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.
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.