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Auto care means fewer repairs

MMI Copywriter

By Kim McGrigg, Community and Media Relations Manager

A vehicle is the most important and expensive piece of machinery most people own. Excluding loan payments, it costs an average of $9,519 to drive a car. Protecting your investment and keeping the cost of car ownership down can be easy if you perform regular maintenance and safety check-ups. On the other hand, waiting until problems arise can prove to be costly. In fact, maintenance and tires cost an average of about 5 ½ cents every mile you drive.

To keep your car running smoothly and safely, you should:

  • Check your tires. Weather changes greatly affect your tires so they should be inspected each season. For example, a normal pressure during the summer months could become dangerously low in the winter time. Even if your city enjoys a mild climate year-round, many tires have slow leaks. Since front and rear tires wear at different rates, you will also want to have your tires rotated every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. The time may be worth the effort since the price of one new tire can be well over $100.
  • Change your oil. When oil gets old and dirty, it loses its ability to stick to engine surfaces, causing excess wear and tear on engine parts. Experts agree that you should change your oil and filter every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. This fast and inexpensive maintenance can save you thousands in engine repairs. During each oil change, ask the mechanic to also perform a belt and hose inspection.
  • Top off your fluids. Most people notice when their windshield washer fluid is low; however there are many other fluids that your car needs to operate safely. Power steering fluid, brake fluid, engine coolant, and automatic transmission fluid should always be clean and full.
  • Maintain your brakes. AAA recommends that you have your brakes inspected every 6,000 miles or at every other oil change. You should also have your breaks inspected if you begin to hear or feel scraping or grinding during braking. A little TLC can prevent you from needing a new ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) which can cost more than $1,000.
  • Stock your emergency kit. In case of break-down, you should always keep emergency supplies in your car. At a minimum, your kit should include tools, flairs, jumper cables, a first aid kit, and a flashlight.

Most important, don’t assume that just because the car is running that everything is fine. Keep your eyes open for fluid leaks and irregular smells or noises. Taking the time to make sure that your car is in top condition is the best way to protect your investment while keeping your travels safe.

You might also enjoy reading:

Auto insurance: What you get for the money
How to adjust to your new car payment
Buying a "new" used car
Does your car have a personality all it's own?

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Five frugal tips for saving when gas prices soar


In its biggest jump since Hurricane Katrina disrupted Gulf refineries more than five years ago, the retail price for gasoline soared 19.4 cents, bringing the cost to $3.38 a gallon. Prices have been on a steady rise for the past seven days, according to American Automobile Association (AAA) statistics released by CNN Money.

While high prices may cause panic for some consumers, remember there are steps you can take to make sure soaring prices don't send you into a financial tailspin. The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) offer the following suggestions to help you get the most out of your fill up.

  1. Search for the best price. Gas prices usually vary from one area of town to the other. Websites such as can give you detailed information about the gas prices at stations in your neighborhood.
  2. Drive sensibly. Did you know that exceeding the speed limit by just 5 mph can result in an average fuel economy loss of 6 percent? Constant accelerating and braking wastes gas, and according to CNN Money, it can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent when driving at highway speeds and by 5 percent when cruising around town.
  3. Plan trips in advance. If you know you have to run multiple errands in a day, make a plan that will help you consolidate the number of trips you have to take. This tactic is also useful for driving down the cost of road trips. Gas prices vary from one city to another. Plan your route so you don’t get stuck paying extra because you have no choice.
  4. Routinely maintain your vehicle. Get your vehicle checked on a regular basis to make sure all systems are running smoothly. Make sure spark plugs and sensors are replaced on time and the tire pressure is at the right level. If these aren’t maintained, your vehicle will have to work harder, which means guzzling more gas. 
  5. Look into alternatives. Research other methods of transportation. These could include carpooling with co-workers, using public transportation or even riding a bicycle. With the growing number of affordable hybrid vehicles on the market, you may find that you can save money by investing in a new car. Check out one of the many automotive budgeting calculators MMI offers to help you make an informed decision.

For more information on how to make wise financial choices at the pump, visit and watch Best Gas Credit Cards, a video that shows you a few simple ways to save an additional 15 to 30 cents on every gallon.

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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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