Todd Christensen Profile Picture
Staff Writer at Debt Reduction Services

Minimize vehicle expenses by performing routine check-ups and repairs.

How to Maintain Low Vehicle Maintenance Costs

I’ve never met anyone who drives the perfect car. Every car made, regardless of its year, make, model or fuel economy will eventually wear out. Whether it happens to the engine, transmission or suspension due to the wear and tear of driving the vehicle or to the electrical or coolant systems due to the age of the wiring, there isn’t a car out there that won’t eventually require expenditures on repairs and upkeep.

Like the quote, popularized by Benjamin Franklin, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” our vehicles will generally last longer and undergo fewer major repairs at the mechanic’s if we simply follow a few maintenance guidelines.

While the large majority of mechanics generally explain the importance of regular vehicle maintenance to their customers, less than one-third of customers actually follow their advice. (ASE Survey 2002)

When budgeting for upkeep and repair, keep in mind that the typical vehicle will likely require between $500 and $700 of maintenance annually (or approximately $40 to $60 per month). Setting up an account to save throughout the year would be a wise move.

Regular “Do It Yourself” Car Inspections

Here are few easy-to-perform maintenance tips and checks that can help you minimize the possibility of very expensive car repairs. In all cases, see your owner’s manual for guidelines on frequency and instructions on how to perform the maintenance and what to look for.

If it helps, think of your vehicle’s systems working together as those of your own body.

  1. Hydration: Check the fluids, including engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze/coolant, power steering fluid and wiper fluid.
  2. Circulation: Inspect the hoses and belts for cracks, slices, fraying, and damage and make sure the hoses are not leaking.
  3. Lung: Check the air filter to make sure it’s not dirty or clogged.
  4. Ensure Proper “Footing”: Check the tread of all four tires. Look for damage and uneven wear and for balding. If the tread wear bars (running perpendicular to or “bridging” the treads) are not flush with the tread. If so, it is definitely time to replace the tire.
  5. For many readers, changing the oil and the oil filter regularly may also be an option. Doing it yourself can save you from $10 to $30 or so. However, if you choose to take your vehicle to a professional, perform the inspections listed above beforehand.

Oil and lube shops typically attempt to up-sell their services and additional products. Often, they may even offer oil changes at a very reasonable price, counting on the likelihood that they can persuade the customer to replace a filter, belt or hose while they’re in. Count on spending more on those products at the shop than if you were to do so by yourself.

You can start by finding a place that will give a free diagnosis. They can identify what parts or fluids you will need to get your car running smoothly again. Next, you can look up how to do the repair yourself via YouTube. After watching a few videos, you’ll get the sense of whether or not you can make the repair on your own. Many times, you’ll find that you have the skills necessary to replace the parts or fluid and doing so could save hundreds.

If you have any questions, would like to discuss your financial challenges, or are just looking for advice, please call us at your convenience. As always, we are here to help and look forward to hearing from you.

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