Car Maintenance Tips For The Budget Conscious

My customer Jimmy drives a 1998 Ford. He bought it for $2000 and has driven it for 8 years.

We sat down a few months ago and calculated his monthly maintenance bill (including oil change and complete brake overhaul) which came to a whopping $41 per month.

That’s the miraculous power of simple car maintenance.

3 Common Maintenance Issues:

  • Neglected oil service. Old, black, sludgy oil starts to burn and overheat your engine – over time you might even need new rings (thousands of dollars). A $50 oil change every 4 months is a bargain in the long run.
  • Shoddy brake pads. If pads aren’t checked and replaced regularly it can lead to a $300-800 rotor replacement.
  • Worn out tires. Tire rotation can double the life of your tires (blowouts on the freeway are not pleasant).

The point of the exercise is reliability. The only feeling worse than being stuck in the rain waiting for a tow truck is being out $5,000 from a totally preventable repair bill.

Ever been to a quick lube (not mentioning any names) and some spotty faced teenager tries to upsell you on a bunch of mechanic-y things that are incomprehensible?

Like any good Canadian, you politely agree to a whole whack of services that you really didn’t need.

Just The Basics – Regular Maintenance Checklist

When it comes to basic maintenance, here’s what you actually need (while avoiding unnecessary repair schemes):

  • Conventional oil change
  • Fuel system cleaning
  • Coolant exchange
  • Check air filter (change if necessary)
  • Check transmission fluid
  • Check battery (make sure terminals are clean, wires are connected)
  • Wipers (ask about my special window treatment)
  • Tire tread
  • Tire rotation
  • Check brake pads and rotors
  • Visual inspection

Should Fluid Flushes Be A Maintenance Item?

Quick lube joints are paid to try and upsell you on getting all sorts of fancy fluids and flushes that are completely unnecessary. Change your fluid based on manufacturer’s recommendations – anything else is a money grab.

Trade secrets revealed: the following “fluid flushes” are generally a waste of money.

  • Brake
  • Transmission
  • Power steering
  • Coolant

Fluid problems like these mean something is seriously wrong – you would never flush and replace coolant just for the fun of it. If coolant is leaking, it might mean your head gasket is shot and needs replacing – not that you need a “flush”.

Change Your Oil – Buy A Dream Cat!

Need proof that maintenance is worth its weight in gold? Jimmy has put over 350,000km on his Explorer and it’s still going strong.

Regular maintenance will keep $50 repairs from ballooning into $5000 repairs.

Now with all the money Jimmy’s saved he can finally afford that Bengal cat he always dreamed of.