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Do's and don'ts of car maintenance to avoid big repair bills

Mechanics share their secrets to keep vehicles running longer.
auto shop
Posted at 7:18 AM, Jun 28, 2024

How well do you maintain your car, especially in this hot weather? Many of us fail to do it as well as we should, which can lead to big problems, considering the very high cost of car repair these days.

Peter Mingo is well aware of those repair costs and says he never misses an oil change. And if his Chevy Malibu throws him a warning light, he says he addresses it right away.

"I try to get that fixed as soon as possible," he said.

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But if you sometimes hold off an oil change to save money, or ignore a warning light on your car's dashboard, mechanics warn those are some of the mistakes people make that can lead to more expensive repairs down the road. For instance, postponing maintenance can void a warranty, according to certified mechanic Matt Overbeck of Overbeck's Auto Service.

"We have seen cases where extended warranties deny coverage because certain maintenance items weren't performed per the manufacturer's recommendation," he said.

Things mechanics say not to do

To help you keep your car in shape, technicians with Consumer Reports' auto test center shared things they would never do to their own vehicles:

  • Skip oil changes, which can lead to expensive engine damage
  • Ignore dashboard warning lights, where a small issue can snowball into something much larger
  • Drive with worn-out or damaged tires, which can lead to skidding and a crash

CR's automotive writer and tester Michael Quincy recommends checking your tire pressure at least once a month.
"If you're driving in the rain on worn-out tires, your handling is going to be much worse. Your breaking distances are gonna get longer. It really is a safety feature," he said.

Consumer Reports' technicians also suggest you never ignore a recall notice. And they say never to use an old-school style touch car wash, with hard spinning brushes (newer washes are soft cloth washes).

"The kind of brushes that use the whirly thing can really scratch your paint, it can leave swirl marks. So, a touchless car wash is better," Quincy said.

Sure, regular maintenance can be expensive, and time-consuming, but it saves money down the line.

"How many fathers or mothers have said this to their young drivers: 'Look in the owner's manual.' The owner's manual is gonna tell you a maintenance schedule that you should go by," Quincy said.

Finally, in this hot weather, don't ignore a sluggish battery. It may not start the next time.

That way you don't waste your money.

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