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.
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