Is It Cheaper To Maintain Your Vehicle, Or Wait Until Something Breaks?

They’re several basic truths throughout the world of mathematics. Two plus two always equals four. The ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is represented by the Greek letter Pi. And, it’s almost always cheaper in the end to maintain your car properly instead of investing in major repair bills or, in a worst case scenario, a new vehicle.

Not only does such affordable maintenance help to steer you clear of expensive major repairs, but such forethought protects you against every motorist’s nightmare – a breakdown on a busy freeway or during a long trip several miles from civilization.

Basic maintenance includes taking your car into the shop for regular checks of your brakes, tires, suspension, timing belt, transmission, sparkplugs, ignition, cooling, air conditioning & heating systems, fuel injectors, belts and hoses and various lubricants and fluids.

Now, such routine checks are not free, and you should be prepared to bring your vehicle in for check-ups several times throughout a year. However, the cost of these simple procedures dwindles in comparison to catastrophically expensive failures that leave you needing a new transmission, new engine or an entire brake system.

A good service facility labour usually runs anywhere between $80 to $120 dollars, depending on where you live. That means your labor bill alone could push up into the hundreds of dollars, and you haven’t even bought your parts yet.

In addition, new car prices continue to push up into the low five-figures, while it’s almost impossible to snag a solid used car for less than $7,000 to $12,000.

Meanwhile, basic maintenance procedures, like oil changes (usually $35 to $50 for the complete procedure at most auto shops) and coolant system flushes, are so quick and comparatively inexpensive that’s there’s no reason not to treat your car right and keep it properly serviced.

In fact, an oil change presents the perfect opportunity to take full inventory of your vehicle. Many good repair shops make a point of checking all of your car’s vital stems when you bring it in for its 5,000 km black gold transfusion.

What steps can you take to properly maintain your car and make sure you won’t be heading into the repair shop or the dealership against your will?

First, if you want to keep your current vehicle in solid working order, carry out preventive maintenance with the help of a trusted technician. It’s much cheaper because major repairs are labor intensive and far more expensive than the cost of preventive maintenance. Motorists can easily double or even triple the life spans of their present cars simply by performing the proper maintenance, practicing good driving habits, and avoiding the kinds of mistakes that send most cars to the junkyard.

For example, drive gently during a new car’s first 80 kilometres. Vary your speed for the first 2,500 km of the car’s life. Failing to do so results in improper seating of the piston rings that leads to increased oil consumption throughout the life of the car. Also, have your mechanic change the oil promptly after the first 2,500 km to eliminate bits of metal and grit found in a new engine. Consider those first miles a shakedown period – just as you would the first voyage of a sailing ship.

In addition, avoid sudden stops. Accelerating aggressively only to slam on the brakes at the next traffic light does not save time. It only causes needless wear on your engine, transmission, suspension and brakes. Anticipate traffic patterns to keep your speed as constant as possible. Since most lights on city streets have timed lights working in unison with each other, you’re not going to beat them all unless you observe the speed limit.

In the early days of automobiles, brakes were so unreliable that prudent drivers always shifted into a lower gear when descending hills or approaching busy intersections. Today, brakes are very advanced and safe. They’re also far less costly to repair than the engine and transmission components. Use engine braking only when descending a long, steep grade. At all other times, use your brakes.

When you first start your car, let it warm up 30 seconds to a minute during summer months and 3-8 minutes during the cold winter months before moving. Most engine wear occurs in the first seconds after you start your car – when the cylinders are starved for oil. When the mercury drops below minus 13 degrees celcius plug in your block heater 3 hours prior to starting your vehicle. To avoid trouble later, let your engine idle with your foot off the accelerator pedal for about one minute. Once you are under way, drive slowly and avoid using your heater and other power-hungry accessories until the engine reaches its proper operating temperature – after about three minutes.

Finally, never forget the most obvious and well-publicized steps in car maintenance – changing the air filter and the oil.

For many motorists, oil maintenance means simply adding the occasional litre of oil. . Manufacturers now recommend 5W30 and 5W20 in many Hondas & Fords.

Make sure your technician changes conventional motor oil once every three months or every 5,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.

In general, when you compare the odd $80 to $175.00 maintenance item to the cost of a $4,000 engine or a $3,000 transmission or a $1,800 disc brake system or a $3,000 air conditioning system replacement its a no-brainer. Save yourself and your wallet a little heartache and stay on top of your basic maintenance. Taking care of relatively inexpensive maintenance items prevents expensive breakdowns, ensures your vehicle is dependable and your family’s safety at all times.