Helpful Car Maintenance Tips

March 11, 2020 / Car Authority

How To Save Money And Still Maintain Your Vehicle

One sign that you are at least trying to be an adult is that you maintain your mode of transportation. It’s one of the things we do as adults like stirring oatmeal; there is nothing sexy about it, but it has to be done. Failure to stir oatmeal results in burnt oatmeal and scrubbing a possibly ruined pot. Failure to maintain your vehicle will at some point lead to larger bills when you’re forced to do repairs and find yourself at the mercy of public transportation while the mechanic works unknown magic to bring your lifeline back to you.

Should I Try To Maintain My Car Myself?

The last car I tried to maintain myself was a 1972 VW Beetle that was as much rust and primer grey as it was green, and my toolkit consisted of a screwdriver, a crescent wrench, a hammer, duct and electrical tapes, a lighter and some paper clips. And it was almost as simple for several other cars at the time, but as soon as cars became computer-assisted, I accepted that actually fixing them was complicated enough that I could just as easily make things worse by meddling, and started seeking professional help. I also hired a mechanic, which was one of the smartest decisions I have ever made. I can add coolant or glass cleaner or even oil to my car. Outside of that, filling it with gas, adjusting tire pressure and washing it, I tend to leave car maintenance to the professionals.

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Helpful Car Maintenance Tips

Why Should I Hire A Professional Mechanic To Maintain My Car?

Going back to the idea of becoming an adult–having a trustworthy mechanic in your life is essential. Even if you have a newer car, you never know when a car might need attention, and it is definitely better to know a mechanic and not need one than need one and not know one. If you have a newer vehicle there may be maintenance required to keep the warranty valid, and any maintenance may also be required to be done at an authorized dealership, by an authorized mechanic, so read your warranty information carefully. It sometimes seems that as soon as the warranty expires, something expensive needs fixing, so be sure to have a mechanic go over your vehicle carefully just before your warranty expires so that repairs still might be covered. A certified mechanic is an essential part of all this. Some car issues might be dealt with by a general mechanic, but more complicated issues might require a specialist. Diagnosing car problems can be more difficult than fixing them. (Yes, you sound silly trying to imitate the noise your car is making.) The more a mechanic specializes, the more valuable their expertise. A mechanic may handle general services for either imports or domestics, but most go so far as to specialize in just a few different models (like only working on German cars), and still, other mechanics may specialize in one specific make, especially when that make is a more expensive one (like Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Tesla, etc.). That specialization means they should have the tools, the training, and the expertise to correctly and efficiently and in a timely manner diagnose and repair your vehicle.

Do I Need To Take My Car To The Dealership For Maintenance?

It depends a little on what needs to be done, your budget, and how you feel about your car. Remember that if your car is within three years of rolling off of the assembly line it is probably under warranty and all maintenance should be done at the dealership to ensure the validity of the warranty. I am a bit obsessed with my car, so I’ll get probably any and all maintenance done at the dealership from oil changes and brakes on up. I also purchased an extended warranty. It was a sizeable investment, but it gives me peace of mind and ensures that if something that breaks is covered I’ll get the best parts and specialized service possible, and that is all worth it to me, especially because it is a slightly more expensive vehicle and parts and service for even small covered breakages could be at least as much as I paid for the warranty. But I digress. Some small maintenance items like oil changes, tire balancing and rotation, suspension, filters and fluids, minor electrical issues, and almost anything related to the interior (aside from seat heating/cooling systems) or paint can probably be done by a general mechanic. A more specialized mechanic might be a good idea when things become more complicated; anything related to the computer or drive train might be best cared for at a dealership. Especially vehicles that might be just outside the warranty; there may be a recurring problem with a certain model that has been dealt with by dealerships so much while under warranty while general mechanics may not have dealt with it yet. I had a vehicle that was so well-known for oil leaks that the dealership was more surprised that it didn’t have one when I brought it in for maintenance.

How Can I Save Money On Car Maintenance?

One last thing to consider is that certain vehicle makes have less expensive counterparts that can be used for parts and service and save quite a bit of money. For those who were unaware, Honda and Acura, Nissan and Infinity, and Toyota and Lexus can share parts. There are a few other examples that are not as consistent, but any mechanic or dealership that can service one of these can serve the other, and often one is much less expensive than the other (although you may not get a loaner vehicle when saving on the bill). If you feel inclined to attempt car maintenance, consider taking classes or do a lot of research before diving in. Changing oil sounds simple but requires licensed disposal, lifting the vehicle off the ground and getting underneath it, so I wouldn’t recommend that as a place to start, but maybe your wiper blades need changing? Have you ever changed a tire? If not, it sounds like hiring a mechanic is the right idea for you, but if you have and like the idea of getting personal with your car, there are lots of tutorials you can follow that will tell you about the tools you need, the space you need, and the time you’ll need. Be sure to observe all safety protocols and when possible work with someone nearby in case of emergency. Happy motoring!

About Our Guest Writer:

M.R. Felker, Content Writer.  M.R. Felker lives near San Diego, travels frequently with his amazing wife, and likes to live dangerously by accepting candy from strangers.

M.R. Felker


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Helpful Car Maintenance Tips FAQs

Is an extended warranty a good idea?

Look at the consumer reports about a vehicle to find out what owners and mechanics have said about customer satisfaction. There may be reports of specific recurring problems that would merit an extended warranty. You can also price check the possible breakages and compare them to the price of the warranty to look for value.

How often do I really need to change my oil?

These days most vehicles can go about 5,000 miles between oil changes, but it can vary drastically based on the engine type. I had a foreign sports car that used synthetic oil that only needed to be changed every 10,000 miles or once a year (and eight quarts of synthetic helped set me back over $200 just for an oil change).

Do different gas stations really have different quality gas?

Some gas stations include additives in their fuel that some people believe is beneficial to the engine. All gasoline includes chemicals that act as detergents to help maintain the cleanliness of the fuel system and engine.

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