From the moment you drive your car off the showroom floor, depreciation begins. It’s nobody’s fault; it’s just how it goes.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for paying off the cost of the car.
Thanks to record-low interest rates, financing a vehicle is affordable for many Americans today, with most borrowers paying off their automobiles after five years of ownership. Once the automobile is finally paid off, however, the expenses often continue. Due to wear and tear, repairs can really pile up, costing you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars depending on the nature of the fixes and how long they’ve gone unaddressed or unnoticed.
That being said, there are a variety of proactive measures you can take that can help keep your car looking – and behaving – as good as it did when you first heard its engine purr. Here are a few pointers:
You car may not be able to speak you, but in a way, vehicles have a language of their own. You just have to be attuned to what it’s telling you. Instead of cranking up the tunes on the radio dial, turn the volume down on a weekly basis so you can listen to the engine. Is it making more noise than it has in the past? Is there any rattling or knocking? When you start your car, does a loud squeal emanate from the engine? Try to be as specific as possible when your automobile is making a racket so you can speak with your auto mechanic about the course of action necessary.
Stick to a schedule
Many of us thrive on routine. So do cars. Supplying your car with regular intervals of tender loving care can keep your automobile running smoothly. For example, keep track of the last time you had the oil changed. After every 5,000 miles or so, the oil should be swapped out for a fresh batch. Your car’s other fluids should also go by a schedule. Take your brake fluid as another example. Besides the pedals, brake fluid is the key ingredient that enhances stopping effectiveness. Mechanics say the fluid should be flushed once every two years. Your transmission fluid, meanwhile, should be replaced every 25,000 to 30,000 miles.
Have recalls addressed promptly
If you pay attention to the news, you know that auto recalls have been fairly frequent over the past couple of years. In fact, 2015 was a record-setting year for safety recalls, as over 50 million vehicles were flagged for flaws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The problem is many of these recalls are never addressed. The Department of Transportation estimates 25% of all auto recalls go unfixed, often due to owners not acting on notices they receive, usually in the mail. Though taking your car off the road may be inconvenient, it’s important to take recall notices seriously. The fixes needed may not only prolong your car’s life, but may save yours should you be involved in an accident. Even if you think you’ve never been sent a recall notice, you very well may have if it got lost in the mail. The government recommends checking out SaferCar.gov at least twice a year to see if your car is under recall. All you need is your car’s VIN.
Follow the directions
You’d be amazed at how much you can find out simply by reading the owner’s manual that came with your car. Unfortunately, many people never bother to see its table of contents, never mind read what’s inside. This may explain why nearly 1 in 4 Americans don’t know when they’re supposed to change the oil on their car, according to online marking and information firm DMEautomotive. In fact, slightly more than 50% of car owners say they always follow their manufacturers’ service recommendations, down from 64% in 2011. Reach into that glove box of yours. You’ll find information inside the manual that’s custom-made for your car so you know exactly what – and when – you should be doing to keep your car up and running.
April is Car Care Month. Check out the Car Care Council’s website for some other maintenance tips to implement throughout the year.