You probably remember the first time you stepped foot inside the first brand new car you purchased. It’s hard to forget that new car smell and the excitement that came with knowing the open road was just waiting for you.
Having your own car is a type of freedom that’s unmatched by almost anything else. Unfortunately, it’s an experience you pay for in a lot of ways: Not only do you have to be a careful and defensive driver, but you also have to invest a lot of money just to keep your car running.
To start, you need to pay for your car’s registration, insurance, and gas. Then, over time, you need to pay for things like oil changes, tires, and brakes. That’s a lot out of pocket, but there is good news: You can avoid spending more money than you have to by keeping up with some simple car maintenance tips.
Easy Car Maintenance Tips to Save Money
Whether you’ve recently bought a brand new car or are doing your best to keep your 1999 sedan going, you know that maintenance is essential for any vehicle. And while your owner’s manual probably tells you plenty, it’s a good idea to keep track of some essential vehicle maintenance.
Plus, keeping up with regular maintenance can help save you money in the long run. For example, getting your air filter changed every year can help avoid corrosion within your engine, which can cost a couple thousand dollars in repairs.
Here are some simple car maintenance tips that can help you save more money on your car in the long run.
Tip #1: Test Your Tire’s Air Pressure
One of the best ways to extend your tires’ longevity is to test the pressure every month, especially if the temperature drastically changes. It’s probably time to check them if you begin noticing that your car pulls to one side more than the other while you’re driving down a straight road. While this could be an alignment issue, it’s also a determining factor of your tire pressure deflating.
Luckily, it’s easy to check your tire pressure. In fact, you could do this at almost any gas station that offers an air pump. Just check your tire’s regular pound-force per square inch (PSI), which can be found in your owner’s manual or on a sticker that should be located on the inside of the driver’s door. Generally, your PSI will be somewhere between 30 and 35. You can also go to any reputable mechanic who can check and fill your tires with ease.
Quick Tip: Make sure you also test your spare tire pressure. The last thing you want is to have to change your tire just to find out that your spare is unusable—and a tow truck can cost up to $125.
Tip #2: Change the Oil on Schedule
Getting your oil changed does require a tedious trip every six to twelve months, but it’s a worthy one: The same way food is for a person, oil is essential to keeping a car going.
Experts recommend that you get your oil changed every 5,000 miles or what’s recommended by your manufacturer. More often than not, your mechanic will put a sticker on your windshield so that you can keep track of when you should get it changed again.
If you don’t get your oil changed when needed, you might face complete engine failure. This could lead to having to replace your entire engine, which could cost thousands of dollars. And trust us: It’s much smarter to spend about $40 once every few months than up to $2,000 to replace your engine!
Tip #3: Keep Your Battery Healthy and Clean
Although your car battery should last between three to five years, it’s a good idea to test your battery twice a year. You can do so at a trusted mechanic or with your own multimeter, which you can purchase at almost any auto retail store.
If you wait too long to test your battery, it might die when you need it most. In situations like this, you’ll have to call a roadside assistance service or a tow truck. Unfortunately, tow trucks can cost up to $125, and a new battery is typically between $90 and $125.
Quick Tip: Every few months, take a wire brush and clean around the battery’s crevices to ensure there’s no excess dust clogging up the terminals.
Tip #4: Replace Your Brake Fluid
Have you ever noticed a loud screeching sound when coming to a stop in a car? That sound is most likely the brakes, and it’s a significant indication that the brake pads are on their last legs.
Replacing your brakes can cost around $150 per axle, putting you at $300 altogether—plus labor charges. So while brake pads do eventually need to be changed every 50,000 miles, you can prolong that appointment by changing your brake fluid regularly.
Quick Tip: The next time you get your oil changed, make sure that your mechanic checks your brake fluid. If the liquid is dark in color, then it’s about time to get your brake pads replaced.
Tip #5: Change Your Air Filter
Many of us are guilty of forgoing that recommended air filter change at the mechanic. However, it’s a good idea to change it every 12,000 miles or 12 months because a dirty air filter can lead to significant problems inside your engine.
Your air filter keeps pollutants from coming into your car, so when you don’t replace them regularly, you’re inadvertently damaging the car’s AC system. Hiring a team to replace your AC system can cost around $2,000, so be sure to change it regularly. A good time to do so is at the same time you’re also getting your oil changed.
Quick Tip: Make sure to keep your eye out for any unusual engine sounds, check engine lights, or reduced horsepower—which are all indicative of a dirty air filter.
Tip #6: Get Your Tires Rotated
Your tires are what get you from Point A to Point B, which means that they require plenty of special attention. To make them last as long as possible, you should get them rotated every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
Unfortunately, all four tires don’t experience wear and tear the same way. Sometimes the front set will break down before the rear set does. In any case, rotating your tires can help you extend your tires’ life before you need to replace them.
If your tires have a worn tread or cracks and cuts, then it’s time to visit a trusted mechanic so that they can get your wheels back on track.
Tip #7: Check Your Coolant
Your car coolant, also called antifreeze, keeps your engines from overheating. Your coolant affects the heater, AC, radiator, and water pump—but when you run out of coolant, your entire car runs the risk of overheating and corrosion building up inside of your vehicle.
Make sure to check your antifreeze levels at least twice a year when it gets hot in the spring and then cold again in the fall. It’s easy to check the coolant levels yourself: All you have to do is see whether the liquid reaches the “Full” line in the coolant reservoir:
Quick Tip: Make sure to immediately take your car to the mechanic if you notice any bright-color liquid coming from underneath your vehicle—this means that the antifreeze has leaked and your vehicle needs attention immediately.
You love your car, but you probably don’t love spending money on it. The good news is that you can save money in the long run and keep your vehicle running with these car maintenance tips—plus, many of these things can be done all at once when you’re getting your oil changed!
The best part? You can save money in more ways than keeping up with these car maintenance tips: Depending on your state and insurance provider, you might be able to get an insurance discount up to 10% by taking a defensive driving course. Learn more about how DriveSafe’s online defensive driving course can help save you more money today!