Photo courtesy of Masterfile Image by: Photo courtesy of Masterfile
Water, mud, salt and calcium are all enemies of metal. So be smart about keeping your vehicle sparkling. Leaving dirt and salt on your car speeds the process of oxidization, which corrodes the metal and may affect the resale value of your vehicle. Rinse your car off once a week, or drive it through a commercial car wash to clean the underside, too (and be sure to dry the edges of the doors, hood and trunk). Depending on how long you intend to keep your vehicle, a properly applied rustproofing treatment ($120 to $150) every one or two years may help keep rust at bay.
2. Change the oil and air filters regularly
This basic service is often the most neglected. Oil lubricates the engine components and ensures even wear. But with time and usage, oil loses its efficiency. Regularly replacing the oil (check manufacturer’s recommendations) keeps parts clean and prevents the engine from exceeding normal operating temperature. Most oil changes ($35 to $200, depending on oil) also include the replacement of your car’s air filter, which keeps dirt, dust and debris from entering the engine. A dirty filter forces the engine to burn too much gas and not enough air, increasing fuel consumption and causing your vehicle to run less smoothly.
3. Watch for dashboard lights
The onboard diagnostics computer analyzes and transmits crucial information. You may not need to stop on the side of the road the moment a check engine light turns on, but it indicates that you should have your car inspected by a mechanic (about $100 for a diagnosis) to pinpoint which system is not operating properly. Common issues vary from a loose or damaged gas cap (under $20) to a faulty oxygen sensor (about $100) or spark plugs that need replacing ($100 to $500, depending on the make of vehicle).
4. Maintain fluid levels
Each fluid in your car has a purpose. From engine coolant to transmission and brake fluids, if one of these fluid levels is too low, it increases the risk of damaging the mechanics of your vehicle. If you feel confident, consult your owner’s manual on how to check your car’s fluid levels yourself. Or during your next oil change, ask the mechanic to check levels before any repair work is done. For example, difficulty shifting gears may be solved with a simple transmission inspection and fluid top-up ($90 to $200). In comparison, a transmission replacement can run in the thousands.
5. Inspect your tires
By keeping your tires properly inflated, you improve their grip, eliminate friction (decreasing fuel consumption by five percent) and prolong wear. The average tread life is 80,000 to 100,000 kilometres, whereas an underinflated tire will wear at 40,000 to 60,000 kilometres— meaning you will be paying for new tires ($500 to $1,200) sooner. Your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure, or PSI (pounds per square inch), will be on a sticker on the doorjamb or in your owner’s manual. Many new cars are equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. Though technologically advanced, it is not always precise, so once a month verify tire pressure manually.
For some more money-saving tips, find out how you can reduce your car costs.
|This story was originally titled "Road Worthy" in the November 2014 issue.
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