Putting It All Together

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Hopefully the information you found in this guide will be the beginning of a new awareness for you as you take your first steps toward improved car care. Even if your car isn’t new or has been neglected in the past, following the suggestions and recommendations presented here should result in extended life for your car. Decide now to put the added time and effort necessary into your routine activities for improved car life and performance.


We mentioned the word routine in the last paragraph. That’s exactly what you must develop to guarantee proper car maintenance. Establishing a routine for doing any chore always makes it less of an anguish to perform. Find the time during your busy week to spend with your car. Choose a time when no one else will bother you. Early Saturday mornings before other family members wake seems to work for many people. Set aside an hour to give your car the attention called for. Plan your activities before you start.

In Section C you will find service charts you can use to perform all the suggested maintenance items covered in this guide. You may photocopy the charts if you desire or perhaps construct your own. In any case, stick to our suggestions and perform them faithfully.

A word of caution is in order, however. People overeat, they over-drink, overreact to situations, etc.—and you can overdo it with car maintenance. Remember, your car is there to serve you. Don’t become a slave to it. Don’t put off a family activity just to wash the car or perform some other routine service on it. There are a great number of more important and satisfying things in life than changing engine oil. Keep your head about you and establish priorities, and any list of priorities should include family and job before car.


If you decide to construct your own service chart, include items that are to be serviced according to mileage. Such items include oil changes, grease jobs, and tire rotation. Mileage on a car is directly related to rubbing, sliding, and abrasive wear. It also correlates to additive depletion in oil, grease, and automatic transmission fluid. Use the mileage frequency recommendations included herein for optimum results.

Time and Frequency

Include in your chart items to be serviced at certain time intervals rather than at mileage intervals. These items include washing and waxing, checking tire pressure, etc. Time is a factor in additive depletion, dirt accumulation, acid and sludge buildup in the crankcase, etc. Use the time frequency recommendations presented herein for best results.


The act of keeping financial records is called accounting. The act of keeping automotive records is called good sense. Be sure to develop lots of good sense.

Keep accurate, detailed records of all service work you or your mechanic perform on your car. Record the date and mileage, who performed the service, and what was done. Save all receipts for parts and service, in addition to all warranty contracts. And stick with it. Lapses in recording of work done have a way of never getting recorded.

What’s so important about record keeping? For one thing, accurate records let you know where you are in terms of your maintenance schedule. Records let you know what has been done and when, and what needs to be done and when you should do it. Records, therefore, are primarily for planning purposes.

Records are important also in diagnostic work. If you find, through a review of your records, that gas mileage has been steadily dropping off, you could deduce that it’s time for a tune-up or that other repairs might be necessary. Records can also add value to your car at resale time. A prospective buyer will be greatly impressed by the detailed, historical automotive account you can show him or her. The buyer will know exactly the condition of the car, and will feel confident in knowing that there is less likelihood of surprise repairs to be made. The buyer will know what service was last performed and what comes next. A complete service record is a valuable commodity, indeed.

One last advantage in keeping good records: they add a lot of weight to your case in warranty or faulty repair disputes. If you can show documented evidence of when a repair was done, you stand a much improved chance for winning in a faulty repair argument. Keep a record of the date .and mileage that a repair was done along with the service writer or manager’s name and the mechanic’s name, if you can get it. Also, re cord what was done and have any used parts returned to you. Some warranty work needs to be done only by the dealer to keep the warranty in effect. In order not to void the warranty, make sure you know which repairs you or your mechanic can legally make and those that must be handled only by the dealer.


Develop a friendly relationship with the dealer, especially the service manager or a mechanic. The dealer will be able to supply you with information on ordering shop manuals and any special tooling needed for your car. He will also be a source of information on service bulletins published by the manufacturer. Service bulletins advise the dealer on special items or techniques of service for the cars he sells. A friendly service manager might allow you to review or even photocopy (if allowed by the publisher or manufacturer) the service bulletins for your information and/or files.

In addition to being a source of service information, the dealer is the only person authorized to offer extended warranties for purchase. These are usually limited warranties and can cost up to $300. They are of some value, so check to see if you can purchase one for your car.


There are only three occasions when you should consider selling your car: after an accident for which repairs would be exorbitant in cost, when you can no longer buy parts from the dealer, or when the cost per mile to operate the car becomes too high.

If you have an accident, your car is considered a total loss if the cost to repair the car will surpass the market value of a similar car in good condition. If damages total $2,500 while the market value of your car (unwrecked) is only $2,000, the insurance company will most likely opt to replace your wrecked car with another car of equal market value. Or perhaps they will award you $2,000 and leave it to you to decide whether to repair your car or buy another one. Of course, if you decide to replace your car with a used car, you will normally have little idea how the used car has been maintained. See Appendix A for tips on buying a used car.

Whether to buy a new car, a used car, or have your car repaired is a tough decision. Buying new will cost a lot of money, but you aren’t going to inherit someone else’s problems as you would if buying a used car. Consider this: if your wrecked car has suffered primarily body damage, it might be worthwhile to have it repaired. Repaired bodies don’t have an effect on car performance. You should still get the same mileage, oil usage, tire wear, etc. as you did before the accident. The only thing you need to be concerned with is the ‘weatherability’ of the repaired body: will it leak water inside, will it be more susceptible to rusting, will it rattle or squeak, how’s the rider comfort going to be? The body shop can help you answer these questions.

New car auto dealers can order new parts for your car for at least 10 years after the year of manufacture. New cars bought in 1977 should still have new parts available for them through 1987. However, after 10 years new parts inventories will rapidly deplete. For our example, starting in 1988 new car dealers are no longer required to carry new parts for 1977 cars. They might still be able to order them, but when manufacturer inventories run out, you’re out of luck. At that point you must move to the next source of parts—auto stores and junkyards.

Auto stores carry a variety of new and rebuilt auto parts for older cars. New parts usually consist of spark plugs, oil/air/gas filters, batteries, hoses, belts, distributor caps, rotors, brake shoes, shocks, and radiator caps—to name a few. Rebuilt parts are typically things such as carburetors, alternators, starter motors, voltage regulators, and sometimes completely rebuilt engines. Some stores offer a trade-in allowance on old parts and even guarantee rebuilt parts for a short time after installation. Deal with a reputable auto store and you’ll do just fine.

Junkyards are another story, however. Inmost cases, when you buy a part for your car from a junkyard you will get no guarantee with it. It’ll doesn’t work after you get the part home and installed on your car, you’re out of luck. Usually, reputable junk dealers only guarantee that a part will work at the time of purchase. If it lasts just 2 miles or 1 day you have no recourse. About the only thing you can do is to have the part tested at the junkyard before you pay for it. If the junk dealer can’t or won’t test it, go somewhere else. Also, find out from which car in the junkyard the part came. If you’re thinking of buying a used radiator that came from a car with front-end damage, chances are the radiator is damaged also.

The third reason you might want to sell your car is that the cost per mile to operate it has become too high. To make a decision whether to sell or keep your car based on cost per mile of operation, you must keep careful financial records. Use the example in Table 15-1 as a guide in calculating your cost per mile. In the example, we use the straight line depreciation method (10% per year) over 10 years for simplicity sake. Some cars depreciate more quickly in the early years than others. A big car may lose 25% of its value during the first year, 12% the second year, and less amounts thereafter. A small car would probably more closely fit our example of an average 10%-per-year depreciation.

Table 15-1. Cost of Operating the Family Car.

Note: Price of car $25,000

Assume 12,000 miles driven each year

Change oil every 2,000 miles at $40 for oil and filter $120 per year

Snow tires purchased during years 1, 5, and 9

Regular tires purchased during years 4 and 8

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