommend that you drive your car slowly for 30  seconds after starting it. Don't just let the engine run while idle, since it will take longer to warm up and waste more fuel in the process.

It doesn't take a master's degree to maintain your car and save money at the same time. It only takes a bit of common sense and discipline to make it work. More importantly, it takes a level of commitment to keep your car in good shape. If you will take time to read your manual and follow the directions well, you'll find that you won't always need to hire a mechanic to get the job done. This will help you save a lot of money on repairs and maintenance in the long run.

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