Ways to Save on Automobile Maintenance and Protection

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In general, follow the instructions in the owner’s manual which came with your automobile. Proper maintenance, care, and operation of your vehicle should reduce total operating costs, improve fuel efficiency, and extend its life.(If your new automobile is still under warranty, the warranty may be voided if certain maintenance and repairs are not done by an authorized dealer.)

29. Change the oil as recommended. This will extend the life of the engine. Use the type and grade of oil recommended for your particular automobile. Mixing oils of different viscosities could be damaging to your engine and make starting difficult.

30. If you change your own oil, take your used oil to a local service station which serves as a collecting point for oil to be recycled--if there is such a station in your area.Recycling oil has obvious long-term financial advantages for all of us.

31. Have your vehicle tuned-up as recommended in your owner’s guide or as otherwise needed. Properly tuned, it will perform more efficiently and use less fuel.

32. When you need to buy new tires, compare the warranties on various brands. All other things being equal or very close to equal, choose the tires with the warranty which provides the best financial advantage for you.

33. Shop around for new tires. The prices can vary from place to place on identical tires. Check such places as general discount type stores, department stores, tire shops, automotive supply stores, auto repair shops, garages, mail-order catalogs, and service stations. Buy them where you can get the best overall deal.

34. Watch for legitimate tire sales. Primarily, watch the newspapers in your area for advertised specials. The savings can be substantial.

35. When you are shopping for new tires, ask if mounting and initial balancing are included in the purchase price. A charge for mounting and balancing could wipe out the savings you are getting on the price of the tires.

36. When buying new tires, figure the tire cost per mile to determine the best buy. For example, with all other things being equal, a $40 tire with a 20,000 mile warranty would not be as good a buy as a $70 tire with a 70,000 mile warranty. Figure the tire cost per mile by dividing the purchase price by the number of miles.

37. Consider buying “blemished’ (blems) tires. The “blemish” will not decrease the wearability, performance, or safety of the tire; and it normally will carry the same warranty as an unblemished tire. The cosmetic imperfection may be so minor that it is almost undetectable. The difference in cost compared to an unblemished tire could be as much as 30 percent.

38. Consider buying “black wall” instead of “white wall” tires. Black walls are usually cheaper.

39. Check your tire pressure regularly. Ask the service station attendant to check the pressure, or you can buy an inexpensive tire gauge and check the pressure yourself. Tire pressure that is too low causes increased tread wear, so keep tires inflated at the recommended pressure. The sooner your tires wear out, the sooner you will have to replace them.

40. Balance your tires at the recommended mileage, or sooner if needed, to extend their lives and to give a smoother ride. When you need new tires, buy them where periodical balancing is included in the purchase price, if the price is comparable to prices at other places which do not provide free balancing. The cost of balancing four tires over their lifetime could easily run $175 or more.

41. Have your tires rotated at the recommended mileage. When you need new tires, buy them where periodical rotation is included in the purchase price, if the price of the tires is comparable to the price at other places which do not give free rotations. The cost of rotating four tires over their lifetime could easily be $35 to $50.

42. You can rotate your tires yourself and save money. If the purchase price of your tires does not include periodical free rotation, save yourself up to $50 over the lifetime of four tires by rotating them yourself.

43. If periodic rotation and balancing are not included in the purchase price of your new tires, consider purchasing a lifetime rotation and balancing contract from your dealer. The cost is generally reasonable and it will save you money in the long run.

44. Keep the front end of your automobile in proper alignment to prevent abnormal wear to the tires. Alignment should be checked at the first sign of wear or as otherwise needed.

45. Take advantage of sales on tune-ups, oil changes, and other routine automobile maintenance. Be sure you know what is included and not included in the particular special. For example, must you pay extra for the oil filter or pay a disposal fee on the oil change “special”? Generally, “specials’ can save you up to 30 percent or more on maintenance costs.

46. Buy automobile air filters on sale and install them yourself. They are simple to install. You could save up to 50 percent compared to what the service station would charge for a filter. When you find filters on sale at a very good price, buy several at one time and reap the savings.

47. Buy automobile parts, oil, oil filters, air filters, headlights, antifreeze, and other items for your vehicle where they are the cheapest. They are often, but not always, cheaper at discount chain stores and are usually more expensive at garages, service stations, and service departments of automobile dealers. Call around to find the cheapest price. Remember to check auto parts stores and other places which sell auto maintenance items, Prices can vary a great deal from place to place.

48. Check the antifreeze level in your automobile radiator before freezing temperatures occur. You can ask your service station attendant to check the level, or you can buy an inexpensive tester, and test the level yourself. If the level is low, buy some antifreeze (where you can get the best price) and add it yourself. After you have added the antifreeze, be sure to have it checked or check it again yourself with your tester to make sure your radiator and block are adequately protected from freezing. It is much cheaper to add antifreeze than replace your radiator or engine block.

49. Before freezing weather, fill your windshield washer reservoir with a nonfreezing cleaner solution. Otherwise, your ordinary solution will freeze and will not be usable when needed--for example, mud or slush could be splashed onto your windshield obstructing vision and causing a serious accident. Accidents are expensive.

50. Make as many automobile repairs as you can yourself, rather than hire them done. A large part of the cost of automobile repairs is for labor. By doing the repairs yourself, the labor part of the cost could be saved. For example, a part may cost $7; but the labor for installing it might be $60. Save that $53.

51. Check in your area to see if there are do-it-yourself auto repair centers. You pay a certain amount per hour to rent a space and tools. You do your own work. Utilizing one of these centers could save you a great deal of money, particularly if expensive equipment is needed to make the necessary repairs to your vehicle.

52. Do as much of your automobile maintenance yourself as you can, rather than pay others to do it for you. Some examples of relatively simple tasks you can perform yourself are: checking the engine oil level, adding oil, and changing the oil and filter; checking the transmission fluid level and adding fluid; checking the antifreeze level and adding antifreeze; checking the brake fluid level and adding fluid; checking the air filter and replacing it; checking the water level in the radiator and adding water; checking the windshield washer reservoir and adding windshield washer solution; replacing fuses; replacing light bulbs and headlights; installing a new battery; checking the air pressure in the tires and adding air; and replacing a flat tire with the spare.

53. Spend a small fee to take a course on simple, basic auto repair and maintenance. Call your local vocational-technical school or institute, local high school, local junior college, or your Land Grant University’s County Extension Service to see whether the personnel there offer such a course or if they know where such a course is available. You should be able to save on repairs and maintenance many times over what you may pay for the course.

54. When you use self-service gasoline pumps, don’t forget to check such things as your automobile’s oil level, brake fluid level, transmission fluid level, radiator water level, windshield washer reservoir level, and tire pressure. Neglecting these things could result in expensive problems for you and your vehicle.

55. Use the gasoline octane recommended for your automobile. Your vehicle will run better, and you will get the most efficiency from your fuel.

56. Consider having your car undercoated (rust-proofed) to help prevent rust, especially if you live near salt water, in areas where salt is put on roads in icy weather, or in other areas where rusting is a major problem. Rusting can require replacing your car long before its time. (Compare the cost of having the job done with that of buying the rust-- proofing materials and doing the job yourself.)

57. Ask that guarantees related to repairs or services for your vehicle be put in writing. If you have repairs or services done at national chain stores or shops, keep copies of all bills and guarantees in your vehicle, should you have trouble with these same problems while you are away from home. The unfulfillment of verbal guarantees could take money out of your own pocket when trouble arises with the same problem.

58. When having your automobile repaired, ask for a written estimate of the costs. Otherwise, you might receive a bill for twice the amount you expected to pay.

59. Check with friends, relatives, acquaintances, and coworkers for suggestions of qualified, honest, and reliable auto mechanics. In both the short and long run, you could save yourself some frustration and money.

60. When you need repairs on your automobile, shop around and compare prices. Check at auto repair shops at new car dealers; with mechanics at local service stations; with independent general auto mechanics; and at specialty shops, such as muffler shops and transmission repair shops. With all other things being equal, choose the place with the lowest estimate for the cost of your needed repairs. Prices do vary from place to place.

61. Prepare a written, dated, and signed list (keep a copy for yourself) of repairs or services you want done on your automobile and leave it with the mechanic. If you don’t leave such a list, you could return and find some of the things you wanted done left undone; or you might find charges on your bill for things you did not authorize.

62. Park in parallel parking slots rather than angled slots so that other people can’t open and bang their automobile doors on the sides of your vehicle. After several years of door-banging, your automobile could have hundreds of dents and places where the paint has chipped away. If the condition is bad enough, your automobile might need a new paint job; or the condition could lower the sale price or trade-in value of your vehicle.

63. Don’t hit the curb when parking and turning corners. Also, slow down when driving on rough roads. These precautions will help keep the front end in alignment and also minimize damage to your tires, thus extending their lives.

64. Park your automobile under your carport or in your garage to protect it from the weather. Bad weather--such as hail and wind storms--can damage your car and could necessitate expensive repairs or lower your vehicle’s trade-in value.

65. Park your automobile under your carport or in your garage to protect it from the sun. The sun can fade the outside paint and the inside upholstery. It can, also, over an extended period of time, weaken the upholstery and cause it to deteriorate. Lack of protection from the sun could create a need for a premature paint job and premature replacement of upholstery--each of which represents money out of your pocket.

66. If you don’t have access to a carport or garage, consider buying a flexible automobile cover for your vehicle to help protect it from such things as the sun and inclement weather.

67. Do not park your car under trees which drip sap or in which birds roost. The paint on your car could be ruined, and a new paint job is costly.

68. Use floor mats in your automobile to help keep your carpet from getting soiled. Well-kept carpets will add to your vehicle’s appearance and may help you get a better price when you trade or sell. Floor mats also will help prevent the carpet from wearing out and having to be replaced.

69. Keep your automobile clean inside. A vehicle whose interior has been well-kept should bring a higher price when it is traded or sold.

70. Keep the outside of your automobile clean to help preserve the finish. Follow the automobile manufacturer’s instructions on washing and waxing. A vehicle whose finish has been well preserved should bring more money when it is traded or sold.

71. Wash the outside and keep the inside of your car clean yourself rather than hire it done. At $7 (and upward) for a car wash, you could spend $84 or more a year if you have it washed just once a month. That’s $840 or more over a ten-year period.

72. Drive defensively to reduce the possibility of having an accident. Be on alert and pay attention to your driving at all times when you are behind the wheel. An accident may cost you some money even if you have automobile insurance and health insurance and even if it isn’t your fault. Also, many people are reluctant to buy a vehicle that has been in an accident.

73. Before you leave on a trip, be sure that your automobile is in good running condition. Have your mechanic check it out if you are not certain everything is in good shape. While you are on the trip, always stay with your vehicle when you stop for gasoline or other services at a service station, especially along the interstate highways. Unscrupulous service station owners or attendants could slash a tire, water hose, or fan belt, for example, and charge you an exorbitant price for replacement.

74. If you are away from home and want to use a public restroom, park your automobile in a place that is visible to passersby, lock the doors, and spend as little time as possible away from your vehicle. The less time you are away from it, the less likely it will be bothered.

75. When you stop for a meal at a restaurant, try to park your car where you can see it while sitting in the restaurant. Keeping it in sight could prevent someone from breaking into or damaging your car.

76. Park your automobile in a well-lighted area at night. Thieves operate best in the dark.

77. To help deter thieves, keep your vehicle doors locked at all times. Do so while your vehicle is parked in the shopping mall parking lot as well as in the front of your church. I personally know a woman who left her keys in her unlocked car which was parked in front of the church on Sunday morning. When she came out of the church after services, the car was gone.

78. If you have a garage, keep your automobile in it when it is at home. Keep your vehicle doors locked and the garage door closed at all times when the car is inside. Don’t tempt a thief or make it easy for him or her to break into or steal your automobile.

79. Consider installing an alarm system in your automobile to deter thieves.

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