The Cost of Not Taking Care of Your Car

There are so many things we have to keep track of during our lives, as well as many different items we have to pay for. Car maintenance is one of the regular costs that many people ignore, either because they get too busy or they just don’t think it’s important or necessary. Certain car warranties, especially for new cars, require certain maintenance to be performed for the warranty to be valid, so sometimes it is necessary to complete the maintenance. But when the touch-ups aren’t required, it can be difficult to tell whether they really need to be done.

Figuring out just how far reaching, if at all, the lack of maintenance will affect the car, can be tricky. Here are five regular aspects of taking care of your car that you should consider, when they are usually required, and details about whether or not you really need to follow through with them.

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1. Rotating your tires

According to Car Talk, you should get your tires rotated if it will cost you $20 or less, because doing so will increase the life of the tire. You can also ask your mechanic to rotate your tires when your car is already in for another service so that they won’t charge you for having your tires off. Nothing bad will necessarily happen if you don’t rotate your tires, but you probably won’t get as many miles out of them. Also, Car Talk notes that if you are getting your tires rotated, you shouldn’t need to have them rebalanced unless you feel a shimmy or vibration.

2. Changing your oil

Changing your oil can be done fairly easily by yourself, so there really is no good excuse for not doing it. You will need certain tools and supplies: oil, an oil filter, a wrench, and a funnel, at least. It used to be recommended that you change your oil every 3,000 miles, but that has changed recently. You can look at your owner’s manual to find out more about your specific car.

Waiting a little longer to change your oil, and possibly much longer (depending on your car) won’t necessarily spell the end of your engine, but if you wait too long, you do risk serious issues, like having to replace your engine.

3. Changing the transmission fluid

The transmission fluid has to be changed much less frequently than the oil, thankfully. Again, you can look at the owner’s manual, as recommendations can vary from 50,000 all the way to 150,000 miles, according to Cars.com. Other experts recommend you change it much sooner — as early as 30,000 miles, in some cases. Transmission fluid can deteriorate faster under certain conditions, such as frequent city driving or carrying heavy loads.

Transmission fluid can have a burned odor if needs to be changed, and it can also turn darker in color. Dirt in the fluid can be another signal. Mechanics disagree about whether you should change your fluid if you haven’t had any shifting problems, but the experts at Car Talk recommend you always do it when it is recommended. Otherwise the fluid can become contaminated, and you might shorten the life of the transmission.

4. Changing your engine air filter

According to Cars.com, when you have to change your air filter will depend a lot on the type of car you have. It could be 15,000 miles, 30,000 miles, or a different amount. You can sometimes tell by looking if a filter needs to be replaced — for example, if you can see black areas where the outside air is coming in. You should probably change the filter if it has been a few years in particular, but pay attention to your manual. The clogged air filter might not affect your fuel economy in a big way, but it can hurt acceleration by 6 to 11 percent.

5. Other regular maintenance

Although you can go to a dealership or mechanic, you don’t really need to for most regular maintenance. In addition to the regular maintenance listed above, you should also frequently check your dashboard indicator lights, your other lights, engine oil level, windshield wiper fluid, and tire inflation and condition. It’s also important to promptly replace windshield wipers when they start to break, because if you drive in hazardous conditions, effective wipers can make a huge difference.

Every three months or so you should also check your battery and cables, belts, hoses, and exhaust, as well as many other items. There are other things you should check every six months, every nine months, and every year. Many of these checks are quick and easy. While some maintenance isn’t necessary — or at least, not as often as a mechanic might tell you — you should be proactive when determining what maintenance you do need and when.

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