Routine car repair and maintenance is a little bit like death and paying taxes- you simply can’t avoid it. However, there is a silver lining with car repair and maintenance. There are actually sure-fire ways to minimize your car maintenance costs. The trick simply lies in knowing how your car works and being aware of which services you need to do.
Not all car services are created equal. That’s to say, some services are more important than others. You likely wouldn’t prioritize cleaning out your trunk instead of changing your oil, right? So, to help you keep your car performing at its best we have created this list. We’ll go over various automotive services in the order of their importance. Here’s what you need to do:
Change the oil regularly
You have probably heard this ten million times before, but there is no harm in hearing it again. Engine oil is the life blood of any engine, but unlike blood that regenerates itself, engine oil “wears out”. When it does, your engine suffers. This is because old oil loses its ability to lubricate.
While the oil itself does not wear out, the additives that clean the engine and provide lubricity most certainly do. Heat, contact with oxygen, and the formation of sulphuric acid are the prime drivers in the process of oil degradation. This process happens in all engines, and there is no way of preventing it. It happens with both mineral and synthetic oil, and while it takes a bit longer to reach critical levels in synthetic oil, it does eventually happen.
Regular oil and oil filter changes is the only way to make sure that the engine is properly lubricated at all times; however, there is no advantage in changing oil too often. All branded engine oil formulations are designed to last for a specified mileage. Today, that is about 6,000 miles or a bit longer in some cases. While there is no harm in changing oil sooner, it is not recommended, nor required. Provided you change the oil regularly with the recommended type and grade, your engine will outlast the rest of your car.
Replace the coolant regularly
The function of anti-freeze is to prevent the coolant from freezing and/or boiling, as well as to provide protection against the corrosion of engine components. Aluminum engines are particularly prone to corrosion. This is important to be aware of because anti-freeze only works for about 12 months or so.
To get the most protection out of your engine coolant, you need to replace it at least once a year. Be sure to follow the concentration recommended by your dealer or the manufacturer of your vehicle. Too little anti-freeze does not protect your engine adequately, and too much can actually lower the boiling point of water to a dangerous level, which means that it is possible to suffer fatal engine overheating even in the midst of a Midwestern winter.
Replace the brake fluid
Brake fluid attracts water from the atmosphere, and once it reaches a saturation point of about 3%, it starts to lose the incompressibility it depends on to make your brakes work properly. Worse though, water in brake fluid spreads throughout the entire brake system, causing rust and corrosion in all metal parts it comes into contact with. When this happens, it is almost always a very expensive repair.
Therefore, brake maintenance should always involve changing the brake fluid at least once every two years, (or more often in humid climates) to prevent a reduction in brake efficiency due to steam bubbles forming in the calipers on the one hand, and suffering sudden, catastrophic brake failure caused by corrosion of metal components on the other.
Rotate the tires, and maintain tire pressure
Tire rotation is arguably one of the most overlooked and ignored automotive services. This oversight in basic car maintenance results in hugely expensive and mostly premature tire replacements.
Rotating your tires, and maintaining correct tire pressures is the best way to extend the useful life of your tires. Making all the tires bear the load equally throughout the life of the set of tires can add as much as 10% to the life of the set of tires. Which is no small thing, considering the high cost of car repair and maintenance these days.
Maintain wheel alignment
Maintaining proper wheel alignment extends the life of your tires; it can also save you a lot of money in fuel costs. Improper wheel alignment can add as much as 3 to 5% to your total fuel bill. Do yourself a favor and save some money by having the alignment on both axles checked every time you rotate the tires, which should be an integral part of automotive services anyway.
One more thing
While proper car maintenance involves more than what’s listed here, sticking to this list will help you save. This is especially true if you view these items not as necessary evils, but as common-sense preventative maintenance. It could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your car- which can only be a good thing!