The longer you drive a car, the more expensive it gets to maintain. That shouldn’t be surprising. You can’t put thousands of miles on a car without accumulating wear and tear as you go. Cars must be maintained just like any other machine. If you want to save money on car repair, practice these ten habits. #10 will solve most car problems before they even have a chance to happen. 

1. They look.

The next time you go to the grocery store, look underneath your car before you walk inside. What do you see? If the pavement is clean, file that detail away to your memory.

After you return with a shopping cart full of goodies and load them into your trunk, look again. Are there any fluids on the ground? Uh-oh. The road was clean. Now it’s not. You have a leak!

Bend over and touch your fingertip to that fluid. Can you identify the substance’s color? If so, you’ve got a clue. Brake fluid should be clear or yellow (although it becomes darker with age). Coolant is usually green. Transmission fluid is red. And motor oil is brown or black.

It’s important to keep an eye open for leaks. Fixing a leak isn’t too hard when you catch it fast. But if several weeks or months pass before you notice, it could cause more expensive issues. Get in the habit of looking under your car at least once a week when you go to a store. Your bank account will thank you later.

2. They listen.

Some people drive around with their stereo blaring, singing along to their favorite songs without a care in the world. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t get too distracted.

That said, your in-car-karaoke habit could cause unexpected consequences. When you crank your stereo up to a certain level, it’s difficult to hear anything else (like your car when it’s trying to tell you something is wrong).

Your engine used to roar like a lion. Now it purrs like a baby kitten. But if you’re singing along to Taylor Swift so loudly you can’t hear anything else, you won’t realize this problem even exists.

Your brakes used to be strong but silent. Now they screech like nails on a chalkboard. But if you’re jamming to heavy metal during your commute, you might fail to notice the issue.

For the first few minutes of every drive, leave the radio off. Listen to the sounds your car makes. When something changes in a major way, tell your mechanic as soon as possible.

3. They pay attention.

You think driving is the most boring thing in the world. You’re constantly distracted by texts, phone calls, and social media notifications. Your cellphone might as well be glued to your hand.

I know driving feels “easy.” You’ve only done it 1,000+ times. The whole process feels effortless. But that doesn’t mean driving isn’t dangerous. When you’re not focused on the road, your risk of having a traffic accident multiplies.

Imagine how many things could happen while you’re not paying attention. You could run over a tire and get stuck with a flat. The car in front of you could slam their brakes. If you’re not looking, you might accidentally rear-end them.

These are pretty tame examples, too. Much worse things can happen, especially when you’re traveling at high speeds. Don’t text and drive. The risk isn’t worth it. Paying attention will benefit your safety and help you save money on car repair.

4. They are proactive.

The longer you let a car problem continue without consulting a mechanic, the more expensive the repair will get. Procrastination can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Or your life.

For example, shocks and struts (a part of your car’s suspension system) should be replaced every four to five years in most automobiles. The average cost of this repair is about $500.

Steep? Perhaps. But if you don’t act fast, you could get stuck with a more expensive repair. A broken strut makes it much harder to maneuver your car, especially in emergency situations. Vehicles have rolled over for this reason. That’d be scary (and it’d cause a lot more damage!).

I’ll give you a more obvious example. Let’s say a mechanic recommends a new set of brakes. Money is tight, so you ignore that suggestion. A few weeks later, you’re rolling up to a red light. You hit the brakes. Nothing happens. Your car keeps going. As a consequence, you get t-boned. An investment in car repair is an investment in your safety and well-being. Don’t delay. Act now!

5. They check their fluids.

Checking your fluids is the easiest preventive repair any driver can do.

(No, you’re not literally “fixing” your car… but you are lowering the odds of getting stuck with a repair in the future, so it still counts!)

Every time you visit an auto shop, they’ll provide you with a safety inspection. Fluids are one of the first things they’ll check. But a lot can go wrong in between oil changes.

If you use conventional oil, you probably visit an auto shop every three months or so. If you use synthetic oil, there may be even more time in between visits to the mechanic. Not good enough!

At least once a month (and before any cross country trips), pop open your hood. Check the level and condition of all your fluids: oil, coolant, brake fluid, and transmission fluid.

Note: those links go to instructions that describe exactly how to check each fluid. If you learn better in person, ask a service adviser (PPA) at your auto shop for a demonstration.

Flushing or refilling a fluid is easy. Fixing problems caused by low or contaminated fluid is hard. If you notice a fluid is low or dirty, notify your auto shop immediately.

6. They have read their OMV.

I know the owner’s manual for your vehicle (OMV) seems like boring reading. Still, it contains helpful information about what it takes to keep your car in great shape.

How often do you need an oil change? What types of motor oil and coolant does your car need? What do your dashboard indicators mean? Where are your most essential engine parts located?

For answers to these questions and more useful details about how to take care of your vehicle, look no farther than your OMV. Bookmark and highlight anything you might need to reference later (like oil change intervals, for example).

7. They support one auto shop.

Imagine you get sick on three separate occasions. Instead of selecting one doctor, you go to three different quick cares. This is not ideal.

It takes time for a doctor to figure you out. Being aware of details about your medical history will maximize their ability to take care of you. Without that awareness, the quality of care suffers.

The same is true for auto shops. Every car has its own unique quirks. Some engines burn hotter than others. In those cases, it’d be smart to get oil changes more frequently. A mechanic might not realize this is an issue until they service your car a few times.

Trusting one auto shop with all of your business makes sense. Their staff will have plenty of time to figure out what your car needs. If you go to a different shop for every service, they won’t catch tiny details like this. As a consequence, you’ll end up spending more money on car repair.

8. They keep receipts and warranties.

Most car repairs come with a warranty. If you get stuck with a defective part, that’s a bummer… but it’s really no big deal when you have a warranty. They’ll do the repair again for free.

This is another reason you should trust one auto shop with your business. If you ever misplace a receipt or warranty, no big whoop. Your entire repair history will be saved in that shop’s database. Otherwise, it’s a mess to keep up with.

If three different crews work on your engine this year and one of them makes a costly mistake that causes you to breakdown, you won’t know whose fault it is. Even if you do, it’d be easy for that auto shop to blame another. Want to eliminate that possibility? Stick with one shop!

9. They believe in preventive maintenance.

Boiled down to simplicity, preventive maintenance means “investing in affordable but effective repairs now so you can avoid disastrous and expensive repairs later.” The investment is worth it!

Buying a gym membership costs money. So does eating fruits and vegetables. But those costs are small compared to the medical problems you’d prevent. Produce is cheaper than medicine. And that doesn’t even factor in the benefits to health, fitness, well-being, and quality of life.

The same reasoning can be applied to car repair. Oil changes cost money. If you get them done on time, you’ll spend about $100-200 per year. Fail to get your oil changes and it could kill your engine. That’ll cost $2,000-5,000 to replace depending on whether you choose new or used parts.

10. They know exactly what their vehicle needs.

Preventive maintenance isn’t a mystery. The people who made your vehicle know exactly what it takes to keep your car running. They were nice enough to put that info in your owner’s manual.

Flip to the end of your OMV. There should be a section called “Recommended Maintenance.” You’ll see a list of what repairs are suggested when you hit 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000 miles.

If you stay on top of those recommendations, you’ll prevent car breakdowns and expensive repairs. And don’t be afraid to ask your PPA: “Am I up-to-date with my recommended maintenance?”

Share this article with your friends, because they totally want to save money on car repair, too.

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