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Kate on Cars November 2012 - Tips on Saving Money on Car Repairs & Gas


Kate on Cars November 2012
Tips on Saving Money on Car Repairs & Gas

by Kate Jonasse

I've said it before and I'll say it again: when it comes to your car, maintenance is cheaper than repair.

And have you ever heard of the laws of attraction or attention? If you pay attention to your vehicle and make sure it gets the care it needs, it will be happy (that's the technical term) and drive better and last longer for you. Just like plants, children and pets.

What kind of care does your car really need?

Only oil changes and bigger services every 30/60/90K miles, right? That's a start. But did you know having your car properly maintained means more than that? A properly maintained car is more reliable, gets better gas mileage, and lasts longer than one that is not properly maintained. Taking care of the little yet important things goes a long way to catching minor repairs before they turn into major ones, and towards making components last as long as they possibly can. Taking your car to a repair shop that cares for your car the way it was designed to be cared for will save you cash, time and aggravation.

Some examples of needed maintenance:

Every 10,000 miles, Honda recommends having the parking brake inspected for proper operation/adjustment, front and rear brakes fully inspected, and fuel lines and connections inspected as well. They also recommend a tire rotation every oil change, not every other one the way many manufacturers go. Honda no longer recommends standard oil changes, either – they are A or B services with codes 1-5. Honda drivers – did you know this?

Toyota's should have the ball joints and steering checked and the tires rotated every 5,000 miles. The body/frame bolts should be tightened and torqued every 30,000 miles. How often do you think your Toyota's frame bolts get tightened?

Subaru says that every month, the tires, fluids, battery and cables and exterior lighting should be checked and corrected if needed. The locks and hinges should be periodically lubricated, as well as the transaxle linkage and parking brake cable. Subaru drivers, when was the last time you had your car's linkages properly lubricated? Ask your shop to do this if you aren't sure. And check the oil at every fuel tank fill-up – do you know how to check your oil properly?

Mercedes-Benz doesn't recommend oil changes alone to make their automobiles last. Two typical Mercedes services are A and B services. During these, the battery gets checked and tested, along with the brakes, hinges and safety catches on all doors, and ball joint boots get checked for tears. If they are torn, the joint should be replaced. Every 20,000, the seat belt operation should be tested. Just basic Benz stuff.

BMW's are big on having cooling system issues turn into disasters. The cooling system should be inspected at every service, and pressure tested at least every 30K miles even if it visually looks ok. A little coolant leak can turn into a several thousand dollar headgasket repair if it's not caught promptly. Cabin air filters should be inspected and replaced every 15K, and a computer scan should be conducted every 30K to look for faults in one of the several hundred computers on the car. A neglected fault can allow a damaged component to remain and potentially damage other components.

VW and Audi advise on inspecting the automatic transmission shift interlock every 7500-10K miles. It's also important to clean and lubricate the sunroof or moonroof tracks every 15-20K to help prevent damage to really expensive roof components. A single little broken plastic piece can cause a several thousand dollar repair to be needed. Also, a computer scan should be done every 15K to check for faults. VW and Audi drivers – as well as anyone driving a car with a sun or moonroof – are you having it cleaned and lubricated once a year?

These are just some examples of often overlooked service items. To have a proper service done on your vehicle may cost a little bit more initially, but if it saves you hundreds or thousands of dollars by preserving your car and catching minor issues before they turn major, isn't it worth it? Honestly?

What you appreciate and put attention on grows, and what you ignore diminishes. It's ok if you don't know a lot about your car. That's what your trusted auto repair shop is there for – to care for your car for you and to have your back when it comes to your vehicle.

A good repair shop (like mine) will have your back.