Guest Blogger: Car Maintenance That Will Save You Money
Car repairs can get expensive in a hurry, and you can’t always plan for them. One thing we can do is keep up with regular maintenance so those repairs don’t sneak up on us. We asked Jess Dempsey, who restores classic cars, what simple things we can do to help keep our cars running smoothly, and avoid some of those costly repairs down the road.
1. Check your engine oil (monthly)
This doesn’t mean you need to change your oil monthly if you’re not exceeding 5,000 miles. But knowing what level your oil is at will help you identify leaks or issues early, and prevent more costly maintenance down the line.
To check your oil, pull the dipstick out (the oil dipstick usually has a circular end) and wipe clean with a paper towel. Re-insert into the HOLE. Wait 30 seconds, and remove the dipstick again. The dipstick should have two lines at the tip. Make sure that your oil line is between these two lines.
When checking your oil, you should also be checking for consistency and color. If your oil is light brown and slightly runny, you’re good! If your oil is dark brown, black, or has a thick or chunky consistency, it’s time to change your oil!
Another tip – learn how to change your own oil! You’ll cut down on costs significantly. It will take a little bit longer the first few times, but once you have the hang of it, it’ll be quick and easy!
2. Check your tire pressure/fill your tires
If you have a BJs or Costco in your area, they have free air! You don’t even have to be a member. Most modern cars have tire pressure sensors built in, and the readings are displayed on the instrumentation panel. Your tire pressure should match what is suggested on the door of your car, NOT what is suggested on the tire. Every car is different, and many people damage their cars by filling their tires too much or too little because they go by what is printed on the tire itself.
For older cars like mine, I head over to BJs once a month, set their air pressure machine to the correct PSI, and fill each tire until the machine beeps to tell me the PSI has reached the amount set.
If you let your tire pressure get too low, your tires are extremely prone to exploding (I know this from experience!) and that could cause you to not only need a new tire, but new rods, body work, and potentially axle work. The same thing can happen if your tires are over-inflated. Take a lesson from Tom Brady, and pay attention to PSI.
3. Check the battery
Do a quick visual inspection of your battery once a month. Check that cable connections are secure and that there is no corrosion at the terminals.
4. Check the fluids
Did you know that many repair shops automatically refill your fluids for a premium cost? Check them monthly and refill yourself to save a ton of money! Here are the fluids to check:
· Brake fluid
· Transmission fluid
· Power-steering pump
· Windshield wiper fluid
5. Clean your radiator
Debris can build up in and around the radiator. Remove leaves and other items with a soft brush and if you’re very ambitious, clean the outside of the radiator with a light detergent solution.
6. Wash your car
When being frugal, the last thing you’d probably think of is to invest in a car wash every few months. Here’s why you should, especially in colder climates. We have long winters, with often lots of snow. This requires that sand and salt be spread on the roadways. Both are corrosive to vehicles. In the winter, try to go through the car wash every month, and in the summer once or twice (more if you live near the ocean!). Also remember to get a wash done after the last of the salt is off the roadways in the late Spring.
7. Take on simple maintenance yourself
Service shops often charge $100+/hr to work on your vehicle. Try learning how to do basic car maintenance and repair yourself! Local colleges offer classes, and YouTube is an amazing resource! If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, this knowledge will help you discern when it might be time to call your mechanic!
Jess Dempsey is an engineer and artist who restores classic cars in her spare time. She drives and works on her ’67 Impala SS 396 and loves learning about classic automobiles and trucks. She owns Woo Customs, a specialized apparel shop in Worcester, and works full-time at MITRE. Jess lives in Worcester, MA where she dreams of owning a 4-car garage.