If you own a vehicle, you should know one of the best ways to save money on it in the long term is with preventative maintenance. Essentially, preventative maintenance amounts to inspections and repairs designed to keep your vehicle in peak operating condition—rather than waiting for something to break before you take action.
Though simple, this recurring act can save you money in multiple ways.
How Preventative Maintenance Saves You Money
Conducting regular preventative maintenance can save you money in four distinct areas:
- Catching small problems before they become big problems. One of the most important features of preventative maintenance is its ability to notice and correct small problems before they become big problems. For example, if you don’t change the oil in your car, it can get dirty and grimy, creating more friction and wear and tear in your engine. Eventually, those small bits of wear and tear can add up to irreparable damage, forcing you to shell out thousands of dollars for replacement parts.
- Maintaining your car’s fuel efficiency. The care you put into your car is also reflected in its fuel efficiency. For example, ensuring that your tires are properly inflated, and making sure they’re properly balanced can increase the number of miles you get per gallon. It may not amount to much, but over time, you could end up saving significant money on fuel.
- Preventing the need for emergency repairs. Initiating preventative maintenance means you get to decide how and when the repair is made. You can take your car to the mechanic of your choice, at your leisure, and make the proactive decision to replace the part. This is often cheaper than the alternative: waiting for the part to fail, then relying on a tow service or other emergency services to get you to the nearest mechanic. Even a relatively short tow can cost you more than $100, and you may end up paying more for the emergency-level service—all for the same repair you could have done proactively.
- Prolonging your car’s lifespan. Conducting regular maintenance on your vehicle keeps it in better shape for a longer period of time, prolonging its lifespan and preventing the need to buy a new vehicle in some cases. If you can squeeze just a year or two more out of each vehicle you own, you could save yourself tens of thousands of dollars throughout a lifetime.
With all these outlets for cost savings, the relatively low costs of maintenance seem like nothing.
Types of Preventative Car Maintenance
So what kind of preventative maintenance should you be applying or pursuing?
- Perhaps most importantly, you need to check the level and quality of the fluids in your vehicle. Oil is arguably the most important, and the one that needs to be changed most often. However, you’ll also need to check your brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and other fluids according to your manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Tire pressure. Overinflating and underinflating your tires can both be problematic, so make sure you keep your tires at the pressure specified by your manufacturer (usually between 30 and 35 psi).
- Air filters. It’s a good idea to change your air filter regularly—once a year or so. Fortunately, this is one of the easier jobs on this list.
- Tire rotations and balancing. To make sure your tires wear evenly and are mounted properly, you’ll need to rotate and balance your tires periodically.
- Tire treads. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the depth of your tire treads. Use the penny trick to determine when it’s time to replace your tires; invert a penny, and see if the tread is of sufficient depth to cover at least part of Abraham Lincoln’s head. If it isn’t, it may be time to upgrade.
- The serpentine belts and other belts in your vehicle are subject to heavy wear, and they should be replaced long before they’re in danger of snapping.
- Your brakes are your vehicle’s most important safety feature, but a lot can go wrong with them. If your brake pads are worn down or if they aren’t responding correctly, it could put you in serious danger. Inspect and repair your brakes as proactively as possible.
These are just a handful of the points you should be inspecting when conducting preventative car maintenance, but an experienced car mechanic will survey your vehicle for even more potential areas of damage. While you may not like the hassle of taking your car in twice a year, or the few hundred dollars in annual upkeep expenses you might pay, it’s much better than facing the cost of an emergency repair—or a bigger problem down the line.