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August 23, 2023

How to Save on Car Maintenance

Learn cost-effective car maintenance tips to save money! Discover DIY techniques & preventative measures for car owners. Master car maintenance now!

Cartoon of people doing car maintenance
Written by

Jennifer Moore

Car ownership promises freedom and convenience but demands responsible stewardship to ensure smooth, reliable operation. Car maintenance costs can really add up, impacting your vehicle's performance and wallet. Car maintenance becomes an ongoing commitment requiring responsibility and financial planning from the moment you drive off the lot.

Consider this: the average cost of repairing cars has climbed to $548.32, as reported by Kelley Blue Book's parent company Cox Automotive. Routine tasks like oil and filter changes can add to the financial load. Conventional oil changes typically range from $35 to $75, with synthetic oil changes costing anywhere from $65 to $125, depending on your location.

In this article, RateWorks will provide critical tips on how to save on car maintenance without compromising quality.

A person performing car maintenance

Car maintenance is a must to ensure the longevity of your vehicle

Car maintenance isn't just a chore – it's a critical investment in the longevity and performance of your vehicle. Routine care ensures that your car operates at its peak, delivering the reliability you depend on. Neglecting essential maintenance tasks, such as regular oil changes and air filter replacements, can lead to a cascade of issues that compromise your car's overall performance.

Skipping these fundamental tasks isn't just about convenience but safeguarding your investment. Neglected maintenance can lead to decreased fuel efficiency, reduced engine performance, and an overall decline in your car's capabilities. These oversights' consequences can impact your driving experience and your wallet. 

However, the good news is that you can take proactive steps to save on car maintenance without compromising quality.

Regular maintenance checks

DIY car maintenance and preventative car maintenance are more than buzzwords – they're essential practices that can save you from costly repairs. Scheduled maintenance is akin to giving your vehicle a health check-up, ensuring it operates optimally, and avoiding potential issues. 

Scheduled maintenance includes checking brake and power steering system fluid levels, radiator coolant, and engine oil. It also extends to safety components like brake pads and windshield wipers, which require routine inspection and timely replacement to ensure they function effectively.

Regular oil changes, air filter replacements, and tire rotations are cornerstones of preventative car maintenance. When you change your car's oil at a reputable repair shop or dealership, you're often treated to a multi-point inspection, assessing fluid levels, filters, and other vital components. The "every 3,000 miles" rule of thumb has evolved since the advent of synthetic oil, with many modern vehicles now capable of up to 10,000 miles between oil changes.

Manufacturers offer specific guidelines for auto maintenance, including oil changes and tire rotations. They recommend inspections and parts replacements at milestone odometer readings, such as3 0,000, 60,000, and 90,000 miles. Your vehicle's owner's manual is your reliable compass, providing the roadmap for maintaining your car's peak performance.

DIY car maintenance

Taking matters into your own hands with DIY car maintenance saves money and deepens your connection with your vehicle. Many tasks can be easily tackled, granting you the satisfaction of a well-done job and a well-maintained car. 

Here are some DIY tasks that can lead to substantial savings:

  • Changing wiper blades: A simple task that can save around $20-$30. Replace wiper blades annually or when streaks become noticeable.
  • Replacing air filters: Regularly swapping out air filters can save $15-$30. Aim for replacement every 12,000-15,000 miles.
  • Checking tire pressure: Maintaining proper tire pressure enhances fuel efficiency and saves up to $0.10 per gallon. Monitor tire pressure monthly.
  • Oil level check: Regularly checking your car's oil level prevents engine damage and can save on costly repairs. Aim for a monthly check.
  • Battery inspection: Regular battery maintenance can save you from a surprise breakdown. Check terminals and clean them if needed every 3-6 months.

Basic troubleshooting

Teaching yourself basic troubleshooting skills can be a game-changer in maintaining your car's health. By identifying minor issues before they snowball into major problems, you save money and ensure a safer and smoother driving experience. Learning the ropes of troubleshooting can be simpler than you think.

Here are some essential tips for detecting common car problems:

  • Battery issues: Check for dimming lights or slow engine cranking, indicating a weak battery. Address this promptly to avoid a sudden breakdown.
  • Leaks: Regularly inspect your car's parking spot for fluid leaks, which may indicate issues with the engine, transmission, or other systems.
  • Strange noises: Unusual sounds like squealing brakes or grinding gears can point to problems that require attention.
  • Warning lights: Don't ignore dashboard warning lights; they're your car's way of communicating potential issues.
  • Vibrations: Vibrations in the steering wheel or seats may signal alignment or tire problems.
  • Smells: Odd odors, like a burning smell, might indicate overheating or fluid leaks.

Comparison shopping for parts and services

Regarding car maintenance, a little research goes a long way in keeping your budget intact. By comparing prices for car parts and maintenance services, you can make informed choices that balance quality and cost-effectiveness. 

While ordering parts online offers convenience and a potentially wider selection, don't overlook the advantages of purchasing from a local store. If you're facing an unexpected breakdown, buying from a nearby parts store means you can have the needed item in your hands without waiting for shipping. This can significantly reduce downtime and get you back on the road faster.

Consider the option of using aftermarket parts as a wallet-friendly alternative. Contrary to popular belief, using aftermarket parts won't void your car's warranty. Only modifications or tuning might impact your warranty coverage. Embracing aftermarket parts can result in substantial savings without compromising performance or quality.

Practice fuel-efficient driving

Your driving habits can significantly impact not only your fuel economy but also your car maintenance costs. A few adjustments behind the wheel can lead to substantial savings and reduced wear and tear on your vehicle.

According to the Department of Energy, a simple act like reducing your speed by 5 to 10 mph can enhance fuel economy by 7%–14%. Employing cruise control on highways helps maintain a consistent speed, as vehicles consume the most energy during acceleration.

Here are some fuel-efficient driving tips that not only save on gas but also promote the health of your car:

  • Avoid aggressive driving: Sudden accelerations and abrupt stops can lead to excessive wear on your brakes and other components.
  • Minimize excessive idling: Idling consumes fuel and puts unnecessary strain on your engine.
  • Observe speed limits: Adhering to speed limits ensures safety and conserves fuel.
  • Use cruise control: Cruise control helps maintain a steady speed, reducing fuel consumption.
  • Travel light: Excess weight in your car can decrease fuel efficiency.
  • Maintain a clean vehicle: Regular cleaning reduces drag and improves aerodynamics. 

For an even greener, cost-saving approach, consider mass transit, carpooling, or rideshare programs for your work commute. By embracing fuel-efficient driving practices and exploring alternative transportation options, you're cutting costs and contributing to a more sustainable future on the road.

Woman getting her keys back after saving on car maintenance

Explore warranty coverage

Reliability ranks high on car buyers' wishlists, with 95% prioritizing it when selecting a vehicle, as per a national Consumer Reports survey. Yet, beyond choosing a trustworthy car, many seek the added protection of a warranty. Understanding and leveraging your car warranty can provide the peace of mind you crave.

Whether a new or extended car warranty, these warranties offer a safety net that mitigates financial risk over a specified duration. They're particularly valuable for those with vehicles from less reliable brands, as they provide reassurance against unexpected repairs.

Extended warranties come in various forms, available through dealerships, auto clubs, and insurance companies. These plans differ in coverage, duration, and cost. Scrutinizing the fine print is crucial, as aftermarket programs may restrict covered repairs and service locations.

Consider investing in protection for optimal value while your car is still under the original factory warranty. This keeps costs manageable and offers a broader array of extended coverage options.

Educate yourself on vehicle maintenance tasks

Empowering yourself with basic vehicle maintenance skills saves money and deepens your connection with your car. By learning to perform essential tasks, you become a proactive car owner, ensuring your vehicle's longevity and optimal performance.

Here are some fundamental maintenance tasks you can learn to do on your own:

  • Checking tire pressure and rotating tires for even wear.
  • Monitoring motor oil levels and changing it when needed.
  • Inspecting vital fluids like coolant, brake, and transmission fluids.
  • Testing and replacing headlights, taillights, and windshield wipers.
  • Examining the engine and cabin air filters for cleanliness.
  • Assessing battery health and connections.
  • Inspecting brakes, belts, and hoses for signs of wear.
  • Giving your car a regular wash to maintain its appearance.

Numerous online tutorials and guides can equip you with the knowledge to tackle these tasks confidently. Websites like YouTube and Haynes offer step-by-step instructions, ensuring you're well-prepared to navigate under the hood.

Importance of addressing issues promptly

Tackling minor car issues promptly acts as a preventative shield, shielding you from bigger and costlier complications down the road. In a world with tight time and budgets, postponing car maintenance may be tempting, especially if the vehicle appears operational. However, this approach risks trading short-term savings for long-term hazards.

While the car may seem fine now, neglecting maintenance leads to many problems that intensify over time. Ignoring timely service jeopardizes:

  • Compromised safety: Overlooking maintenance can lead to unsafe driving conditions.
  • Poor gas mileage: Unaddressed issues can result in decreased fuel efficiency.
  • Downtime: Major problems can leave you stranded and without a vehicle.
  • Lower resale value: Neglected maintenance lowers your car's resale value.
  • Oil sludge buildup: Failing to change oil leads to engine problems.
  • Voided warranty: Ignoring service can void your warranty.
  • Increased repair costs: Neglected problems snowball into costly repairs.

Smart strategies for affordable car maintenance

Incorporating savvy car maintenance practices into your routine ensures your vehicle's health and keeps your budget in check. By following these cost-effective approaches, you can experience the benefits of well-maintained transportation without breaking the bank.

Effective car maintenance on a budget involves proactive care, DIY tasks, and leveraging warranties. By checking tire pressure, learning basic troubleshooting, and promptly addressing issues, you prevent small problems from evolving into costly complications. Exploring warranty coverage and educating yourself on maintenance tasks empower you to take control of your car's well-being while minimizing expenses.

Implement these tips and tricks to streamline your car maintenance routine and maximize your savings. Embrace smart car maintenance practices today and pave the way for a more budget-friendly road ahead. For other ways to save on car ownership, consider refinancing your auto loan, which could save you hundreds. Get started today with a free quote.