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How to Budget for Car Maintenance

How to Budget for Car Maintenance

Thousands of car accidents that occur every year in the United States are due to a lack of proper auto maintenance. Even back in 2004, the nonprofit Car Care Council estimated the total cost of collisions resulting from unperformed maintenance was more than $2 billion.

 

Plus, as we all know, maintenance extends the life of your car.

 

You may understand as a car owner that maintaining your car is a good idea both from safety and investment perspectives. However, you may also have difficulty budgeting for upkeep costs if you do not have a large income. Here are a few ideas on budgeting for car maintenance. First, we review two options on budgeting. Then we discuss how the maintenance schedule within your owner’s manual is the centerpiece to better understand your maintenance costs years in advance.

 

Option 1 – Budget using your past payment records

 

You can build a strong budget using your past spending. You will create a clearer picture and more reasonable idea of how spending will occur by looking at your historical costs. Here is a four-step process to build your budget:

 

  1. Organize all your car maintenance documents from the past year. Gather your checkbook or credit card statements or receipts, whatever applies to your situation. Note that you are not concerned with payments toward insurance or the car itself but any upkeep (oil, tires, repairs, etc.).
  2. Get a sum of your maintenance costs. Now add up all your maintenance receipts. Then, to get the average monthly cost, divide the figure by 12. You may have spent $720 in the last twelve months on maintenance, in which case you would want to set aside $60 per month for maintenance moving forward (assuming no adjustments).
  3. Modify the budget to reflect the vehicle’s condition. When a car is older, you should expect that major repairs will be a likelier event. That is the tradeoff of an older car: by keeping it, you avoid purchasing a new one but also may incur sizable maintenance costs. If your car is older and you have not had any major replacements lately, add another $50 per month. However, if you had substantial work performed and expect this year to be lighter, you could reduce your per-month budget accordingly.
  4. Divide your car maintenance money from everything else. If you are afraid that you will spend the money that you would like to have saved for car issues, it is a good idea to have it in a different location, such as your savings account rather than checking. For this system to work, you need to transfer in the budgeted amount every month. Then when a big expense arises, you have the money on-hand.

 

Note that you may find it more helpful to have the money based on your pay cycle. If you are paid weekly or biweekly, divide by 52 or 26 instead of 12, respectively. Fitting the car maintenance amount to your paycheck means that it is simple to take out the amount set within your budget each time immediately after you get paid.

 

Finally, once the money is there, be aware that it is easy to remove it before it has served its purpose. Try to be religious about not touching this car-maintenance fund.

 

Option 2 – Budget using a standard monthly figure

 

If you have a new car for which you do not have a year of receipts, or if you otherwise do not want to put in the time for a specific budgeting amount, you could just use a standard average figure. Citing a mechanic named Sam, FiveCentNickel.com puts the approximate amount that should be allotted for a vehicle’s maintenance each year at $1200 – or $100 per month.

 

Maintenance schedule as a guide for budgeting

 

Finance advice writer Nicole Arata says that a key way to protect yourself and keep to your budget is to become familiar with your owner’s manual – and that really is true because it gives you guidelines that fit your car. Your manual will include a car maintenance schedule that gives you an idea when certain services should be performed. Standard services, with common mileage intervals, include:

 

  • Oil/filter change – 5000-7000 miles
  • Tire rotation – 3000-7000 miles
  • Multipoint inspection – Each visit

 

Car components will often have a very long life: they “are meant to last and last and last, and they typically don’t fail unless you’ve ignored something downstream,” says CarMD communications director Kristin Brocoff. Even though that’s the case, replacements will often still need to be made for the car to stay in proper working order. Other types of maintenance your car might need are:

 

  • Brake pad replacement – 30,000-50,000 miles
  • Engine air filter replacement – 20,000-60,000 miles
  • Tire replacement – Interval varies
  • Wiper blade replacement – 6-12 months

 

Become familiar with proper care of your vehicle

 

The easiest way to get a grasp of the proper maintenance treatment of your car is to look in the manual. The manual is helpful, as indicated above, because it will give you specific details for when certain services should be performed. For instance, the manual for a 2010 Toyota Corolla states that when you have owned the car for three years or have driven it for 30,000 miles, you should have the following tasks completed:

 

  • cabin air filter replacement
  • driver-side floor mat installation check
  • engine air filter replacement
  • fluid check and filling
  • oil filter & engine oil replacement
  • tire rotation

 

The extent to which you will need various replacements and adjustments are directly related to the way you drive your car. Expect to have to get maintenance more often if you live in an extremely hot or cold climate; use the car for towing; or idle regularly. Nonetheless, most car owners will be able to use the standard schedule that is described within the manual, per Edmunds.com vehicle testing director Dan Edmunds.

 

Knowing the service schedule will help you be prepared for upcoming expenses, but it could also keep money in your pocket. When you are informed about your model’s service schedule, it will be harder for a less-than-transparent mechanic to sell you an automatic transmission flush or similar service that the car does not need.

 

When a mechanic says that they recommend something that you know is contrary to the standard schedule, you can just let them know you want to stay with the factory-advised schedule (unless there is a legitimate reason to make the replacement immediately).

 

As indicated above in the discussion of older cars, you should expect to pay more for vehicle maintenance if the car has more than 100,000 miles on it.

 

An honest mechanic to save on car maintenance

 

Keeping your budget for auto repair under control starts with making sure you are getting straight talk from your mechanic. According to surveys conducted by RepairTrust, nearly three quarters of car owners (70%) say that they are worried about being excessively charged for a car repair. In fact, two in five consumers (40%) said that they had experienced overcharging from a mechanic in the past!

 

Are you in need of honest auto repair in Boulder? At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication. Then, we back up that line of communication with sheer expertise. See our history and beliefs.

14 Top Car Maintenance Myths

Top 14 Car Maintenance Myths

If you want to keep your car operational as long as possible, you must give it proper care. However, it is possible to incur unnecessary expenses or make other mistakes because of persistent maintenance myths. Here are 14 of the most common myths in Boulder and throughout the U.S.:

 

1.) For optimal fuel efficiency, choose to roll down your windows over the AC.

 

Having the AC on will make a car consume fuel faster. However, rolling down the windows is also problematic because it increases wind resistance, which counteracts the car’s aerodynamic design. To overcome the resistance, the car will need additional fuel. Approximately the same amount of gas is used if you roll down the windows or use the air conditioner, according to the Automotive Training Center (ATC).

 

Consumer Reports has the same basic findings. The consumer advice publication noted that the impact of air conditioning on fuel economy is minimal. Since the difference is negligible and it yields improvements in driver comfort and alertness, the magazine recommends using the AC without reservation.

 

2.) Use laundry detergent or dishwashing soap for car washes.

 

Any of the household detergents you use are dangerous to your car because they will wear away the wax finish, notes Machine Design. The soaps that are specifically designed for car washes will keep your wax safe.

 

3.) You want your tire to have the same pressure that is listed on its sidewall.

 

On the sidewall of your tire, you will see a pounds-per-square-inch number that represents the most the tire could contain for safe driving; in other words, it is not the PSI that is recommended in order to standardly get the best comfort, fuel economy, and handling. The ideal PSI for the car should be available on your fuel-filler door, within your glove box, or on a doorjamb sticker. If you take the maximum PSI and reduce by 10, you will get a 1 mpg improvement in your efficiency on average, per Consumer Reports tests.

 

However, the key concern – where the difference in pressure can be even more valuable – is in its impact on tire wear, braking, and handling. To stay on top of pressure, use a tire gauge once per month; the best time to check is when the car has been sitting for several hours.

 

4.) It is prudent to change oil every 3000 miles, regardless the vehicle.

 

The traditional model of car could use an oil change every 3000 miles. That truism has been outgrown by developments in engine operation and design. You will not cause damage with additional oil changes, but you may only need one every 5000 or 7500 miles. See your owner’s manual for advice specific to your model.

 

5.) You will get better fuel economy if you fill up your car each morning.

 

Often people will advise to get your gas in the morning rather than later, so you can benefit from the greater density of cooler temperatures. This piece of advice fails to take into account that the gas is stored in tanks underground; because of that, you won’t see much temperature fluctuation throughout the day. The fuel will not typically get hot while it comes through the pump as long as business is relatively steady. Simply changing your route to get gas when it could be slightly cooler will outweigh any gains you might see by giving preference to morning fill-ups – so effectively, time is irrelevant. Just get gas whenever you drive by a station.

 

6.) When you run over a nail, you need a new tire.

 

An auto repair shop will be able to fix a nail or other small puncture with a patch, rather than having to replace the whole tire.

 

7.) Don’t ever just replace a single tire.

 

(Note that the following does not apply to all-wheel-drive cars, for which you must replace all tires at once). Typically the recommendation is to get two tires at a time so that you keep the tread even and the car is not imbalanced. Actually, it is all right to replace a single tire, particularly if the additional tire still has plenty of tread. The key point is that the new tire you get is an identical match (tread pattern, speed rating, brand, and size) to the other half of the pair. Bumper to Bumper Radio co-host Matt Allen says putting on unmatched tires is “like wearing a running shoe and a heel.”

 

8.) Once you jumpstart your car, you can then recharge the battery in a quick drive.

 

It actually takes hours of driving for a complete battery recharge, particularly if it is colder. Your alternator can only use extra power that is available to recharge after supplying it to music systems, heated seats, and other auxiliary components. Get a load test at a gas station to make sure that the battery is capable of maintaining a charge. Once you know the battery is still functional, you can use a battery charger for a few hours to give it a full charge.

 

9.) You will help any car by giving it premium gas.

 

In most situations, a car will perform just as well on standard, 87 octane gas. Premium-octane fuel will not cause any problems but will typically not improve how it operates. As the octane number rises, you become less likely to experience pre-ignition issues with the gas – for which reasons it is suggested specifically for use with engines that are high-compression and run hot. If you have a car that is not high-compression and that can use any octane of unleaded fuel, the low-grade version will be fine. When the manual recommends a higher octane but does not require its use, standard octane should still work fine. The manual will make it explicit if high-octane gas is needed, in which case you will have to buy it.

 

10.) Octane ratings do not matter.

 

While there is no advantage to using premium fuel in a car designed for regular, there is a reason the premium fuel is there: some models do require it. You could cause engine damage if you use standard gas in a premium-fuel car.

 

11.) Coolant should be flushed every time you change the oil.

 

Generally, an owner’s manual will advise to switch out the coolant every 60,000 mile or 5 years. If you keep having to refill the coolant reservoir because the level drops, you may have a leak.

 

12.) It is important to make sure your car is warm before you drive it.

 

Warming up the car applied to older engines. Today, you will have the most success getting your engine temperature up by driving; once it is warm, you will get stronger performance and efficiency. Be careful about not revving the engine until you have driven the car for a few miles.

 

13.) The car should be fine if you cannot see or hear a problem.

 

If there is an issue with your car, it will not always be apparent. Drivers often do not notice problems. Bringing the car in to get it checked by a technician can help uncover any issues.

 

14.) If you want your warranty to stay active, you need to use the dealership for all maintenance.

 

You don’t need to have the job completed at a dealership. You simply need to follow the schedule in the owner’s manual to determine that work is performed at the listed intervals.

 

Conclusion

 

There are many myths about car maintenance. However, the reality is that you could easily lose 50,000 of the life of a car by not maintaining it properly, according to Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor Philip Reed.

 

Are you looking for honest auto maintenance and repair in Boulder? At Independent Motors, 90% of the work we do is repeat business. Meet our staff.

 

Terrible News: The Most Expensive Car Repairs

The Most Expensive Car Repairs

“I have terrible news.” You have probably heard these words, or similar ones, from a mechanic. They are unpleasant words for anyone who doesn’t want to spend all their money on their vehicle – and the amount we spend on our cars each year is astounding. Let’s quickly look at the statistics on yearly transportation expenses in the United States, then review 5 of the biggest car repair expenses you can encounter.

 

Household transportation costs down to $9049

 

You may never have felt compelled to leaf through the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, it is one way to find out about prevalence of certain behaviors and how we compare – for instance, in terms of the amount of money we spend on our cars. The BLS’s 2016 Consumer Expenditures data shows that the average total expenditures for 2016 per household was $57,311, which was a 2.4 percent rise over 2015. Six of the eight major categories that delineate consumer spending increased: cash contributions (+ 14.4%); personal insurance and pensions (+ 7.6%); healthcare (+ 6.2%); housing and food (+ 2.6%); and entertainment (+ 2.5%). Thankfully, some costs did fall last year – apparel and related services (- 2.3%), and transportation (- 4.8%).

 

Related: “Skipping Car Maintenance Can Be Expensive”

 

Transportation is divided into vehicle purchases; fuel and motor oil; and a miscellaneous “other” category that includes costs such as repairs, maintenance, insurance, finance charges, licenses, leases, and rentals. The main reason that transportation spending went down was because the first category, purchases, was down significantly: 9.1%. Not only were people not spending as much buying cars, but they also were not spending as much fueling them, with gasoline and motor oil spending dropping 8.7%. (Fuel and motor oil costs, notably, have been dropping each year since 2012.) The second largest spending category within transportation is the miscellaneous category that includes repair and maintenance. That spending number was actually up 4.6%.

 

Here are the raw numbers for the transportation section of the BLS data from 2014-2016, with total amount and percent growth (if you really want to get in deep):

 

  • Total transportation spending: 2014 – $9,073; 2015 – $9,503 (+ 4.7%); 2016 – $9,035 (- 4.8%);
  • Car purchases: 2014 – $3,301; 2015 – $3,997 (+ 21.1%); 2016 –  $3,634 (- 9.1%).
  • Fuel and motor oil: 2014 – $2,468; 2015 – $2,090 (- 15.3%); 2016 – $1,909 (- 8.7%).
  • “Other” (repairs, maintenance, etc.): 2014 – $2,723; 2015 – $2,756 (+ 1.2%); 2016 – $2,884 (+ 4.6%).

 

As the site for NPR’s Car Talk notes, there are a few things that you really DO NOT want to hear from your mechanic. These things of course correspond to some really nasty repair bills.

 

Here are a few of those nightmare repair situations – those things you don’t want to hear (but sometimes have to in order to get your car back on the road):

 

“Your transmission is shot.”

 

9 out of every 10 times someone has their transmission go down, it is because the car owner simply did not change the transmission fluid, according to Auto Service Online (per Australian car service site Canstar). Many car owners do not get their fluids change as often as they should; typically, this should happen every two or three years.

 

Related: “The 10 Most Common Car Repairs”

 

Neglecting to change the fluids is not the only reason you might need a transmission replacement, though: these failures can also result from poor driving practices, whether that means pushing excessively hard on the shifter with an automatic car or “riding the clutch” with a manual model.

 

Price tag: If a person does not carefully monitor and change out the transmission fluid at those regular intervals, the eventual replacement (depending on your model) will typically be more than $2000 (sometime much more).

 

“We are retiring your catalytic converter.”

 

One of the most important tools on your car related to environmental sustainability is the catalytic converter. Generally one of these parts will last the entire life of an automobile. However, often a collision will hurt the “cat” (and it does not have nine lives…). Your catalytic converter can also go south if your engine is burning excess oil or if you use fuel additives that are unhealthy to the car. One thing about this expense is that you could save some money from making the replacement yourself; however, according to auto repair guide Haynes Manuals, “most of the cost is in the part, which contains precious metals like gold, palladium, and rhodium.”

 

Price tag: Depending on your model, the cost to replace a catalytic converter will often exceed $3000. Haynes Manuals suggests that, on average, 85% of a catalytic converter repair bill is the part itself, with labor only accounting for 15%.

 

“Your head gasket blew it.”

 

The head gasket must be in proper operational order if you want to protect your engine. That is because it is responsible for preventing oil and coolant leakage into the engine, which can lead to overheating. If your head gasket is giving out, you will often start to see white smoke, leaked coolant, or oil discoloration. Regardless the signs you see, the engine will not last long under these conditions.

 

Price tag: It will not cost you too much money for a gasket; however, the process to replace it can be expensive – so the labor bill can get high. The head gasket is a direct flip of a catalytic converter bill, actually; Haynes shows that the part is typically just 15% of the bill. Often the cost that will arise from a blown head gasket is greater than $1500, depending on the model.

 

“We must change your alternator.”

 

The alternator is a component that lasts a long time – usually around 50,000 to 100,000 miles. However, like other car parts, it experiences wear-and-tear that can lead to failure. Similar to the way that a blown head gasket can lead to engine trouble, a downed alternator feeds into bigger problems: it shuts off your vehicle’s electrical system.

 

Price tag: These parts are expensive – as with the catalytic converter, you won’t save significantly by doing the work yourself since labor is a small portion of the complete bill. The part takes up an average 83% of the total bill for an alternator replacement. Depending on the specifics, repair often costs more than $500.

 

“Your timing belt is out of time.”

 

To understand why a timing belt will fail, it helps to look to the concept of the interference engine, which is the modern design replacement for the non-interference engine. The newer variety allows the valves to open more widely and into the path of the piston as it rises. This design allows for better ventilation of the engine, resulting in greater power and more impressive fuel-efficiency. You will sail smoothly with your interference engine until something goes awry with the timing. Think about it: when the valves open, your piston is down. When the piston is up, the valves are closed and will not get in the piston’s way. “If your timing belt breaks or jumps a notch on an interference engine,” noted Car Talk, “the piston smashes the valves, and you need a valve job… at least.”

 

Price tag: Replacing the timing belt can often cost you more than $1500, depending on the specifics of your model. The part itself typically accounts for about 52% of the total repair cost.

 

Honest, independent Boulder mechanic

 

The above are examples of huge expenses that can result from car ownership; no matter how big a repair or maintenance job you need, though, you want to be able to trust that your mechanic is being straightforward.

 

Are you looking for an honest mechanic in Boulder? At Independent Motors, 90% of the auto repair we do is repeat business. See our beliefs.

What Kinds of Repairs Improve a Vehicle’s Gas Mileage?

Improve Your Gas Mileage

Many modern vehicles are built with efficiency in mind. Some are more efficient than others, obviously, but even traditional “gas guzzling” models guzzle less gas than they have in the past. There are a few reasons for this. For one, it’s often regulatory.  Additionally, it helps the environment which is certainly on the minds of many people. But, if we’re being honest, one of the big motivators for gas mileage efficiency is the monetary savings involved. Less time at the pump means more money in your wallet. So, there are many benefits to having a car with efficient gas mileage.

 

What many people may not realize is that many different factors can affect a vehicle’s gas mileage. Typically, we think of it as something that’s just part of a vehicle’s design. We shop for fuel efficient cars and that’s all, right? Not quite. Did you know that some types of auto repair can actually improve your gas mileage?

 

Whether it’s a fuel sipping car or a more gas hungry truck, many vehicles begin to lose some of their relative efficiency over time as wear and tear occur. This includes the innards becoming dirty from use and lack of proper fluid changes. Many factors make up your vehicle’s present day mileage. What this means is, if you’ve been driving your vehicle for a number of years, the efficiency may have diminished if you haven’t kept up with your routine maintenance. The good news is, with some fixes you can improve your gas mileage.

 

Many of these repairs aren’t even major issues. They are relatively simple and not terribly expensive. You just need to bring your vehicle in for an evaluation to see what exactly could be affecting your gas mileage negatively. You’d be surprised how many different places in your vehicle could be hindering your fuel efficiency. Here are some of the common reasons why your gas mileage might have diminished with time and how to improve it.

 

Mass Air Flow Sensor

 

Vehicles are more computerized than at any time before in our history. It’s a pretty convenient thing and there are many benefits to it. However, just like with any computer, it can only process the data it’s given. The computer relies on signals sent by other components of the vehicle and when those components are compromised, the computer may be inaccurate. Case in point, take the mass air flow sensor.

 

The mass air flow sensor measures air flow into the engine and prompts the computer to regulate fuel injection. If the sensor becomes dirty or damaged, the readings become inaccurate. This can throw off the balance of the vehicle’s fuel economy, causing the engine to “work harder” than it really needs to due to the inaccurate air flow readings. Get that sensor cleaned up, and you can improve engine efficiency.

 

Oxygen Sensor

 

Here we have a similar story. This isn’t terribly different from the mass air flow sensor issue. The biggest difference is that the oxygen sensor is even more difficult to get to in order to fix.  The oxygen sensor monitors the exhaust flow before and after the catalytic converter. If the exhaust flow can’t be properly read, then the engine and regulation of fuel injection become affected. Much like with the mass air flow sensor, fuel economy will be altered because of the engine computer being misled by the dirty oxygen sensor. It’s generally recommended that sensors be replaced after 100,000 miles. You may not need to change sensors often, but when the time finally comes years into ownership, it’s something you should do. Your computer does a lot in your vehicle, but you have to help it along by making sure it’s always taking accurate readings to maximize performance.

 

Spark Plugs

 

Spark plugs have an important job. They take the electric current from the ignition and deliver it to the engine in order to spark the combustion that makes it work. Basically, without spark plugs, you aren’t going very far. There are varying opinions on when you should change your spark plugs. Some manufacturers boast a 100,000 lifespan for their spark plugs. This is generally not best practice, though. Consider that by 80,000 miles a spark plug is nearly entirely worn out. The typical spark plug more realistically lasts about 60,000 to 70,000 miles. You don’t want to use the same spark plug if it’s hanging on by a thread.

 

If you swap out your spark plugs when necessary and they don’t get to a point where they’re too worn down, you can keep your gas mileage where it should be. New spark plugs can give your engine efficiency a boost. You may even want to get your spark plugs checked every 30,000 miles.

 

Air Filter

 

Sensing a pattern yet? The air flow that goes in and out of your engine has a significant effect on how well your vehicle performs. A dirty air filter is something every mechanic is very familiar with because it’s so common. If you leave the same air filter in your car for too long, you’re causing unnecessary strain and your gas mileage will suffer. Your air filter has an even more detrimental effect on your gas mileage if your vehicle is over ten years old. Manufacturers give different recommendations for when you should switch your air filter. The range is typically between 30,000 and 45,000 miles.

 

Motor Oil

 

Your oil and your tires, which we’ll get to next, are two things you should always be keeping an eye on. Making sure are both in proper shape can affect your fuel economy by up to 3% for each. While 3% doesn’t sound like much on paper, it adds up over years certainly. It may be cents on the dollar, but that quickly adds up to many dollars with time. There are two things at play when it comes to your motor oil. For one thing, you need to be using the recommended grade established by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If you use the wrong oil, you affect your vehicle’s efficiency. The second thing is old oil can clog up the system. Dirty oil that turns into sludge is one of the most common ways to kill your engine. Get it changed every 4,000 miles or so.

 

Tires

 

Finally, there are your tires. It stands to reason that if your tires aren’t properly inflated, the vehicle has to work harder in order to reach speed and maintain control. By keeping your tires inflated to the recommended limit, you relieve some of the strain on your vehicle and improve your vehicle mileage by a couple percentage points.

 

Conclusion

 

Auto repair isn’t always a major project. Sometimes even simple maintenance related fixes can have a major effect on your vehicle. When it comes to gas mileage, making sure your vehicle is taken care of can actually save you money in the long run. But, if you haven’t brought your vehicle in for routine maintenance lately, your fuel efficiency could be suffering. Call us today to schedule an appointment to bring your vehicle in. The team at Independent Motors is here to provide you with the auto repair services you need at a fair price to make sure your vehicle is running at its best.

Why It’s Important Not to Overlook Tire Conditions

Why It’s Important Not to Overlook Tire Conditions

When it comes to our vehicles, safety and handling are top concerns. The two, of course, go hand in hand. But, some people make the mistake of focusing on the various parts of a vehicle as if they are their own entities rather than how they all work together to keep things going. This really isn’t the best approach.

 

Ask anyone what frustrates them the most about owning a vehicle. Barring the price of automobile insurance (maybe), the answer is probably how expensive the typical auto repair can be. Why do repairs end up being so pricey? Can’t this be done for less? The answer is yes, it probably could have been repaired for less. But, the opportunity for that was months ago before the perfect storm of multiple connected components failing occurred. That’s not meant to be chiding. Rather, in order to save money, it’s important to know that nearly everything is interconnected when it comes to your vehicle’s safety and handling.

 

This is all to say, “Hey, have you checked on your tires lately?” If it’s been longer than six months since your last tire inspection, you’re going to want to schedule an appointment to have your mechanic take a look.

 

Yes, in all of the talk of staying on top of your vehicle to make sure it’s handling fine, you need to be diligent about taking the proper care of your tires. Too often, we focus on the really glaring issues like grinding brakes or pulling to one side when driving when there are other things that should be checked before you get to that point.

 

What we hope to do is here is to stress how important it is to be mindful of your tires and how your tires relate to the other parts of your vehicle that are often the focus when it comes to auto repairs.

 

Why Tires Get Overlooked

 

Believe it or not, there have been studies done on people’s attitudes towards their vehicle’s tires and how many of the common dangerous conditions they could identify. Most respondents could identify at least one risk factor for tire failure, but only 4% could identify a major one: the age of your tires. It’s no secret that vehicle accidents cause a significant number of fatalities every year. What you may not know is that about 6,000 of those fatalities are tied to improper vehicle maintenance and tire failure.

 

Most people can identify worn treads and improper air pressure as major contributors to tire failure and accidents. That’s because you can feel those things to varying degrees while you’re driving. Improper air pressure can cause audible screeching or imperfect steering and handling. If your car isn’t stopping as quickly as it used to, one could suspect the tread has been worn down. It could also be your brakes. Which brings us to the next point about how all of these things are actually connected.

 

How Tires Relate to Brake and Steering Safety

 

The condition of your tires has a direct effect on how your braking and steering responds. It’s true that the condition of your brakes themselves are very important to how well your vehicle stops and responds to depressing the pedal. But, your tires are an equally important part of the equation.

 

Worn tires with low tread can be just as concerning as brakes that are on their way out. That’s because your vehicle will lose a great amount of its ability to “grip” the road as you try to stop. This can mean inaccurate steering where you can more easily lose control. The vehicle won’t be as responsive when trying to stop short. This is especially true if you’re driving in wet conditions. Rainy days can make having worn tread exceptionally dangerous because your ability to control your vehicle diminishes more than it normally would with properly inflated and treaded tires. When your vehicle’s handling begins to feel different, don’t automatically assume there’s something seriously wrong with your brakes or alignment. It could be something as simple as your tires being old, worn out, or not properly inflated. At this early stage, it could be a simple fix that helps solve your problems before they become more serious and expensive.

 

What to Look for When Evaluating Tires

 

So, you’ve seen how critical the status of your tires are to the safety and handling of your vehicle. You know that staying on top of their maintenance is not only important for the tires themselves but also your braking and steering. What should you look for then?

 

You should give your tires a once over every month or so. Sudden variations in temperature may prompt you to check your tire pressure more often because they will respond differently to hotter and colder temperatures. Tread can be checked with the good old penny method. For those who don’t know, you put a penny in the tread of your tires upside down. If Lincoln’s head is still visible, then your tread is too worn and you need to change your tires.

 

To circle back to the topic of aged tires being a silent danger, you should really consider changing tires that are over five or six years old. Ask your mechanic what would be best, but generally, after that point, you’re running a greater risk of sudden blowouts because the rubber is too worn down.

 

The Proper Maintenance

 

You should really be having your tires checked once a year by a professional to ensure that you’re driving safely. That’s because there may be issues that you’re not aware of that need to be addressed relatively soon. While checking your own pressure often is good practice, and even spot checking your tread, nothing can beat a mechanic with experience inspecting your vehicle. You may have cracks in the tire that could lead to an incident. Maybe the alignment of your tires is off. Perhaps the rim of the hub is in danger of tearing through the rubber. These are all things your mechanic will alert you to.

 

As part of your yearly inspection, you’ll also find out about the other possible issues with your braking and steering. Also, keep in mind that there are different tires for different seasons. There is a noticeable performance difference between summer, winter, and all year tires. Depending on the climate you live in, it’s important to know which tires would be best for you.

 

Easy way to save money

 

One of the easiest ways to save money is to rotate your tires every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. Tires wear unevenly depending on where they are located on your vehicle and where you drive. Rotating them routinely helps to even out the wear and prolong the tires life. Anyone who has purchased ties knows they aren’t cheap. So any means to protect your tire investment is money in the bank!

 

Conclusion

 

Making sure your vehicle is up to safety standards takes work. Auto repairs can be pricey, but they don’t need to be if you perform the proper maintenance. Many people don’t worry about their tires until it’s too late and there are real issues that need to be addressed in the immediate future. Combined with their effect on braking and steering, it would be unwise to overlook the importance of staying on top of proper tire maintenance. If you’re unsure if your tires are appropriate for the current season, if they are in acceptable condition, or if it’s time for new ones, call us today. The team at Independent Motors is dedicated to providing you with the best service at a fair price. Don’t take chances when it comes to your tires. Get them inspected soon.

Stopping Short: How Your Vehicles’ Brakes Have Changed Over Time

How Brakes Have Changed

When it comes to the safety of both you and your family, you no doubt have to put an emphasis on your vehicle. In fact, if you had small children at the time you bought your vehicle, you probably did a bunch of research and factored safety ratings into your final purchasing decision. A major contributor to any vehicle’s safety regardless of accident durability, airbag placement, and whatever else is the braking system. If you’ve been to a mechanic lately for an automobile repair, there’s a good chance your brakes were addressed at some point whether the reason you came in had to do with your brakes or not. That’s because we often don’t pay as much attention to our brakes as we should unless a light goes on on the dashboard or you can hear grinding sounds. If you can hear grinding sounds when you stop your vehicle, by the way, you should bring it in for service immediately. That is not good.

 

For most of us, all that we need to know is that if you press on the brake during an emergency, the car will stop quickly enough and at a safe distance. Anything beyond that and it becomes technical knowledge that isn’t necessarily of much interest. That’s understandable, but perhaps the wrong approach. It’s in your best interest to have a grasp on the major systems of your car. There are two main reasons for this. The first is it’ll help you have a better understanding of when something is amiss and if you should take your vehicle in for service. This may help you avoid even more serious repairs and can prolong the life of your vehicle. Secondly, understanding your vehicle’s components may help you save money in the long run because you know what’s going on with your vehicle.

 

Things Have Changed

 

If you’ve been driving for a long time, you’ve lived through many of the major changes that automobiles have gone through. Nearly everything down to the keys has changed within the last couple of decades. If you think the car key part is an exaggeration, remember that the transponder in your car key that helps prevent theft has only been in major use since about 1995. Braking systems are no different. The vehicle you’re driving today could very easily have a completely different braking system from your first car you owned in high school. While, functionally, you may not notice much of a difference, there are some pretty significant differences when it comes to replacing or repairing the parts that make up the brake system.

 

While you’re probably not going to be changing your brakes or components yourself unless you are a very dedicated enthusiast with a full garage, it’s important to at least have an understanding of how brake systems have changed and how modern brake systems differ from old ones. And, of course, it’s good to know when it’s time to bring your vehicle in for brake maintenance.

 

Difference in Construction

 

Brakes have changed over the decades. This has caused some changes in what many consider “common wisdom.” You know what common wisdom often is. Things like strict rules regarding when to get an oil change have more or less relaxed with the improvements in technology. While it used to be that you should change your oil every 3,000 miles, now many feel that is unnecessary and wasteful and recommend waiting for another couple thousand miles. So, too, have brakes changed.

 

For example, many older cars had four drum brakes. All modern vehicles now have disc brakes on the front and most have them also on the rear. High-performance vehicles always have four disc brakes for maximum control and stopping power. Vehicles with four drum brakes had a particularly scary habit of not being able to stop on steep hills or with a sudden stopping of traffic a quarter of a mile away.

 

Drums brakes used to be serviced by machining the drums on a brake lathe and replacing the shoes. Disc brakes used to be serviced mostly by replacing the worn pads and only machining the rotors if they showed signs of wear. Keep in mind when you bring your vehicle in for maintenance is how rotors have changed. Most likely, if you’re bringing your vehicle in for brake maintenance, the pads are being replaced. They are typically what have been worn down. The question then becomes, “what about the rotors?” It used to be a debate about whether or not you should opt to get them machined or if it would be more cost effective to just replace the things. In many modern vehicles, there is no debate. You actually have to replace the rotors because machining isn’t an option. So, depending on how old of a vehicle you have, you may have the added expense of replacing the rotors in addition to the pads. 

 

Drums vs discs, machining rotors vs replacing. There are things to keep in mind. But, the most important thing to know is when you should bring your vehicle into your mechanic to get your brakes checked.

Mercedes C300 3417

Toyota Tundra 4725

The Toyota Tundra’s front rotors (below) measure 11.5″ while the Mercedes C300 (above) measure 13″ and are 50% thicker! It’s no wonder why we get many complaints about “brake pulsation” on Toyota trucks.

 

When to Bring Your Vehicle in for Service

 

Relying on warning lamps on your dash is always good form, but that shouldn’t be the only indicator you go by. Sounds and feel are important as well. Is your vehicle not stopping like it used to? Do you need more distance to stop? This is what is known as brake fade.  Pay attention to the sounds in particular because there are a couple to be on the lookout for.

 

If you hear a rattling sound, it’s not an immediate cause for concern. Brake pads can rattle if they experience expansion due to heat. However, if it rattles consistently and especially when you actually depress the brake pedal, then you should give your mechanic a call.

 

Then there is the classic brake grinding sound. This is always a sign of a problem and you shouldn’t drive any longer than absolutely necessary if your brakes are grinding. It is often a sign of extreme wear on your brake pads and/or rotors. There is friction with the caliper. Another reason for a grinding noise is a foreign object getting stuck in the caliper. Again, you don’t want to drive for long like this because of the serious damage that can be caused. If the grinding noise is a result of severely worn pads, you’re already looking at more intensive repairs. That’s why regular preventative maintenance is so important and can save you money.

 

Conclusion

 

Understanding how your brake system works and is constructed is an important part of maintaining your vehicle. It’s also about driving safely. It’s in your best interest to bring in your vehicle for regular brake maintenance for both your personal well-being and, believe it or not, your wallet. Serious auto repairs are often the result of skipping out on the simpler and cheaper regular tune-ups. At Independent Motors, we value doing a good job and doing it with honesty. We’ll always tell you the truth when it comes to what your vehicle needs regarding service. Call us today and schedule an appointment. We’ll help you keep your vehicle on the road for years to come.

Does the Heat Have You Stressed? Your Vehicle is Feeling it Too

Vehicles in the Heat

Our automobiles are built pretty tough. Two tons of metal being propelled by a controlled explosion pretty much has to be tough by definition. That’s a pretty cool way of describing a car and an accurate one if you think about it. But, our cars and trucks are not invincible as we are all inevitably reminded whenever we have to worry about what the next auto repair will be. Regular maintenance is part of responsible vehicle ownership. And, to be perfectly honest, if you want to save money in the long run you’ll want to keep up with your repairs. Smaller maintenance tweaks cost far less than major repairs when something goes wrong or, worse, you need to buy a whole new vehicle.

 

In order to effectively stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance, it’s important to know when you need to keep on top of certain issues. Believe it or not, the weather can really put the hurt on your vehicle. That goes for extreme weather in either direction. But, as of this writing we’re in May, so let’s focus on how the hot summer months can really put additional stress on your vehicle. The summertime is ripe for causing situations where you would need to invest in auto repair. So, keeping an eye on certain parts of your vehicle would be in your best interest.

 

The main system you have to keep an eye on is related to cooling and powering that cooling. The cooling system of the vehicle itself along with the air conditioning to keep its occupants cool are put under heavy stress during the summer months. As a result of this stress, your battery can really suffer as well. Additionally, though not connected to the other components, your tires and oil are other components of your vehicle you’ll want to keep an eye on once the temperature really goes up. Here is what you need to know about these vehicle components that get especially stressed during the summer.

 

Batteries

 

It only makes sense to start with the part that powers all the others. It’s important to keep an eye on your battery all year, but the warm months are when it’ll be put under the heaviest load. But it’s not just usage that wears the battery down. Environmental factors play a big part.

 

Heat is especially bad for batteries. Vibration isn’t great either, but in a moving vehicle that’s hard to avoid. But, you can make sure your battery is properly secured to minimize issues. Thermal runaway is something you’re going to be looking to avoid. If you want a very in-depth read on the math and science behind battery thermal runaway you can check out this blog post. For many, the pictures of batteries will be enough to demonstrate the possible destructiveness. Have your mechanic make sure the battery is securely mounted and the charging output is correct.

 

Cooling Systems

 

Clearly, your cooling system will be working overtime to make sure your vehicle doesn’t overheat. This means being mindful of your coolant levels. Driving around with low coolant for too long can cause serious damage. There are two things when it comes to coolant that you should be mindful of. The first is that coolant, like any other vehicle fluid, will eventually break down due to use. Similarly to your car’s oil, your coolant contains compounds that protect your vehicle from conditions like corrosion, freezing, or boiling. And, similarly to oil, once coolant breaks down and damaging particles get through, major parts of your vehicle can get clogged and cease to work properly. In this case, it would be your radiator.

 

Running low on coolant and not replacing it regularly isn’t the only thing you need to be mindful of. An already damaged radiator or, more commonly, worn out hoses can also be causing you to lose coolant at an even faster rate. Because of the already intense outside temperatures, engine overheating becomes even more likely.

 

Air Conditioning Systems

 

Can you imagine driving around in high temperatures without being able to keep yourself cool? Pretty horrible, right? If you want to actually stand being able to be in your car for long periods of time, you need to make sure your air conditioning system is working reliably. It’s important to note here when you’re discussing auto repairs, air condition system repairs in particular can be very expensive if the issue is severe enough. That’s why you want to get out ahead of any issues.

 

You should bring your vehicle in so a mechanic can inspect belts, clear out any clogged vents, and check for leaks that could be an indication of a greater problem brewing. Your mechanic will also check your refrigerant to ensure there is enough present to optimally run your air conditioning system. With these simple maintenance measures put in place, you can avoid a full air conditioning system replacement.

 

Tires

 

If your battery, coolant levels, and your air condition system are all looking good, you’re in pretty good shape. But, your tires need some attention, too. People often forget about their tires and assume they’re always good to go as long as they’re not bald. But, the summer brings unique risks that can degrade your tires quickly.

 

To put it simply, the combination of high temperatures and low air pressure can make for a risky situation. While you should always be aware of the status of your tire pressure, the increased heat and very hot asphalt can cause issues with deflated tires more quickly. Temperature changes have a greater impact on air pressure than many people may realize. Always inflate your tires to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI.

 

Oil

 

We’ve already touched on coolant and mentioned oil there, but it’s important to reiterate the importance of being cognizant of the status of your motor oil. All of your vehicle’s fluids are critical to proper function. Like with many vehicle components, they should be minded all year. But the summer brings its own challenges.

 

Hot engines need proper lubrication to run properly. They run even hotter during the summer, so the need for consistent oil levels is very important. In the past, you may have heard you need to use thicker motor oil for the summer. This used to be the case but many modern engines have done away with this requirement. This is due to the fact that most engine wear occurs during short period after start up and it’s easier for thinner oil to lubricate all the engine components quicker than thicker oil. The most important maintenance item to remember is to periodically check your oil levels to make sure they are where they should be and bring your vehicle in for regular oil changes to avoid the buildup of engine-damaging sludge.

 

Conclusion

 

If the hot weather has you feeling stressed, your car would agree if it could speak. The summer months, while fun to take a trip during, are really taxing on your vehicle. But, by keeping an eye on the above components and bringing in your vehicle now for some pre-summer maintenance, you can avoid more costly repairs. At Independent Motors, we strive to provide you with the best service at the most competitive prices. And we value honesty above all. We’ll be up front about what would be best for prolonging your vehicle’s life. Call us today to schedule a time to bring in your vehicle and get ready for the summer.

What Auto Makes Cost the Least to Maintain?

Low Maintenance Vehicles

There are many different factors the typical person takes into consideration when looking to purchase a new vehicle. Everyone has their own individual needs, but it’s safe to say we all generally look for the same things: space/size, mileage, durability, able to withstand local climate, price, and work-related needs. We want to get the most bang for our buck, so to speak, and a big factor in the decision we have to make when purchasing a vehicle is how much it’ll cost us over the course of the vehicle’s lifetime. After all, a relatively low price upfront can easily be offset over the years if you’re in constant need of repairs and costly ones at that.

 

There are two things to keep in mind when trying to calculate how expensive a car will be to maintain over the years you plan on keeping it: the frequency of repairs and how much these repairs actually cost. Repairs are inevitable, though of course, you want to keep them to a minimum. However, it’s important to acknowledge regular maintenance is what will keep your vehicle running well for longer. Secondly, some vehicles cost more to repair than others due to the specific parts, complexity, etc. You could find yourself in a scenario where a similar repair in two vehicles could cost more for one of them due to the nature of their build.

 

No one but you can say what motivates you the most when buying a vehicle. It could be status and luxury. But if you’re like many people, the bottom line is what will motivate you to make your decision. The question then becomes what brands cost the least to maintain? How about which ones are the most expensive? Do Honda repairs cost less than Lexus repairs on average? How about Toyota repairs? Are Audi repairs as expensive as one would think? We have a fairly good idea of what the answers are to those questions due to the wide variety of vehicles that have come through the shop over the years.

 

If you’ve been wondering which auto makes will help you stretch your dollar the most, we’ve got the information you need. Let’s take a look at some brands.

 

The Most Expensive Auto Makes to Maintain

 

In the grand tradition of the “bad news or good news first?” conundrum, we’re opting for the not so great news first so we can soften the blow in the next section. Now, if you own a vehicle by one of these brands, we’re not saying you’re going to need to dip into your children’s college fund to keep them running. But, know that on average these auto makes tend to cost a bit more to maintain relatively speaking.

 

If you have a preference for German cars, unfortunately, you’ll also be dealing with high repair costs due to German cars in the aggregate costing the most to maintain overall.

 

BMW tends to lead the pack here when talking about costs in the long term. It is true that maintenance and repair costs are low for BMWs if you’re talking about the first five years. During this initial period of ownership, the company offers free maintenance under warranty. However, once that warranty expires, you’ll begin to see costs pile up. On average, BMWs cost significantly more per year to maintain than other brands.

 

Mercedes-Benz and Audi are up there as well. But, not to pile too much on German manufacturers, Cadillac is high up on the list as well.

 

What luxury car models all have in common that make them so expensive to maintain is that they are more complex in their construction, making parts and labor more costly. For example, in the case of Audis, consider that while many cars allow you to replace the brake pads with minimal issues, an Audi model will have computerized sensors on the brakes which require a longer amount of time to navigate. Making this repair is more complicated.

 

Another important thing to note is that it’s not just luxury models. While nowhere near the highest in terms of cost, in fact it’s in the middle of the pack, brands like Kia can cost a good amount to maintain overall despite being some of the lowest cost vehicles up front. In fact, it’s the brands with the lowest sticker costs that cost the most to maintain after the luxury brands.

 

The Least Expensive Auto Makes to Maintain

 

If you didn’t see your particular auto make in the above section, you might be lucky enough to find it in this one. Here are some of the more cost effective brands when it comes to repairs. It may not surprise you to hear that Japanese cars tend to cost the least to maintain.

 

Honda repairs make the list for the least costly. Interestingly it isn’t so much because the parts and labor are extraordinarily cheap when it comes to the competition. Rather, Honda makes the list because of their remarkable durability and less of a need for repairs overall throughout their life cycles. Hondas are known to not only be durable but also great at retaining their value. This is why you can find even older Hondas with some clear wear and tear on them still fetching some incredible prices on the independent seller market.

 

Toyota repairs also cost less overall. In fact, they are considered one of the cheapest auto makes to maintain over a period of ten years and beyond. The reason for this is threefold. They consistently get high marks for the fewest incidences of “check engine” related lamp problems, their repairs aren’t as involved as some of their luxury counterparts, and generally, the parts needed aren’t very costly. Less of a need to perform repairs combined with lower repair costs when they do happen, make Toyota a popular brand with the budget conscious.

 

Nissan, while not in the lowest priced tier, is still relatively cost effective. It approaches Kia territory of the middle of the pack, while not being quite as expensive to maintain during the advanced years of ownership. As a brand, what makes them not quite as competitive as Honda or Toyota is the increase in repairs needed in some of the older Nissan models that are still on the road which aren’t quite as durable as models from recent years.

 

Conclusion

 

Whether you have a vehicle that is on the most expensive least or the least expensive, a big contributor to keeping costs down in the long run is performing regular preventative maintenance. By being serious about the upkeep of your vehicle, you can mitigate some of the bigger expenses that come up down the road with years and miles of wear and tear.

 

At Independent Motors we value our ability to deliver professional auto services at a fair price. We know that saving money when possible is important to you as a customer. We specialize in many different types of auto makes and we’ll perform the repairs needed to keep your car running reliably. Call us today and schedule a time to bring your vehicle in. Our experienced technicians will give you honest answers about the kind of repairs your vehicle needs and will perform them at competitive prices.