Owning a car isn't cheap: according to the American Automobile Association (AAA,) the total costs of owning and maintaining a car run around $7,000 per year. However, cutting corners on many maintenance jobs is no bargain. Over the long term, you will find that properly maintaining your car can save you on everything from expensive repairs to car insurance.
It can be cheaper to keep up with your regular maintenance because often $50 to $100 worth of work can save you an eventual engine or transmission repair costing in the hundreds or thousands. It can also save you on car insurance, if proper maintenance can help you keep a safe driving record. The problem is, it seems like there is always something in a car that could be refilled, updated, or replaced. The trick is to distinguish between high priority and low priority maintenance jobs. Below are some examples of each.
High Priority Maintenance
The following items should get regular and prompt attention:
Lower Priority Maintenance
Some of the following items are important, but if you have to choose between maintenance items, these can probably wait a little while.
Are warning lights a good guide for when to maintain a car? Not ideally. These lights can come on at inconvenient or unsafe times, and may indicate a problem that is already pretty far along. Also, warning lights require a little interpretation. For example, a light that says "engine" usually indicates a critical condition that means you should seek repairs as soon as possible. However, a "check engine" light often means a problem with electronic sensors--it needs to be addressed, but you don't have to drop everything to do it.
All in all, you would be much better served trying to stay ahead of the warning lights by keeping up with the proper maintenance of your vehicle.
Richard Barrington is a freelance writer and novelist who previously spent over twenty years as an investment industry executive.
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