Sustaining and managing a car can take a huge bite out of your income unless you take good care of it. As one of the most valuable items you will ever own, it merits to be handled as the asset it is, instead of just a method of getting from A to B and back.
Keeping up to date with regular maintenance jobs on your vehicle can keep it running smoothly for longer, and will probably extend the life of the working parts of the engine. This means it should be longer before you need to pull out the big bucks to pay for major repairs.
You won’t be able to do it all yourself, but knowing what needs to be done, and when, could well save you money.
Read your vehicle’s handbook or manual and see what the manufacturer suggests in terms of time or mileage intervals for the following actions, as they vary from vehicle to vehicle.
Armed with this knowledge you can negotiate better deals when it comes to servicing your car. You can avoid unnecessary add-ons suggested at the workshop on the one hand, and on the other, you can ensure that work is covered when needed.
Changing oil and air filters, replacing spark plugs and flushing the radiator and transmission are things that should be done regularly. Some of the simpler things you could even do yourself, like changing the spark plugs and filter.
Making sure to rotate the tires according to the manufacturer’s instructions or at least every 7 500 miles will extend their life. They will also wear more evenly. Switching them from front to rear or the other way round should cost you around $50. Tire replacement would set you back anything from $350 to $700.
It’s also a good idea to get your wheel alignment checked to extend the life of the tires and make your vehicle’s steering easier to control.
Oil changes are essential about three times a year or every 5,000 miles to keep your engine clean and well lubricated. It might not always be convenient to do it, but it sure beats paying around $4,000 to replace the motor, if parts of it are worn away by the friction caused when the engine is not well lubricated.
Replacing brake pads or shoes before they wear down too badly can cost you about half what it would cost you if you don’t, and have to end up replacing the rotors or drums.
Timing Belt (if your vehicle has one)
A timing belt which gives in through wear and tear will cause the engine to cut off and stop. Sometimes it will be undamaged but in many cases, you could be looking at engine repairs of $2,500 or more due to damaged pistons and valves. Suddenly, replacing the belt at recommended intervals of between 60,000 and 90,000 miles (check your manufacturer’s instructions) for about a quarter of that price makes sound financial sense.
The serpentine belt which drives the engine’s accessories also needs to be replaced at intervals. Check your manufacturer’s instructions.
The PCV Valve
The PCV, or positive crankcase ventilation system, which helps regulate the fumes that flow around the engine, is made up of hoses and a valve. This PVC valve prevents seals and gaskets from corrosion and cracking, followed by oil leaks. It’s inexpensive to replace it at regular intervals to prevent these leaks happening. If leaks do start, it could involve you in replacing the valve cover gasket at a higher price.
Keep Gas Costs Down
Ensuring you get optimal gas mileage will save you a good bit of money down the line. It seems a real waste to see your cash literally being guzzled up when there are ways of improving your car’s gas consumption.
The main things to look for are:
If your vehicle isn’t properly tuned or has failed to pass an emissions test, fixing the problem could improve your car’s gas consumption by around 4 percent. Repairing something more serious like replacing a faulty oxygen sensor, could up that figure by ten times that amount.
Check the car’s handbook or look for a sticker on the edge of the door to find out the correct tire pressure and make sure your tires are always at that pressure. If the pressure is below that point, you will be losing out in terms of gas consumption. You will also lose regarding safety and the durability of the tires.
Using the correct grade of oil for your car is important – a higher grade or lower grade oil can cost you money in the form of lower gas mileage and therefore higher gas costs.
Keep Your Vehicle Covered
It’s not possible to keep your car in a garage if you don’t have access to one. However, if you do have one, it would be silly to leave your car, probably your second most valuable possession, outside because your garage has become a store-room for largely worthless junk.
Where possible, ensure your vehicle has some covering to protect it against rust and corrosion, as well as paint damage caused by the sun. Leaving it on the street is also a security risk.
Keep It Clean
Keeping your vehicle clean both outside and inside is going to save you money in the long run by extending the life of your car and its interior. Dirt that accumulates inside the vehicle can be abrasive and damage the upholstery and carpets.
Exterior damage can be caused by bird droppings, sea air, and sand, which can cause the paint to become dull. Regular cleaning and waxing provide a protective coating against this sort of damage.
Do the Math Before Giving Up on Your Old Vehicle
If you’ve made sure to keep your vehicle is running at peak performance, and have followed a strict program of preventative maintenance, you should get a long life out of it. Don’t hurry to trade it in on a new model just because everyone around you thinks you should do so every five or so years.
When the mileage gets high, you might well wonder whether it isn’t worth cutting your losses to avoid high-cost repairs you feel will start happening soon. However, it’s worth calculating the costs involved in financing a new car.
Once the interest is taken into account, the amount you will pay for the new vehicle is considerably more than the ticket price. The sum of money involved overall would go a long way in paying for repairs to your old car, provided it has been well-maintained.
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Covering the Costs
When you make the final payment on your car, don’t rush to spend what you are now saving on installments. Set aside at least half of that in an interest-bearing account to look after the vehicle you have just paid off.
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