Saving money on Automotive Maintenance and Repair

One of the questions that is always going through my mind is what is the right amount in vehicle maintenance. Too much and you’re wasting money, not enough the vehicle life and dependability of you vehicle flies out the window.

The owner’s manual has great information on what to do and when. But and this is a big but, is the recommendations that the manufactures recommends doing enough to keep the vehicle lasting a long life.

On one end of the spectrum is the “up sell” of fluid changes (the oil or fluid wiped on a white rag showing how dirty it is, shocks that are seeping slightly or the air filter that is somewhat dirty. (Remember, a slightly dirty air filter will NOT affect your fuel mileage, advanced electronics engine controls compensate for this on vehicles 95 and newer. A real plugged air filter should be replaced because it will cut engine power)

The other end of the spectrum is oil services every 18,000 miles, no recommendation of transmission services, never having to change fuel filters, no brake fluid changes and life time antifreeze. These are “no brainers” in my opinion, wrong. Some automotive gurus’ feel this is the way to make sure vehicles wear out sooner so you will have to buy a new one. In my opinion, I go along with that theory.

Now mind you, air filters and most fluids should be changed in a vehicle, the question is, how often. This is not an easy question to answer. My automotive “bible” Consumers Report and I part company on this, they recommend for the most part to follow manufactories reconditions. Not enough for me. Some service centers recommend oil changes every 3 month, way too often in my opinion.

So what is the answer? A very strong “depends”.

It depends on your driving style, the vehicle you drive, your risk tolerance, how long you plan to keep you car and last, do you want the vehicle to last even if you plan to sell it.

My recommendations are below. Note this is for the person who drives 10-12,000 mile per year, normal vehicle and normal driving.

Oil Service 3-5,000 miles or twice a year on normal oil, 5-8,000 on synthetic oil or once a year.

Air and cabin filter, inspect 15-20,000 miles and replace as necessary.

Transmission service 30-60,000 miles

External fuel filter 60,000 miles.

Brake fluid change every two years

Power steering fluid 60,000 miles

Coolant 30,000 miles or every 3 years

Spark plugs, as per manufactory recommendation

So what is the bottom line, talk to your favorite shop and come up with a plan and then stick to it.

Fuel mileage drops in winter

Fuel mileage will drop about 10% during winter. Two reasons for this, one, a cold engine is an inefficient. The second reason is additives put into the fuel to help with clean air affect fuel your mileage. It just is.


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