Buying a car is a huge accomplishment and, for many, a significant life milestone. But, unfortunately, cars can be expensive to maintain. And costs can vary depending on the brand and style of car you own and the conditions you drive it in.
Maintaining your car is one of the most important (and most expensive) aspects of owning a vehicle. And it can become even more costly if you don’t do it often or adequately. Below is a list of several tips you can use to maintain your car for cheap. These tips can help you save money on transportation both in the short term and later down the line.
Check on Your Spare Tire
Checking the air pressure and condition of your spare tire is just as important as checking the four other tires on your car. The reality is, someday you will likely need to use your spare tire if one of your tires deflates or you get a flat. If you need a spare tire, you want the one you already own to be in the best condition possible. That way, you don’t need to spend money on a brand new tire.
Having to purchase a new tire when something goes wrong means you’ll have to take what you can get, no matter how expensive it is. But maintaining the one you already have ensures you won’t have this unexpected expense.
Get Consistent Oil Changes
Getting regular and consistent oil changes is one of the best ways to keep your car in good driving condition. Problems with your car’s oil can be some of the most expensive issues to fix, as having adequate oil affects nearly all of the functions of your vehicle.
At many places, you can get your oil changed for as little as $25. And if you peruse your local ads, you can often find coupons to make it even cheaper. An oil change is essential every 5,000 miles (or whatever your dealer recommends), so you don’t wear down your engine.
Keep Your Battery Clean
Your car battery is like any other battery; corrosion can happen if you aren’t careful. Corrosion (which can look like a whitish or bluish powder) can form on your battery’s terminals and eventually cause it to crack or not function efficiently.
One cheap way to ensure your battery stays clean is to test it a couple of times a year at the dealership. Generally, they will do this for you at no cost. You can also buy a wire brush and make sure that the terminals don’t become corroded by cleaning them often.
Replace Brake Pads and Air Filters
If you hear squeaking when you brake, it’s probably time to replace your brake pads. While changing your brake pads for all four wheels might seem costly at first, if you don’t change them, you’ll end up with a much bigger problem. For example, if you don’t change your brake pads, you could easily rear-end a car in front of you, which would be much more expensive.
Also, your air filters prevent dust and dirt from entering your car through the air conditioning unit. So you must replace them every 12 months or 12,000 miles. If you don’t replace air filters, you may end up having to replace the entire AC unit, which can cost thousands.
Shop Around for Low-Cost Repairs
You don’t need to jump on the first mechanic you find, nor do you need to have all your repairs done at your local dealership. However, when something serious eventually does happen to your vehicle, you want to make sure it can be repaired by someone you trust. So ask friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. By shopping around, you can check out several different mechanics in your area to find affordable, low-cost repairs.
Make Your Own Washer Fluid
One way to save a bit of money on car repairs and maintenance is to make your own windshield washing fluid. You can find many recipes online for making your own products, including washer fluid. But mainly, the ingredients consist of water, ammonia, and another inexpensive cleaner or additive. While regular washer fluid is still relatively cheap, if you are really trying to cut costs on car maintenance, this is one easy way to do it.
Check Tire Pressure Monthly
According to experts, keeping your tires inflated at the appropriate level can save you up to three percent yearly on gas costs. Therefore, it can be pretty beneficial to keep your tires inflated. Checking your tire pressure monthly is one way to ensure that your tires are always inflated to the correct pressure. To do this, you need a tire pressure gauge and access to an air pump, which you can find at many gas stations. And at any car parts store, you can find the tire pressure gauge for just a few bucks.
Wash Your Car
Your car will be exposed to several elements during the year, depending on where you live. These may include snow, ice, rain, sleet, dust, pollen, etc. One reason to keep the outside of your car clean is to prevent your vehicle from looking unsightly. However, the build-up of excess organic materials on the outside of your car can also damage the paint, protective coating, and undercarriage. Washing your car often can help prevent long-term damage that will require expensive repairs. And while you’re at it, skip the expensive “car cleaning” products. You can make your own cheap cleaning products at home with just a few ingredients.
If you have a broken or burnt-out lightbulb, it can be a hazard that can earn you a ticket. Once you get your car, look at the owner’s manual and figure out how all of the bulbs should be inspected and replaced. Then, keep the bulbs clean by polishing the covers. But when they start to wear out, be sure to replace them before they die completely to avoid getting a costly ticket.
Get New Windshield Wipers
Windshield wiper blades become dull rather quickly, so you must regularly replace them. If you find yourself in a heavy rain shower or snow storm, having worn wiper blades just won’t cut it. Dull blades can reduce your visibility in situations like these and increase the likelihood of an accident.
While it may seem silly, replacing wiper blades is relatively inexpensive and can save you from making expensive repairs following a collision.
Check Your Coolant
Like changing your oil often, checking your coolant is one way to ensure that your car always runs properly. Fluids like coolant allow your vehicle to function at maximum efficiency, and if the coolant is low or leaking, it can significantly affect how your car drives.
Make sure that every time you visit your mechanic, they check the levels of all these fluids. Additionally, learning how to check these fluid levels yourself can save you quite a bit of cash.
Do an Emissions Inspection
If you live in certain parts of the country, the vehicle you drive might be required to pass an emissions inspection. Emissions tests measure the number of pollutants (oxygen, carbon monoxide, and more) your car puts into the atmosphere.
Usually, newer vehicles will have no problem passing this inspection. However, it is something you should definitely pay attention to. If your car does not pass, your mechanic will tell you what needs to be repaired. These repairs can be costly. For this reason, you should do an emissions inspection before buying any used vehicle and ensure your current car has all the required repairs.
Maintaining a vehicle, especially one that needs repairs often, can become incredibly expensive. However, regular checks and minor repairs on your car can keep you from paying for major issues down the road.