Most people would be surprised to hear it, but on average, buying a car isn’t the most expensive part of the driving experience. Maintenance, repairs, and other expenses often add up to more than the cost of the vehicle itself. This is especially true when you consider the fact that barely half of all car owners follow the manufacturer-prescribed maintenance schedule.
Mechanical breakdown can occur for any number of reasons, most of which are easily preventable. Not enough oil or lubrication, too long between tune-ups, wear and tear on brakes or suspension … any of these things can spell out the end of your vehicle. Take, for instance, the Ford Taurus, a milestone in American car manufacturing history. Any Ford service department or used car salesman will accurately describe this as an extraordinarily reliable vehicle, capable of staying on the road for as long as you care to drive it. Nevertheless, without proper care, even vehicles notorious for their durability can be driven into the dust.
If you want to keep your car longer, or if you want to maximize the resale value of your vehicle, maintenance is crucial. Not only that, but regular maintenance – and we’re talking about the little things here – can help prevent major vehicular problems. Don’t believe me? Ask Irv Gordon, owner of the Guinness World Record for highest vehicle mileage. At a cool three million miles, he attributes his success not solely to the vehicle, but to a fanaticism for vehicle maintenance.
Here are a few things to keep on your maintenance checklist:
- Read the manual. Manufacturers are typically pretty spot-on with their maintenance requirements. Rather than relying on secondhand knowledge – like the old 3,000 mile oil change rule – you should carefully read the owner’s manual for your vehicle and follow the prescribed care instructions.
- Regular Oil and Fluid Changes. It’s the first thing any mechanic will tell you: oil changes are essential to your car’s health. If you don’t change the oil regularly, your motor will no longer be properly lubricated, as dirty or insufficient oil literally begins to gum up the inner workings. You run the risk of real, lasting problems if you don’t change the oil religiously. While it’s in for an oil change, top off wiper fluid, transmission fluid, and coolant.
- Brake repair and replacement. Your brakes will need to be replaced periodically. How long you can go between brake services depends on a lot of factors, including: driving style, urban vs. rural driving, whether your car is used for towing, and so on. You can extend time between brake service by avoiding sudden stops, minimizing stop and go driving, and having brake wear checked while your car is in for other services.
- Tune Ups. A tune up calls for the replacement of small but important parts of your engine. Spark plugs and filters are commonly replaced. These can help to prevent buildup of small problems that can develop into a catastrophe. Keeping a log of what was replaced during an engine tune-up is important, as it will give mechanics a great deal of inside knowledge when working on your car after the fact.
- Odds and Ends. Lots of little miscellaneous stuff goes into making your car function. You’ll have to replace some of these during the life of the vehicle. Expect to check up on, maintain, and occasionally replace: the battery, exhaust components (02 Sensors, Catalytic Converters), electrical components, or alternators. These are simple, minor repairs, made cheaper because parts are plentiful.
As in the case of the aforementioned Taurus, it doesn’t matter what you drive, dealers and dealer service departments are very knowledgeable, and maintain high standards that are usually – but not always – observed by private garages. Contacting a Ford Service Department rather than a private garage will typically get that Taurus better care, and the same is true if you’re driving a Honda, BMW, or Bentley. Go where the answers are, and they’ll give you straightforward advice on how to keep your car on the road longer.