Even as cars evolve to need less-frequent care, maintenance and replacement costs can take a big bite out of your wallet. Don't worry, we're not going to try to teach you how to rebuild an engine or even dirty your hands — just how to make smart decisions that will keep you rolling for less.
Give regular fuel a try.
Even if your car says premium fuel recommended — or even required — few really need it. Most late-model cars can adjust to regular fuel because engines are now equipped with knock sensors, which adjust the engine's timing automatically when they detect detonation — the tell-tale 'pinging'. You may experience a slight decrease in power and fuel economy, but no damage to the engine. A key exception: If your car is turbo- or supercharged and specifies super, follow the manual. And for pete's sake, you're doing neither your car nor your wallet any favors by putting higher-grade gas in a car that calls for regular.
Don't change the oil more than you need to.
Sure, Uncle Marvin changed his oil every 3,000 miles and his Studebaker ran forever. But oils have evolved, and so have engines. Even Jiffy Lube's not running the "every 3,000 miles" pitch anymore. Stick to the manual's recommendations and refuse all entreaties from service managers and ad campaigns, especially ones for oil additives.
Note that your manual may tell you to follow your car's electronic oil-use sensors rather than go by a specific mileage. Don't get me wrong. Oil is your engine's lifeblood and it's critical to change it. But doing so more often than your vehicle's manufacturer recommends simply doesn't pay off.
Find a local mechanic you trust and show him your business.
Too many car owners flit from shop to shop, forking over fortunes on major repairs. Here's a better strategy: Identify a gas station owner or repair shop manager in your neighborhood you like, make sure he knows you are creating business for him, get to know him on a first-name basis and be friendly. It's amazing how a bond of trust like this can save you money. I work with someone whose trusty local gas station owner came to his house to jump-start his battery in an emergency, and charged him nothing.
Have you considered a warehouse store for your tires?
No, they won't make you buy a dozen at a time. Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club all offer tires and will mount them for you, too. You'll be able to tap into your club's satisfaction guarantees on top of the warranties the tire makers offer, and note that the installation costs include services you'd often pay extra for elsewhere such as lifetime balancing, rotation and flat repair. It pays to do some looking ahead on your club's Web site to check availability — the clubs don't always keep inventory outside some relatively common sizes — but they can order you just about anything.
Know thy hybrid.
You go out to start up your hybrid and nothing happens. Don't fret. In addition to whatever exotic chemical composite hybrids have to run the drive system, they have a conventional 12-volt lead acid battery that powers the headlights, radio and dome lights that kids are so good at leaving on overnight. So see if it's just a jump start you need before you call for more serious help.
Prius owners — there IS a 12-volt battery in there — you just can't see it. Consult your owner's manual for how to jump start.
Keep the right parts dry.
I see this all the time in my neighborhood: Drivers come home and park the car in front of the garage door. Then when rain threatens, they run out to pull it inside lest their car get rained on. Or, when it gets dark, they pull the car in for the night.
Ouch! Here's what's wrong with that: Starting a cold engine is when the bulk of its wear occurs. That's in part because all the oil is sitting at the bottom, rather than distributed around the parts that move. But also, when your engine runs and doesn't get warm, the byproducts of combustion, including water, collect in the oil and can over time turn it into a noxious sludge that attacks the motor from the inside. On a longer trip, your car's engine gets hot and the water is boiled out of the oil and the engine — no worries there. So: avoid short trips when you can — especially the short and pointless ones.
You bought a car. You didn't marry the dealer.
Independent shops are fighting back against dealer marketing efforts that play on consumer fears of voiding a warranty. If you have your maintenance done on time with quality parts — and keep your paperwork — federal law is on your side if push comes to shove over a warranty claim. Check out the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. If your dealer makes you happy by giving you a loaner car, fine. Enjoy it. But it's frequently the more expensive choice for basic servicing.
One reason often cited for taking a car to the dealership for maintenance work is that dealers — as representatives of car manufacturers — are more likely to see if there are any outstanding recalls on your car. But, you can do a lot of this research yourself, either by checking with your independent shop, or by looking up your car online in the government's safercar.org database.
Tire rotation? Don't spin your wheels.
Tire rotation is one of the least critical of maintenance issues. If you don't do it, your tires will wear out a bit more quickly, true. But here's a case where you can skimp. I wouldn't pay extra to have it done. If the car's already in the air for an inspection or other service, ask your friendly mechanic to put the wheels back on in different spots. Or, if you bought them at a warehouse store as we suggested, they'll take care of it.
Note also that more and more tires are directional — which makes rotation less feasible because the tires can only go on either the left or right side of the car. What's a directional tire? Look for a v-shaped tread pattern.
No ignoring the oil light.
Let's play this one safe. You see something come on about oil? Pull over as soon as you safely can and turn off the engine.
Sure, it's possible that the light has something to do with oil level or an oil-change interval, but in case it's the oil-pressure light, you need to act in minutes, if not seconds, to keep your engine from destruction.
Now that you're safely stopped, open up your owner's manual and look up "oil" to see what you're dealing with. Maybe it's just an oil change warning and you can keep going to your destination. But if it is the oil pressure, you could have a serious problem and will likely need a tow.
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It is suggested that way for a reason. Look up compression engines and octane and see why there's different levels of octane in gas. Using the knock sensor to "failsafe" is crazy. If that system fails your engine "will" sustain catastrophic damage. And while it might run while in this Failsafe you will decrease gas mileage and possibly increase engine wear
1. Your vehicle's engine and fuel system were designed to run a particular fuel grade and doing otherwise is foolish at best. Higher octane fuel withstands higher temps before combustion, and if the combustion process starts before the pistons are in the right position, engine damage can occur. USE THE PROPER FUEL GRADE
2. The average oil change today is between $30 - $40 dollars. The average engine is between $4000 and $12,000. You do the math... Oil does a lot more than lubricate the engine, and any blogger that tells you to stretch them out to save a few bucks is an idiot. Engine oil is the PRIMARY cooling source for the engine, and excess heat is one of your engines greatest enemies. Also, engine oils have a large number of additives that break down over time. Some additives reduce harmful acids that form; some additives control oil foaming for diesel engines that when degraded, actually make the engine run poorly. These additives are critical in keeping the engine clean and properly lubricated. Today's engines are built to very tight tolerances to maximize performance and minimize harmful emissions, and this requires vigilant maintenance - including regular oil changes. Have you ever seen the sludge inside a Toyota 3.0 liter V-6 engine of any VW / Audi from not changing the oil enough? I have, and the owners of those cars were not happy.
3. Barney 408 - I guess you haven't had the pleasure of replacing the catalytic converters on you car have you? Your check engine light (MIL, or Malfunction Indicator Lamp is the proper term) is there for a reason. Can you drive the vehicle with it steady on? Yes you can. If it is flashing, it means there is an active misfire in the engine, and the author's octane reducing money saver - the knock sensor - is detecting one or more cylinders is not firing. But, what if there is an error for your engine running lean? Your engine's computer is trying to adjust the fuel ratio, but it cannot and thus turns the light on. What then?? Keep driving and ignore it? When your engine says it's lean, it is dumping as much fuel in as possible, and the o2 sensors are still reporting lean... This wastes fuel, and will kill your catalytic converters very quickly. I just replaced the converters on a Ford truck for a measly $4000 in parts. Ignore the MIL if you want...
These are just a few of the issues I've read in this article and user comments. My advise... find a mechanic you can trust, and follow his / her advise... and throw the factory service guide in the trash.
Some tire warranties require regular rotation; if your vehicle is out of alignment, it will definitely void that tire warranty. This brings me to another point about regular oil changes: the accompanying visual inspection is a perfect opportunity to catch minor things, like uneven tire wear, before they are a problem, especially if you always go to the same shop where they are familiar with your vehicle and will notice changes more readily.
1. This sort of article has appeared numerous times on msn.com. There was one instance in which there were two articles presented at the same time, one on how to save money on maintenance, and one on how to make your car last a long time. The first, like this one, said to not bother changing your oil every 3000 miles. The second said to never skimp on oil changes, and always change it every 3000 miles.
2. This is msn.com. The same place which runs articles telling you how to find love based on your horoscope. "For entertainment purposes only." Caveat Emptor, perhaps you should seek technical advise elsewhere.
where did the writer of this get so much misinformation on tire service.WIth the cost of tires going up you better find a real tire dealer you can trust and get a real opinion on rotation alignment air pressure and their importance to tire wear.A tire pro will inform you so you get your
moneys worth out of a set.It is to his benefit as well as yours.
Oil: Make sure you check the owners manual to be sure you buy the correct weight and viscosity. If the manual says 5W30, then use 5W30. If you go with synthetics make sure you use 100% synthetic not a blend of synthetic and regular oil. The blends are only as strong as their weakest link.
Tires: Make sure your tire retailer offers free rotation. Rotation does matter as front tires usually wear faster than the rear. Front to rear rotation is essential with directional tires. Most tire retailers will also check tire inflation when they rotate. Under inflated tiers are a major cause of tire wear and low fuel economy.
Also, make sure you look for a service facility that employs ASE certified technicians. ASE technicians must pass regular testing to maintain their certification. ASE certification is a very good thing.
It doesn't matter if you use a dealership or an independent: the best way to pick a mechanic is to ask you friends & neighbors who they trust, check their BBB rating, and then visit the shop yourself and meet them, see how they treat you. Base cost will probably be about the same either way, but if you develop a relationship with someone you trust, then you will end up getting the best value for your money.