Most cars are built to last, but the way you drive and take care of your cars can have a dramatic impact on how long they actually stay in drivable condition. If you take good care of your car with regular maintenance and proper driving habits, it can last you 20 years or longer, while even simple, neglectful mistakes can compound over time and force you to face costly repair bills at an auto repair center after only a few years.
You don’t have to be a professional mechanic to take basic care of your car. All you need to know are a handful of best practices, and a willingness to get your car serviced at an auto repair center before any problems begin to escalate.
Why Neglect Leads to Costly Repairs
When you think of costly car repairs, you probably think of forceful, violent circumstances, such as auto collisions or intentional damage. So why is neglect, a seemingly simple action, responsible for just as many costly repairs? It’s because cars consist of many moving parts; because of this, single problems usually end up becoming multifaceted problems, and simple problems end up escalating into complicated auto repair problems. What cost $50 to address in 2013 might cost $1,000 or more to address today because it led to additional damage to additional components, all of which could have been prevented.
The Top Neglectful Mistakes
There are dozens of ways to neglect your car, but these are some of the most common—and the most painful:
1. Never changing the oil. Changing the oil isn’t just about getting better engine performance; it’s about keeping your engine healthy. Your oil and oil filters are responsible for discouraging the buildup of foreign substances and solids that can eventually interfere with your engine’s ability to run efficiently. If allowed to go unchecked, the dirty oil in your engine can eventually lead to the entire system needing replaced. All you need for a basic oil change is an hour or two of spare time and about $20 of materials—and not much more than that if you bring it into a shop. Compared to an engine replacement of $4,000 or more, that $20 doesn’t look too bad. Generally, you’ll want to change the oil every 3,000 miles at a local auto repair center.
2. Allowing your oil to be low for too long. If you’ve only driven 500 miles since your last oil change, oil may be the last vehicle component on your mind. Unfortunately, small leaks, collision damage, and other factors can lower the oil levels in your vehicle. Usually, your car will tell you when your oil levels are low, but don’t depend on this. Check your oil manually on a periodic basis to ensure you’re in good driving condition. Driving with low oil for too long can put too much stress on your engine, compromising the entire system and putting you at risk for thousands of dollars of auto repair.
3. Ignoring strange noises or driving quirks. Noises and driving quirks, from a rogue clicking sound to a bit of difficulty steering, are usually indicators of much bigger problems. It’s easy to ignore these seemingly innocuous quirks, but the longer you wait to get them checked out, the worse (and more expensive) the problem is going to become. Your car’s braking system is of particular note here—your brakes are responsible for keeping you safe on the road, bringing your car to fast and complete stops when necessary and controlling your speed in a safe, reasonable manner. If your brakes start to decline in stopping power or show any signs of losing efficiency, the safety of your vehicle could be completely compromised. Get your brakes checked at an auto repair center the moment you notice anything wrong with them.
4. Driving on old or improperly inflated tires. Tires are built to carry heavy loads and last a long time, but they’re also subject to wear and tear. Because tires are the one thing keeping your car in contact with the road, it’s dangerous to neglect their condition. In fact, the condition of your tires can serve as a diagnostic tool to help you see what else might be wrong with the car. The biggest things you want to watch are the inflation levels and tread depth of your tires; overinflated or underinflated tires can lead to handling problems and higher risks of blowout. Worn tires, with lower or inconsistent tread depth, can lead to traction problems as well, putting you at higher risk of an accident.
5. Aggressively driving the car when it’s unnecessary. This neglectful mistake is all about how you drive your car. Alternating between rapid acceleration and hard braking isn’t just bad for your fuel efficiency; it’s bad for all the moving components of your car, including the engine and braking systems. Accelerating aggressively when your car isn’t warmed up can similarly put undue stress on your engine, leading to costly auto repairs. Hitting a pothole unexpectedly can cause several types of damage to the body and inner workings of your car. The bottom line? When driving, focus on keeping your journey as smooth and gentle as possible.
Proactive Is Always Cheaper
The first of two major lessons you’ll find in this article is that proactive measures are always less expensive than reactive measures. That is to say, inflating an underinflated tire for 50 cents at a local gas station is cheaper than calling a tow truck when your tire blows out on a highway. Always take your car in for regular maintenance, diagnostics, and oil changes at an auto repair center, and be proactive when it comes to checking your car for potential problems on your own. If you wait until a problem interferes with your ability to drive the car, it’s probably too late to make it better.
When in Doubt, Get It Checked Out
The other major takeaway is to get your car checked out, even if you aren’t sure there’s a problem. If you hear a strange noise or think something might be wrong with your car, taking it into the shop today rather than next month could save you hundreds of dollars in repairs and keep your car running longer. If you need to bring your car in for regular maintenance or if you’re even remotely concerned about the performance of your vehicle, schedule an appointment with The Garage Auto Repair. We’ll make sure your vehicle remains in peak condition.