Saving money is at the top of the priority list for most of us. According to a 2016 survey from GOBankingRates, 69 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. And 34 percent of Americans have absolutely nothing in savings.
Those are troubling numbers!
This is especially concerning for car owners, as a costly vehicle repairs can pop up at any moment. If you have less than $1,000 in savings, you’ll likely have a difficult time paying that repair bill. So what do you do? You could get auto repair financing to pay for it. Or, you could avoid the bill altogether — but then you’ll be without a vehicle. A third option would be to help prevent the bill from happening in the first place. With auto maintenance, you can prevent many costly repairs down the road.
Here are five areas of your car that can save you money in the long run if you invest in auto maintenance ahead of time:
This is the most common form of auto maintenance, but it’s one of the most important. In fact, getting an oil change is the very best thing you can do for your car. Why? When oil levels are low in your vehicle, it can lead to more wear and tear because of the extra friction between all the moving parts in the engine. Your engine is kind of important, so taking care of it is a priority.
So, how often should you have your car’s oil changed? It depends on the manufacturer’s recommendation — which you’ll find in your owner’s manual — but every 3,000 to 5,000 miles (about 3 to 5 months) is the standard. Make sure that when you get your oil changed, the mechanic checks other fluid levels. Your car is already in the shop, so you might as well get your transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolants, windshield wiper fluid and other fluids checked.
Again, motor oil is crucial for maintaining the life of your vehicle, so getting a regular oil change will help you prevent bigger problems associated with the essential systems in your vehicle.
Aside from your engine, what’s the most important part of your vehicle? Many would say it’s the wheels. If they aren’t aligned properly, however, it can significantly reduce the lifespan of your tires and other wheel components. A big pothole or speed bump can cause them to become misaligned. When this happens, it affects your steering and suspension system — a costly consequence. It can also reduce your gas mileage and result in a rough ride.
Here are a few signs that your car is out of alignment:
- Your steering wheel shakes or doesn’t return to the center position after a turn
- The tread on your tires is noticeably uneven or low
- Your car pulls to the left or right when you let go of the steering wheel
Fortunately, a wheel alignment can help. Your car has unique angles and specifications for its alignment, based on whoever manufactured your vehicle. A mechanic can ensure all four wheels are parallel and sitting flat on the road with the steering wheel centered. You should also get them rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
Think something as seemingly unimportant as an air filter can’t save you money? Think again. Air filters prevent dirt and debris from getting into your engine. If the air isn’t filtered properly, it can cause a lot of harm from the accumulation of dust and grime from the road. Dirty air filters cut off the flow of air to your car’s systems and can potentially cause damage to things like spark plugs. Ultimately, dirty air filters can lead to engine contamination, overworked engines and even engine failures in some cases — an extremely costly situation.
You can keep your air filter clean and prevent this high-cost consequence by replacing it every 12 months or 12,000 miles. (It may vary depending on your car manufacturer.) Keeping your air filter clean will not only save you from expensive repairs, however. It will also enhance your car’s performance, improve your gas mileage and is a crucial part of car and truck maintenance.
Your brake system is another extremely important component of your vehicle. Brake expenses can be among the most costly car repairs, so it’s important to ensure every part of your brake system (pads, rotors, etc.) is maintained properly. Catching brake issues early will not only keep you safe behind the wheel, but it also will end up saving you a significant amount of money in repairs.
Here are a few signs that your brake system may need to be checked:
- The car pulls to one side while braking
- Braking feels soft or spongy when you press down on the pedal
- There’s an odor when you use your brakes
- There’s a squeaking, grinding or squealing sound when you use your brakes
- Your car is leaking brake fluid
- Your brake warning light is on
- Brakes are less responsive than normal
- Brakes take longer than normal to stop your car
If you notice any of the above symptoms, bring your car in for brake maintenance immediately. You don’t want your brakes to fail while you’re on the road, as it could potentially injure others or result in the total loss of your vehicle. High-quality brake pads usually last anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles. Pads are just one part of your brake system, but they are related to rotors and other brake components, so they can cause damage if they’re not maintained.
When you take your car in for a brake inspection or maintenance, make sure the mechanic looks at every component, from pads, rotors, calipers and fluids to cables, shoes, hoses, drums, springs and more. Healthy brakes are just one good way to ensure you get the best car resale value.
Your exhaust system can also result in a significant financial burden if you don’t maintain it. If you hear a lot of noise when you crank up your engine and accelerate, see smoke coming from the tailpipe or notice an odor while driving, it could be a sign that your muffler (or another part of your exhaust system) needs to be inspected or maintained.
Why is your muffler so important? Its job is to dampen sounds caused by your engine, keep your car running smoothly and quietly, and regulate how fast exhaust flows out of your vehicle. Part of the exhaust system includes the manifold, absorption pipe, catalytic converter, resonator and muffler.
Usually your muffler will last several years if it’s from the factory. But you need to catch problems early on if you want to save money in the future. Have your mechanic check your exhaust system as part of your regular car maintenance. Finally, you don’t have to replace the entire system if there’s a problem — a skilled mechanic can repair or replace individual components in the exhaust system.
In the end, when you invest a little bit of money now in auto maintenance, it will help you save money on auto repairs in the long run. Maintain the above five areas of your car and you’ll be well on your way to extending the life of your vehicle and saving money.