Car Maintenance Tips That Will Save You Money Down the Road
by Carly Rae Zent
Spending a little bit of money now, plus taking the time to learn some DIY car maintenance, will mean big savings later on.
A car has a special place in our lives: It’s our home away from home, the thing that enables our freedom to travel beyond walking distance from where we live. It takes us to work on time. It safely transports our loved ones. Some of us spend hours upon hours in our car weekly. And yet, as much as we depend upon our cars, our cars can rarely depend upon us.
How many of us, when the oil change light comes on, just keep on driving for another thousand miles? How many of us have taken out a dangerous title loan on our car? When was the last time you properly checked your tire pressure or rotated your tires?
The truth is, even if an extra $40 here and there seems like an inconvenience not worth dealing with, we owe it to ourselves (and our car) to keep up the maintenance to save ourselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in desperate attempts to extend the life of the car a little longer.
This article will show you how to save approximately $2,300 over five years of the life of your car.
Use your car maintenance schedule.
Every car comes with a recommended car schedule. If you no longer have your car manual, look it up online. Many manufacturers have car owner’s manuals available in PDF form.
This will save you money so you don’t have to go by the safest recommendations. For example, common wisdom says you should change your oil every 3,000 miles. But some cars can go much longer. The car manual will let you know for sure.
The manual will also act as your guide to checking certain things in the engine and in the rest of the vehicle.
Learn to change your own oil.
The reason why it’s so quick and easy to get in and out of Jiffy Lube is that changing oil is … quick and easy! You just have to learn how and get the right equipment. The equipment can cost some money, but once invested, you can use it again and again and change your own oil at a low cost.
Let’s do the math:
An oil change with full synthetic oil can cost $60.
Buying your own synthetic oil and an oil filter costs $35.
You might have to buy around $100 of equipment to be able to do it, but over five years the savings are enormous. Assuming you’re talking about four oil changes a year, paying for an oil change costs $1,200 over five years and doing it yourself costs $800. That’s $400 in savings.
Materials You Need to Change Your Own Oil:
- Oil drain pan: $25
- Oil funnel: $10
- Vehicle ramps to lift car: $40
- Oil filter wrench: $15
- Full Synthetic Premium Oil: $25
- Oil filter: $10
- Latex gloves: $2
There are also dozens of YouTube videos on how to do this procedure properly.
Check your tire pressure at the gas station.
Many people don’t bother checking their tire pressure since the dashboard has an idiot light indicating that the tire pressure is too low. But, at that point, the deflating tires could already be affecting your tire alignment. Sadly, a tire alignment costs nearly $200.
On top of that, if your tires aren’t properly aligned, it can also cause other expensive damages. The tires will wear out unevenly. It can also increase wear and tear on vehicle suspension.
Plus, poorly aligned tires will make it more difficult to drive safely!
Luckily, the solution to all this is incredibly cheap. Many gas stations, such as Wawa, have a free machine that will check your tire pressure. We recommend doing this monthly when you happen to be refilling your tank. At Wawa, this is totally free. And if you should happen to require to fill your tires a little, it only costs a couple dollars.
You can find the pressure you should expect your tires to be at on the inside of the driver’s side door.
Rotate your tires.
Rotating your tires can be done for less than $50 at a shop, or even more cheaply yourself with a jack and a wrench, which usually comes supplied with your car. The important part is that you rotate them at all.
Tires in different parts of the car get worn out at different speeds, so rotating them will extend the life of your entire tire set, saving you hundreds on replacing all your tires.
Wash your car.
Washing your car is mostly a cosmetic factor. But it’s important. Dirt and grime don’t simply sit innocently on top of your car. Contaminants—especially acidic ones like bird droppings and bugs—can damage the paint and possibly even scratch the metal underneath.
Some detailing experts recommend washing the car weekly, but it probably depends on where you live and how your car is looking. A little dust is something you can ignore longer, while bird droppings can start to mess with the paint relatively quickly.
This saves you money far down the road—in the resale value. Unless you want to pay expensive rates for touching up paint, maintaining the car’s exterior (and interior), keeping it nice will do a lot towards customers being more willing to hand over extra cash.
After all, when you’re shopping for used cars and it looks like a car has never been washed, you will assume someone didn’t maintain the rest of the car too. You’ll believe the car has less value.
Change your air filter yourself.
The air filter is a cheap thing to replace, but it’s important. Most air filters only cost around $20, yet they preserve an expensive and vital piece of equipment: the A/C system.
The air conditioning in a car is an important aspect of your comfort while driving. Plus, like the above tip, having a working A/C has a great effect on resale value, while costing hundreds to fix.
An air filter change is something that is often offered as part of an oil change, but skip the extra expense and do it yourself. Buy the filter from an auto parts store and check out a how-to on YouTube. It only takes a few minutes.
This is a little bit more advanced, but you can also teach yourself how to check the A/C unit parts for damages (such as to the hoses) so that you can catch problems before they get too bad.
Replace belts before they break.
Be sure to check your engine belts on the recommended car maintenance schedule and replace them when you’re noticing fraying or cracks. If an engine belt breaks while using the car, it could whip around and get twisted up in the engine, causing extra damage and making the whole repair particularly expensive.
On this list, this factor is most likely to be a really high and unexpected expense if left unchecked. You don’t want to take out any cash advances or payday loans to have to pay for this kind of damage.
Total savings over five years:
Changing your own oil: $400
Checking tire pressure: $400 (cost of an alignment repair and tire and suspension damage)
Tire rotation: $700 (cost of a new tire set)
Changing air filter: $500 (average A/C repair costs)
Wash your car: $300 (detailing and paint correction)
To learn more about saving money on everyday expenses, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:
- Save Money This Summer by Saving Energy
- Save a Few Bucks on Fido with These DIY Pet Toys
- Reusable Purchases That Will Save You Money in the Long Run
- How to Use the Library to Save Money