Saving money on car maintenance

Subject: Two young men inspecting the engine oil of a car.

There are many costs associated with owning and running a car, from paying for fuel to insurance and breakdown cover. Some of the most expensive bills can be from the garage though, when you need car repairs. The costs associated with a lot of car repair work can be prevented or at least reduced with good car maintenance. At AA Cars, we’ve put together this guide explaining some of the best ways to save money on basic car maintenance.

Check and change fluid levels

Common advice is to change your oil every 3,000 miles, yet many new cars can easily do 10,000 miles before it needs changing. Therefore, it is worth checking the level first. Do this in a few simple stages:

  • Run the engine for about 15 seconds
  • Stop the engine and lift the bonnet
  • Pull out the engine oil dipstick (consult the handbook to locate this)
  • Clean with a rag then reinsert and pull out to take a reading
  • If it is at or near the full marker, leave it be. If it is well below, top up your oil until it reads full.

While you’ve got the bonnet up, a few other fluid levels can quickly be checked. Coolant, steering wheel, brake and windscreen fluid levels can easily be monitored on sight alone or by using a special dipstick provided.

Prolong car tyre life

Underinflated tyres increase fuel consumption and therefore costs, while overinflated tyres can reduce grip. Monitoring their levels is vital to avoid any problems and should be done on a monthly basis, as well as inspecting for nails, rips and worn down grip.

Ensure the tyres are cold before using a high-quality gauge and inflating to the recommended pressure for your car. Front tyres also wear quicker than rear ones, so it is worth rotating them so they wear at an even rate and so you don’t have to replace them prematurely. This car maintenance can save around £100 a year.

Act on warning signs

Vehicle warning lights are there for a reason and should not be ignored. Doing so can make the problem worse, sometimes damaging the engine and leading to even more expensive car repairs. Rather than heading straight to the garage, investigate first. Sometimes the issue is that the fuel cap has not been replaced properly or certain fluid levels need topping up. If brake system and engine warning lights come on, then you should get them checked by a professional straightaway.

Prepare for the seasons

Different seasons affect vehicles in various ways, and preparing your car with some basic car maintenance at certain times of the year will prevent problems arising.

Autumn/Winter: Ensure at least 3mm of tyre tread, check your battery and lights work, use polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals to stop them sticking, stock up with anti-freeze. Change windscreen wipers, as there are some designed for warm and cool weather.

Spring/Summer: Carry an extra bottle of coolant, as engines will remain warmer for longer in summer months. Wash your car thoroughly, getting rid of the after effects of salt and ice, which can be damaging to the vehicle.

Do the easy repairs

Checking and replacing headlight bulbs is a simple task. Mechanics can charge more for this and the parts, whereas if you do this car repair yourself you can usually find a bulb cheaper, and the labour is free! Air filters need replacing every 30,000 miles or so and can be done in under five minutes, while changing windscreen wipers and fuses are also simple tasks that are more cost-effective to do yourself. General jobs such as cleaning your car regularly, getting rid of any leaves that may fall in the engine and touching up scratches can prevent rust occurring and other problems.

Avoid double labour charges

When you do need to use a garage, remember to shop around for the best deal whether you require spare parts or work doing on your vehicle. If you do need a job doing by a mechanic, it can be more cost-effective to ask for two or three to be done at once, as many places assign labour charges that can often be duplicated for removing engine parts. Seeing as some will be removed for work to be done anyway, this can avoid labour charges being doubled.

Save money on your car maintenance and cut the number of repairs you have to pay for by using these basic car maintenance tips.

Image courtesy of iStock

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