Changing Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles
It seems like every car owner in America has been taught to change the oil every 3,000 miles, but motor oil (and cars) have become increasingly efficient since that guideline first became common knowledge. Unless your car is subjected to unusually intense use—maybe it regularly tows a lot of weight or performs in extreme temperatures—follow the recommendation in your owner’s manual, which is typically between 5,000 and 7,500 miles.
Using Synthetic Oil
Synthetic oil is expensive, and it doesn’t necessarily benefit all engines, especially if you own an older vehicle. Before you spend the extra money, make sure your car will actually function better with synthetic oil than it will with conventional options. Good rule of thumb? If you don’t have a high-performance engine, you probably don’t need to spend the extra money.
Scheduling Regular Tune-Ups
Mechanics often recommend tune-ups, but this is another holdover from a bygone era when cars were less reliable. Today's cars have onboard computers that are constantly monitoring performance and will let you know when something goes wrong. Regular tune-ups are unnecessary and costly additions to your car maintenance routine.
Ignoring Dashboard Lights
Don’t let a small problem become a bigger, more expensive one. You probably don't know exactly what that “check engine” light means when it comes on, but don’t ignore it just because your car seems to be working fine. An easy repair or maintenance job can turn into something more serious and costly if you don’t take care of it in a timely manner.
Not Inflating Your Tires Properly
This is as easy one: To make sure your tires are inflated properly, you need to check them regularly. Tires that are underinflated make your car less fuel efficient, not to mention less safe to drive. Tire pressure can change with seasonal temperature shifts, so you should keep a pressure gauge close at hand in your glove box. Use it to check your tires often to make sure they're inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
Paying for a Car Wash
Pay for a car wash only if you have the extra money and want to do something else with your time. Otherwise, you can do just as good a job at home with your hose, a sponge, and car wash detergent. In fact, you can buy all the supplies you need for the price of two visits to a professional car wash. Get the whole family involved—it can be a lot of fun!
Maintaining a Low Car Insurance Deductible
Most people won’t bother to submit a claim to their insurance company if the cost of repair is less than $1,000. It’s just not worth the hassle and the subsequent rise in the premium. So, if you’re paying more to have a lower deductible, reconsider. If you raise your deductible to the level at which you’re willing to submit a claim, you can save money on your premiums.
Headlight Restoration Kits
Over time your car's headlights may become yellowed and foggy. There are expensive headlight restoration kits available for purchase, but don’t spend your money on them. You can DIY this car maintenance task with warm soapy water and sandpaper.
Purchasing Extended Warranties
Extended warranty and service contracts are generally not worth the money you spend on them. Car dealers wouldn’t push them so hard if they didn’t make a good profit. So, forgo the extended warranty on that new car, then wait to see how reliable it is. By the time the original warranty is up, you’ll know if you need the added protection, at which point you may want to consider getting a factory-backed extended warranty. In many cases, people spend more on extended warranties and service contracts than they would have if they had just paid for the repairs outright.
Doing Repairs at the Dealership
Don’t automatically bring your car to the dealership when it needs a repair. If you do that, you may be paying far more than you need to. Using independent mechanics will generally save you money on both parts and labor, so be sure to get an estimate from a good mechanic you can trust before bringing your car to the dealer.
Skipping Routine Service
Even though your car may not need an oil change every 3,000 miles these days, make sure you always have the oil changed at the automobile manufacturer's recommended intervals. Doing all the routine maintenance and service your car requires will keep it running longer and more efficiently, and you'll save money on repairs in the long run. Put a schedule in with your owner’s manual, and be good about sticking to it.
Related: 8 Easy Ways to Winter-Proof Your Car
Not Replacing the Air Filter
This is something a lot of people forget about, but not replacing the air filter will reduce your car’s fuel efficiency and end up costing you more money in the long run at the pump. Get yourself on a regular schedule for changing the air filter—about every 25,000 miles—and you’ll avoid clogs and lower gas mileage.
Just like your home, you can save a lot of money on your car if you choose to do regular maintenance yourself.
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