My recent article, “Car Repairs You Don’t Need” listed a few of the repairs that mechanics often charge customers for that are unnecessary or over-priced. Many people who read the article asked me what kind of car repairs they should pay for in order to avoid bigger expenses down the road. Here’s a list of the maintenance tasks you should perform regularly on your vehicle.
Tire Rotation and Air Pressure
I laughed when my friend asked me, “But don’t my tires rotate every time I drive my car?” This service is to take the tires off your car and move them around the vehicle so that the front tires end up in the back, and vice-versa. Doing this will make the tires last much longer because it will allow the tires to wear out evenly. Of course, you can save money by doing this yourself in an afternoon, but the service is usually pretty cheap, and it’s a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the tread on your tires for safety reasons.
The air in your tires is what can make the difference in how the car drives. You can save a lot of gas money simply from keeping the right pressure in your tires. Make sure you service your car by getting the tire pressure checked. Due to the temperature extremes of Eastern New Mexico affecting the pressure in your tires, get them checked when winter and summer are approaching. Fortunately, this can be done with a 99-cent tire pressure gauge, and most local gas stations offer free air machines to fill your tires.
The fluids in your car should be replaced at least once a year. Make sure you have enough anti-freeze, windshield washing fluid and engine coolant every time you change your car’s oil. All of these fluids can be purchased fairly cheaply from your local auto parts store, and replacing them requires you to take off the cap and pour.
Most cars need a regular tune-up, but many can go about three years or 80,000 miles between them. A typical tune-up involves adjustments of parts in the both the electrical and fuel systems. Unfortunately, this is one service that you will probably need to pay a professional mechanic to perform for you, as it requires specialized diagnostic equipment. Look through local ads and find a shop that is running a special on such a service before bringing your car in. Additionally, many privately-owned shops in New Mexico will negotiate on price with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount.
Your car needs an oil change at least once, if not twice, every year. Unfortunately, this is usually the first area that people neglect when cutting back on their automotive maintenance budgets, resulting in them paying hundreds of dollars more down the road. Not changing the oil in your car can affect several things, including increasing the amount of your car’s emissions, lowering performance power, and worse fuel economy. Learn to do this service yourself, or look for specials on this service at your local automotive mechanic’s shop in order to save money.
Replacing the timing belt in your engine should probably be done about every 60,000 miles. While this can be a more expensive service, skipping it will cause thousands of dollars of damage to your car. If your pistons are no longer synchronized due to the timing belt skipping or breaking the valve, you will probably need to replace the engine. Fortunately, you can find mechanics who will offer you a deal on this service if it is included with other needed maintenance. You may also want to consider purchasing the parts separately before bringing them in to the mechanic to avoid the shop’s mark-up on parts.