8 Smart Ways to Save Money on Vehicle Maintenance
Car expenses can really add up. Your oil may need to be changed as often as every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. You need to rotate the tires every 5,000 or so miles, and they need to be fully replaced about once every six years. The air filters may last over 15,000 miles. And that’s just a short list of common maintenance to keep up with. With so many tasks on your car maintenance checklist, you may be wondering how to save money on car maintenance.
Doing some vehicle work yourself will save you money and boost your skill set, and keeping up with preventive maintenance rather than ignoring the random rattling or humming your car makes can also help you save money over time.
Be smart. Be savvy. Follow these eight ways to get the most miles out of your trusty vehicle without breaking the bank.
1. Practice Preventive Maintenance
Preventive car maintenance does exactly what it sounds like — it helps prevent wear and tear on your car. Adding preventive maintenance tasks to your car maintenance checklist may seem like adding more costs to your budget, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Standard preventive maintenance includes keeping up with oil changes and tire rotations. But many auto shops will also give your car a thorough inspection, catching small issues before they become big (and expensive) ones.
In addition to oil and tires, preventive maintenance can include:
Refilling battery electrolyte. If you have a flooded lead acid battery, you’ll need to top off the battery’s electrolyte with distilled water. Many batteries have a green light that will shut off when the battery needs water. You’ll want to start by checking the water levels about once a week, noting how often you end up watering the battery. Then, you can set a schedule for watering the battery. For batteries that do require refilling, this task is essential for extending the life of the battery.
Installing new windshield wipers. Driving in the rain and snow, which we’re so familiar with here in northern Ohio, can get dangerous, especially if your windshield wipers are old. Install new wiper blades about once every six months for your safety and to prevent any costly crashes.
Testing the battery. Dying batteries will require the alternator to pull more power to recharge the battery. This can ultimately lead to worse fuel efficiency. Not only that, but a weak battery can put more pressure on multiple car parts, wearing them down faster.
You can test the battery yourself with a multimeter at least twice a year (before and after winter is best). If you notice any issues, you can try recharging it with a battery charger. Otherwise, replace it as soon as you see signs that the battery is on its way out or if it’s an older battery, around four to five years.
Replacing spark plugs. Spark plugs for cars in Northfield can experience a lot of wear and tear, especially from extreme temperatures. They also simply wear out from regular vehicle use, and failing to change your car’s air filters can shorten the lifespan of the spark plugs. They’ll need to be replaced about every 30,000 miles.
Changing filters. Air, cabin air and fuel filters are important for keeping debris out of the car’s engine, interior and fuel lines. The buildup of dust and debris can wear down the engine, shortening its lifespan. The air filter also keeps you healthy and safe by reducing pollutants inside the car. These filters need to be changed about every 20,000 to 40,000 miles. Cabin air filters usually need to be changed more frequently, about once a year.
2. Pay Attention to Warning Signs
When your car starts making a rattling noise, the engine sputters when you try to turn the key, or the check engine light comes on, don’t just turn up the music and ignore it. For many automotive problems, the longer you let them go, the worse they can get.
For instance, rattling could mean many things, including a failing catalytic converter. Not only does this cause issues with powering up the car, but ignoring the rattling could eventually cause damage to the engine. Then you’re looking at paying to fix multiple serious issues.
If something looks, sounds, or feels off, take a quick check. If you don’t notice what’s wrong, then it’s time to start getting some service quotes. Paying to take care of the problem quickly will save you money in the long run.
3. Winterize Your Vehicle
With Northfield’s harsh winters, the snow, road salts and cold temperatures can do a number on your vehicle. When winter comes, make sure to keep up with these tasks to winterize your car:
Stay out of the cold. Rather than parking on the street or in the driveway, keep your car parked in a garage if possible to prolong the life of the battery (and save money on replacing it).
- Clean the car. Make sure you’re washing the car regularly in winter to remove harsh road salts that can damage the vehicle’s parts.
- Use the right amount of antifreeze. Have about a 1:1 ratio of antifreeze and water to keep the engine running even in cold temperatures and to avoid corrosion.
- Add winter tires for better grip. Consider swapping to winter tires to minimize the risk of a crash and costly repairs. You can also switch to winter wiper blades, which better protect against frozen windshield wipers.
4. Try DIY Maintenance
Keeping up with typical car maintenance tasks will help your car run efficiently, ensuring its parts remain operational for longer. While some repairs and upkeep require the expertise of a technician, there are maintenance tasks you can do yourself.
Remember, cars today are complex, and each one is different. Be sure to thoroughly read your manual and research the proper method of DIY maintenance before diving in.
Oil. Changing a car’s oil is an accessible task for many car owners and can save you quite a bit of cash: about $25 to $75 per service. You may need to spend a bit more upfront to buy car jacks, the proper wrenches, an oil pan and funnel, and other supplies. But once your service kit is fully outfitted, you’ll just need to restock on fresh oil, oil filters and replacement plugs each time you change the oil.
Make sure to follow the car manual for the correct type and amount of oil and the recommended mileage or time between oil changes.
Tires. There’s no need to take your car to the shop when the tires need more air. You can refill them yourself at a gas station to save money. Keeping the tires properly inflated helps tires last longer and improves fuel efficiency, saving you money on gas. If you’re ready to tackle more advanced tasks, you can rotate and align the tires.
Fluids. You can refill many fluids in your car without professional help. Make sure to check and refill the following fluids as needed: windshield wiper fluid, radiator fluid, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid and coolant.
Battery. When was the last time you checked on your car battery? Make sure you inspect the battery for any damage about once per month. You are likely to see corrosion from time to time, which you can clean off with commercial cleaners or a baking soda paste.
5. Stick to Local Shops
Finding a vehicle repair shop you can trust is intimidating, but working with a local shop is a great way to support your community and get great deals. Many local shops are happy to work with your budget and vehicle needs, especially if you’re a repeat customer and helping them gain new referrals.
6. Get Multiple Quotes
When looking for the car repair and maintenance services you need, if you haven’t already formed a relationship with a local shop, make sure to get multiple quotes. Get at least three quotes from different shops. Don’t automatically jump at the lowest price; consider what each quote entails. Some shops may offer more services at a slightly higher price, making their offer a better deal.
7. Check With Your Insurance for Deals
You pay your insurance premium diligently every month, but are you getting the most out of your plan? Your car insurance provider may offer discounts or deals if you use one of its recommended, in-network auto repair shops.
7. Clean Your Car
If you can’t remember the last time you washed your car, it’s time to grab the garden hose (or grab some quarters and head to the car wash). Dust, debris, tar from the road and other pollutants can do more than just grime up your car and maybe ruin the paint job. Over time, dust, road salts and other debris can also cause the underside of the car to rust and cause damage to the car.
Generally, you should wash your car about every two weeks. To save money on vehicle maintenance, consider DIYing your car washes rather than paying for expensive cleaning services.
Your car has a lot of moving parts that require a little TLC from time to time. While you should always trust your local auto repair shop to perform services you can’t safely handle yourself, you can also brush up on some mechanical skills, like changing the oil or refilling the tire pressure, to help your car go the distance while saving some cash along the way.