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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.

Top 12 Mistakes of Auto Maintenance

Top 12 Mistakes of Auto Maintenance

With 16 cents of every US household dollar going toward transportation, you owe it to yourself to be careful that you spend wisely and do not make any car maintenance mistakes. Here, we look at 12 of the most common errors that are made by car owners.

 

Getting from point A to point B may sound simple, but it is certainly costly. In fact, 2016 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveal that transportation accounted for an average of $9,049 out of the $57,311 in costs incurred by each consumer unit. In other words, transportation represented nearly 16 cents out of every dollar (15.79%) spent by each household or financially independent individual. Of that $9,049 figure, $3,634 went toward buying cars; $1,909 went toward oil and fuel; and $2,884 went toward other expenses, such as maintenance and repairs.

 

Since transportation expenses are such a substantial chunk of a typical budget, it is important to make sure that this money is being spent in the correct ways. Plus, maintenance is about preserving your car – so avoiding common mistakes will allow you to spend less on automotive purchases by extending the life of your vehicle.

 

CarMD: 10 top car maintenance errors

 

Let’s countdown, in David Letterman fashion, the top ten most common car maintenance mistakes provided by CarMD in its annual analysis of car data from mechanics and car owners, the 2017 Vehicle Health Index (released in April). Then we will go through a couple other common problems not listed in that study.

 

#10. Attempting to perform the maintenance oneself. The more sophisticated technologies of newer models often require professional expertise for proper care, per CarMD.

 

#9. Foregoing original equipment manufacturer (OEM) components. Generic parts are inexpensive upfront but can have a greater risk of failure.

 

#8. Choosing a mechanic that is inept to service the car. We know that it can be tricky to vet mechanics if you are unfamiliar with car repair. However, you can look for strong reviews and credentials to guide your choice.

 

#7. Not switching the fuel and air filters on a regular basis. In Mandi Woodruff’s analysis of this list in Business Insider, she noted that the failure to replace an air filter is a particularly key point since dirty filters can have a domino effect, leading to failed oxygen sensors. The failure of an O2 sensor can, in turn, lead to fuel inefficiency (i.e. higher costs at the pump) and possibly the need for a new catalytic converter.

 

#6. Staying on the road after the car begins to overheat. An important thing to ask yourself in life is, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” In the case of staying on the road after your car begins to overheat, you could end up with expensive problems such as a cracked or warped head; blown head gasket; cracked engine block; or engine bearing damage.

 

#5. Not paying attention to the levels of fluids. Beyond oil, be sure to regularly check transmission, brake, and coolant levels.

 

#4. Skipping gauges of the tire pressure. Your tires will gradually lose their pressure as time passes. When there is not enough air in them (whether you can see it yet or not), your fuel-efficiency gets worse. More gas means car ownership costs you more each year; plus, you will have to switch out the tires more quickly. You should be able to stay on top of tire pressure well by checking once a month.

 

#3. Neglecting to get the oil changed at carmaker-recommended mileage intervals. There is a reason that there is so much talk about the need to get oil changes before road trips and on a regular basis. The CarMD report, referencing the survey of mechanics that made up part of its study, said that oil changes are at the top of the list as the “most damaging car maintenance item that their customers neglect that they wish they could change.” When the oil is not changed regularly, it gets dirtier – which could eventually cause engine failure. Now, you don’t need to overdo it with oil changes. Rather than simply changing oil every 3000 miles, use the specifications from you owner’s manual.

 

#2. Failing to respond when the “check engine” light appears. Why do you need to worry about that “check engine” light? For the same basic reason as you want to pay attention to the air filter: you could end up with a broken sensor and a misfiring engine. Again, if the oxygen sensor goes down, so could lose your catalytic converter – which is one of the most expensive repairs you can encounter.

 

#1. Delaying maintenance beyond the owner’s manual schedule. There are many reasons why people do not keep up with a routine car maintenance schedule, especially when the replacement of a part is involved. According to automotive market research firm IMR, the top two reasons for not performing maintenance are that the car owner could not find time (33%) or that they did not have funds for it (31%). Other reasons are that failing to get the repair was not impacting their ability to drive (14%); they would soon be selling the car (4%); the person could not be without the car (3%); their mechanic did not immediately have the part (2%); and they were getting a second opinion (1%) – while 14% gave other explanations for their delays.  Almost all vehicle owners (91%) see themselves getting the work conducted eventually. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly costly to delay these tasks (as discussed in our article “Skipping Car Maintenance Can Be Expensive”). The nonprofit Car Care Council lists the top maintenance issues to protect yourself and your investment are oil and other fluid checks; filter, hose, belt, and tire replacements; and air conditioning checks.

 

2 other mistakes people often make with car maintenance

 

Beyond those mistakes provided in the CarMD report, here are a couple of additional maintenance mistakes to avoid if you want to make the best use out of your car maintenance budget:

 

Failing to replace burned-out lights. Putting new lightbulbs in your car is fairly simple and affordable. You will know if your headlights or high beams go out pretty quickly when you drive at night. However, other lights such as taillights and brake lights may not be immediately apparent. Check them occasionally. If one of your lights burns out, it is straightforward to replace it using your owner’s manual. If you do not want to do it yourself, you can have a mechanic that charges fairly do it for you. Make the switch one way or another, because when lights go out, you increase your likelihood of getting pulled over by the police or getting into an accident.

 

Trying to jumpstart the car incorrectly. Jumpstarting the car is a task that people often find themselves performing without necessarily feeling confident doing it. Actually, before you even get started, be certain that you are safely out of the roadway. You also should not be smoking, and you should be wearing eye protection. The cars obviously have to be close (assuming you’re jumping from another car and not from a portable jumpstarter), but you do not want them to be touching.

 

Conclusion

 

Are you currently delaying maintenance or otherwise concerned that you are doing the right things at the rights times? Preserve the life of your car by speaking with an honest auto shop today. At Independent Motors, we charge fair prices and pay our crew fair wages, keeping everyone happy. Meet our staff.

Jeep Repairs: The Parts of Your Vehicle to Keep an Eye On

Jeep Repairs to Keep an Eye On

Jeeps are a very popular vehicle in Colorado. Due to the famously tough terrain and heavy snowfall, people need a vehicle they can be confident will get them to where they need to be no matter the obstacle. Jeeps are tough, there’s no question about it. However, like any vehicle, they will run into issues eventually. While you may not need too many of them, being aware of the most common Jeep repairs will benefit you. It can sometimes be hard to tell when exactly your vehicle needs service.

 

Don’t Get Caught by Surprise

 

One thing that often happens with Jeep owners is that they’ll come in for service and be shocked to hear that they need a lot of work done. The good thing about Jeeps, and this may sound like a double-edged sword actually, is that they tend to continue to run pretty well even if there are underlying problems. It’s not uncommon to hear things like “I need that much work done? I haven’t had to get anything fixed on this Jeep in years.”

 

Obviously, no one likes to get caught by surprise like this. This is especially true when it comes to vehicle maintenance. The good thing is there are only a few major issues that are seen somewhat consistently when it comes to Jeeps. Once they are fixed, you can pretty much bet on the fact your Jeep will be able to stay on the road for many more miles. However, it’s important to keep in mind that every single model of vehicle has its own unique quirks and issues. You may not experience any of these common problems and in fact, could be experiencing something completely different. The following repairs, however, are the ones that have been encountered the most often, so keep an eye out for these issues.

 

Suspension Components

 

Suspension components, including track bars, drag links, ball joints, and tie rod ends, tend to be the most commonly damaged components that require replacement or repair when someone brings their Jeep in for service. This really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering very few people purchase Jeeps just to commute to and from work. Usually, a Jeep gets put through its paces on some pretty unforgiving terrain which puts great strain on the suspension as you’re driving over unpaved land or large rocks and considerably high speeds.

 

In fact, suspension issues are so common with Jeeps that the problem has developed its own interestingly creative name amongst Jeep owners: the Jeep Death Wobble. Perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration, however that uncontrollable wobble isn’t something you really want to be driving on for any significant amount of time so if you’re noticing a wobble, bring your Jeep in for service as soon as you can so it can be fixed.

 

Cooling Components

 

Obviously, keeping your engine cool is necessary to keep it running. Many Jeeps eventually have an issue where something goes wrong with the cooling system. This goes beyond making sure that you change your coolant when required. While this is important, the components themselves need to be minded. The water pumps and radiator have a tendency to need to be repaired. Both of these issues can reveal themselves in similar ways. Keep an eye out for any coolant leaks. Check your thermostat occasionally. Generally, when a water pump or the radiator itself is experiencing issues, the engine temperature will run too high, which is a recipe for an expensive and potentially dangerous situation. Check for cracked or damaged pumps every so often to get out ahead of the issue.

 

Axle Shaft U-Joints

 

Here is another issue related to the handling of your vehicle. Again, no surprise here. 4 x 4 vehicles often need to have their axle shaft U-joints changed. This is especially true if you off-road often. Eventually, the damage is done. While it can be hard to tell when a U-joint goes bad, there are some telltale signs. Keep an ear out for squeaking while driving, a clunking sound while shifting, vibrations while you drive, and transmission fluid leaking. All of these “symptoms” could be another issue. Regardless of the root cause, it’s not going to be something good, so be sure to bring your Jeep in for service if you experience any of these things.

 

Routine Maintenance

 

Those are a few of the most common repairs that we see come through when it comes to Jeeps. But, that doesn’t mean those are the only issues you may run into. All vehicles are susceptible to similar problems when it comes to not staying on top of routine maintenance. Jeeps are no different, even though they can run well for a long time without any noticeable problems. Here is what you have to make sure you’re mindful of as you drive your Jeep over the years.

 

It’s very important to stay on top of your oil changes. The sticker on your windshield isn’t meant to just guilt you into bringing your vehicle in. It’s important to get your oil changed very 4,000 to 5,000 miles so there isn’t a chance for old oil to gunk up the engine with pollutants. If oil isn’t changed often enough, dirt and other solid material can build up in the engine, drastically shortening the life of the engine, if not the vehicle itself.

 

Another bit of maintenance to be aware of, especially with Jeeps, is the state of your tires. Since you’ve probably bought a Jeep to handle tough terrain and intense weather conditions, it’s doubly important to make sure your tires are up to the task of handling it. This includes checking your tread, making sure you have enough pressure in your tires, making sure your tires are properly aligned, and actually having the right kinds of tires for the terrain you’re going to be spending most of your time driving on. Remember, it’s not just about off-roading. There are specific tires for summer and winter months to offer better handling. This is especially important when talking about heavy snowfall.

 

By keeping up with the maintenance on your vehicle you can help ensure that you’ll be able to drive your Jeep for longer.

 

Conclusion

 

Most likely you bought your Jeep because you wanted a vehicle that was tough and could take anything you threw at it. Colorado is famous for its rugged terrain and many drivers like to have the ability to off-road when the mood strikes. As tough as your Jeep is, however, inevitably it will need to be repaired at some point. If you haven’t had your Jeep looked at lately or you’ve noticed that something doesn’t seem right when you drive it, it’s time to take it in for a look. Addressing issues before they become major problems, including keeping up with routine maintenance, will actually end up saving you money in the long run. Call us today to schedule an appointment to bring in your Jeep so we can provide the service needed. At Independent Motors, we have years of experience servicing Jeeps at a fair price. Let us help you keep your Jeep on the road for many years to come.

 

 

How to Avoid Costly Engine Trouble with Routine Maintenance

Avoid Costly Engine Trouble

Most of the time when you discover that your car needs some major repair work done, it comes as a shock. “It was running just fine,” you might say as your mechanic returns to tell you that you’re looking at some serious engine work in order to keep your vehicle running. It’s at this point where most people need to make a big decision on the spot. Is it worth getting the engine fixed or would it make sense to just buy a new vehicle? Neither is cheap and it’s a matter of which would hurt less financially. Needless to say, it’s not a great feeling and can seriously alter whatever plans you had for the year.

 

The thing about expensive auto repair, though, is that it’s often avoidable. While it’s true that vehicle ownership means laying out money for upkeep over time, you can lay out less money if you keep up with your regular maintenance. Does it take up precious time you’d rather spend doing something else? Sure, of course. Does it feel good to pay for that maintenance? No, not really. But, if it means avoiding hearing “You need a new engine if you want to keep this car,” then it’s worth spending that time and money on that maintenance.

 

It’s at this point you may be wondering “Is it really that big a savings to get all these smaller fixes done every few months or years?” That’s certainly a fair question. People are always skeptical when it’s suggested to them to spend money on things. Let’s look at the typical cost of fixing or replacing the vehicle’s engine, then.

 

Rebuilding the Engine

 

Typically speaking, getting a rebuilt engine put in your vehicle can run anywhere from around $2,500 to $5,000. Considering that range is essentially a doubling from least expensive to most expensive, it stands to reason that the type of vehicle you drive will dictate just how expensive a new engine will be. A lot of factors can go into the pricing, including labor costs, so it’s hard to give a firm answer on how much rebuilding your engine will ultimately cost you, but that range is a good place to start. On its face, a rebuilt engine typically costs about 10%-20% of the value of a new vehicle. This is where you need to start asking yourself questions.

 

Is it worth just using that 20% and making a down payment on a new vehicle? Is it better to just buy a used car to replace it? How much more time with your current vehicle will this rebuilt engine get you? It can be a lot to process. So, why not do what you can to avoid even being faced with this dilemma? While there are no guarantees in life, unfortunately, you can certainly take some steps to hold off engine trouble for as long as possible. Barring some really bad luck, an engine that is well taken care of will undoubtedly last far longer than one that is ignored.

 

What kind of maintenance should you be mindful of in order to keep your vehicle running for longer? Here are some of the big ones that you’ll want to stay on top of with some regularity.

 

Changing the Oil

 

You probably knew this would be on this list, but it’s always recommended for a reason. Changing your oil is the most important routine maintenance you can get done. Motor oil provides the lubrication required to keep your engine running without overheating. Too little oil or dirty oil with pollutants and dirt in it is a surefire way to cause damage to your engine.

 

Cooling System

 

We’ve established keeping the engine from overheating is critical, but it’s not just a job for your oil. The radiator, thermostat, water pump, and coolant are all necessary to make sure the engine runs well. All of these components at one time or another may require service, but the one most likely to require semi-regular attention is making sure you have enough coolant in the system.

 

Air Filters

 

While not alive, your engine still needs to breathe (so to speak). What allows your engine to do that is a clean and clear air filter. Your vehicle needs a constant flow of air to function properly. When your filter becomes old and dirty, it can clog up with the material it’s designed to keep out. When that happens, the air can’t properly circulate which can eventually lead to engine problems.

 

Leaking Hoses

 

Something needs to transport these fluids through the engine. That’s where hoses come in. While nothing fancy, they do an important job. Rubber hoses will eventually wear down and crack due to constant exposure to intense heat, which can cause oil and antifreeze to leak out. This can damage the engine either by having fluids leak where they shouldn’t be or by cutting off the supply to the engine. Either way, don’t be surprised if you need to replace a hose every so often.

 

Fuel Filter

 

Your fuel filter has the important job of keeping sediment and dirt out of your gas so it doesn’t clog up your engine. Much like an air filter, if you keep it around too long it gets clogged up itself and can’t do its job. Circulating debris through your engine is bad for it, so change your fuel filter. Also, don’t drive your vehicle on E too often. When gas levels are low, it can have a tendency to get dirty.

 

Belts

 

You won’t have to worry about your belts too often, honestly. However, when they do break, it’s game over. Your engine can’t run if a belt breaks and that can be a bad situation. You may want your belts checked on occasion to check for signs of cracks to get out ahead of this troublesome repair.

 

Spark Plugs

 

You only need to change your spark plugs every 30,000 miles or so, but it’s important that you do. Old worn out spark plugs can cause the engine to run less efficiently and taxes it more than it needs to be.

 

What Indicates Trouble?

 

It should come as no surprise that the “check engine” light on your dashboard is the biggest indicator that something needs to be looked at by your mechanic. But, you can’t always go by the vehicle’s computer, even though it’s usually pretty good at alerting you to things that require your attention. Sounds are a big giveaway. If you start hearing new and unusual sounds after turning your key in the ignition, it could be your engine. The same thing applies to your vehicle suddenly handling differently, like if it seems sluggish and more difficult to get up to speed. While these are vague, it could be one of a number of issues that need to be checked out regardless if it is the engine or not.

 

Conclusion

 

Engine repairs are costly. There is no way around that. You can help prevent the need for them though by keeping up with your maintenance. If you suspect your vehicle is suffering from an issue, your check engine light is on, or you know that it’s time for some routine maintenance to prevent engine failure, bring it on in. Contact us today to set up a time to come by. The team at Independent Motors is highly experienced and dedicated to providing you professional repair services at an honest and fair price. Don’t wait until you need to get towed. Take care of your engine.