You know the feeling: You start the car, and there’s a weird noise. Or the check engine light starts to flash halfway into a road trip. Or before leaving for work you discover a disturbing pool of liquid under the car. Pangs of fear course your nervous system, and you frantically check your online banking portal to see if taking the car in will kill your budget. (See also: 6 Slick Tools That Can Help You Save on Car Repairs)
All it takes is some foresight to take some preventative measures that keep you from needing major repairs or even replacing your car. You can pay small amounts of money and time for minor improvements in the present that will save you lots of money in the future. Here are five types of maintenance that could save you from costly repairs or even needing a new car.
1. Regular Oil Changes
The average car needs an oil change every 3,000 to 7,000 miles, depending on your car and how often you drive it. At the very least, you should know where and how to check your car’s dipstick or gauge to monitor the oil level. It doesn’t hurt to learn how change your own oil, either — that would save you about $40 every few months, and up to $200 a year!
2. Replace the PCV Valve
You car’s positive crankcase ventilation, or PCV valve, is an important hub that ensures pressure is being relieved. This prevents such costly events as sludge buildup or engine oil leaks, which over time cause expensive damage to the engine. The PVC valve itself costs only $25, and remembering to change it out every 30,000-40,000 miles would prevent up to $1,000 in engine damage! The math is clearly in your favor. This is typically a repair that a confident DIYer can handle.
3. Brake Inspections
Oh, the brakes. So many things can go wrong. If you live in an area with tons of traffic (ahem, Los Angeles), you are putting crazy wear and tear on your brakes. The easiest thing you can do on your own is have your brake pads inspected every 3-6 months, depending on your mileage. Not checking for wear early and often can lead to exorbitant rotor and disc repairs and replacements.
4. Replace Timing Belt
The timing belt is a crucial piece of simple machinery that synchronizes the turns of the crankshaft and camshaft(s). This ensures the valves, cylinders, and other components work well. If not replaced, the belt could fail while driving, which would cut the engine and potentially cause engine damage before the car slows to a halt (up to $2500 worth). Change the belt every 60,000 miles.
This is not, however, an inexpensive maintenance item. Shop around and ask your mechanic to look at other items, such as possible oil or radiator fluid leaks, which may be more accessible while the timing belt is being replaced. You may be able to bundle the services and save. (See also: Save Time and Money by Bundling Your Home Repairs)
5. Prevent Rust
It seems simple, but in many areas of the US, it’s unavoidable. Driving in a rainy, snowy climate can be a costly combo. Rust may be unsightly, but it can also cause other problems. Be careful to not let rust spread on your engine, chassis, exhaust system, frame, and trunk, because it can cause unsafe corrosion. Take simple measures to prevent it from spreading, such as a salt and lime treatment.
Any other simple or affordable car maintenance items that your regularly perform? Please share in comments!