A report from AAA shows that average vehicle maintenance cost went up from 2012 to 2013 by more than 11 percent to almost 5 cents per mile. There are several places where you can take you car for regular maintenance. But there are many simple fixes you can do yourself to save money and bring down the cost of owning your car.
You Can Do It
You should only attempt DIY maintenance if you are familiar with your car and basic auto knowledge. There are many resources available to guide you through each step including:
- Your car’s owner’s manual
- Auto manuals at the library
- Auto MD is an online resource with step-by-step instructions with videos that show you each step
- Chilton has auto repair manuals for almost every car make and model manufactured
Always be safe when you do car maintenance and keep these tips in mind:
- Always work on your car on a level surface
- Make sure the engine is off and the key is out of the ignition
- Put the car into park and set the parking brake
- If you are uncomfortable performing any maintenance, take your car to a professional
Daily Maintenance Tasks
Walk around your car and look for any broken lights and tires that look low. Look for any signs of fluids leaking on the ground under the car. Look at the wiper blades for tears.
- Lights – Light bulbs are easily replaced and are available at any auto parts store.
- Tires – Low tires should be inflated to the recommended pressure. This value can be found in your owner’s manual or online at sites such as tirebuyer.com, where you’ll find many tire maintenance tips
- Wiper Blades – These can be found at any auto parts store and are easy to replace. If they leave streaks while driving in rain, replace them the first chance you get.
- Fluid Leaks – This can be a one-time event such as coolant in the radiator expanding when hot and coming out of the holding tank. Or it can be sign of a serious problem such as a transmission seal leak. If you notice the leak more than once, have your car looked at by a professional.
Monthly Maintenance Tasks
Your car’s oil and oil filter should be changed every 3,000 miles. While it’s one of the least expensive maintenance items you can do, it is one of the most beneficial to the car. Your owner’s manual may have a different recommendation so use that. There are many online resources to instruct you how to change your oil or ask a friend who knows how to do it.
Check the air cleaner when you change the oil. A dirty air cleaner can reduce your fuel efficiency. If you drive in dirty or dusty environments, you may need to change the air filter more often. These are easy to change and are available at any parts store. Your owner’s manual will recommend time for changing the air filter, but normally it will be every six to 12 months.
Annual Maintenance Tasks
This is a good time to take your car in to a dealer or service station for an inspection. They will check your brakes, suspension, steering and electrical system. These are things that are difficult for you to check yourself.
However, there are several items that may come out of the inspection that you can do yourself such as:
- Changing the battery
- Changing the cooling solution
- Filling the brake fluid, transmission fluid and power steering fluid
- Replacing cooling system hoses
- Replacing the fuel filter
These all can be done with a few simple tools and could save you hundreds of dollars in labor costs.