How you might be killing your car
A survey of auto mechanics reveals the most common mistakes we make with our wheels. Ignore them at your peril.
A former co-worker noticed a funny noise in one of the family's two cars. His wife said she'd heard the sound, too, but "just turned up the radio." Problem solved.
Here's hoping you aren't quite so dismissive when your own car tries to tell you something. There's a reason the "check engine" light was invented, and there's a darned good reason not to ignore it: Because when minor problems aren't addressed they can turn into huge, expensive problems.
Your best defense is a simple one: following the maintenance schedule found in your car's service manual. "Putting off recommended/scheduled maintenance" was the No. 1 mistake cited in a CarMD.com survey of 20 ASE-certified master technicians.
The second-biggest mistake was "ignoring the 'check engine' light." Mistake No. 3 was "not changing the oil, or not having it changed on time" -- however, that doesn't necessarily mean on an every-three-months schedule. In fact, some new cars can go up to a year.
CarMD.com spokeswoman Kristin Brocoff bought a 2012 Honda Pilot last year. Its manual stipulates waiting for the oil light to come on before arranging a change, for up to 12 months. (At that point the oil should be swapped out regardless.)
"The industry is really changing with regard to oil," Brocoff says.
Remember that the next time a quick-lube place tries to sell you on the absolute necessity of quarterly changes. Follow the manufacturer recommendations instead -- and don't try to eke out extra miles. The mechanics surveyed say that not changing the oil on time is the single most damaging thing you can do to your vehicle.
An ounce of prevention
The other seven mistakes cited were:
- Not checking tire pressure.
- Neglecting coolant, brake, transmission and other fluid services.
- Continuing to drive when the vehicle is overheating.
- Not changing fuel and air filters.
- Having unqualified shops service your vehicle.
- Using inferior or uncertified parts.
- Trying to service your own high-tech vehicle.
Don't do it, even if your car seems to be driving just fine. Sure, maybe your best buddy never paid much attention to his car and it didn't give him many problems. Could be he was just super-lucky, or that he traded in his autos before they had the chance to develop any serious twitches.
For maximum return on your auto investment, follow the manufacturer recommendations. My roommate's been driving the same car for 17 years, thanks to scrupulous attention to scheduled maintenance. It looks as though rust will kill it before mechanical failure does. What could a dozen or more years without a car payment do for your bottom line?
Readers: What's the longest you ever drove a car?
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I guess for some folks,changing oil or getting it changed is to much effort for them. I had the luck of seeing a suzuki that the engine had died on it.The car had 45000 miles and the people had never changed the oil! they admitted to it.I saw the motor torn down and what happened,it was toast.
If people want to save money,they should consider buying a vehicle that matches they're needs.
I see to many pickup trucks used as daily commuters.
All my cars were bought used; my youngest car is 10 yrs old with 132K; the oldest - 22 with 330K (and still driving perfectly); follow the maintenance schedule, fix problems immediately; think of repairs in two ways: 1 - maintenance: new or old you will need to change oil, replace brakepads, other normal wear and tear etc. 2 - problems unique to the car. #1 is not avoidable no matter how old the car is. #2 can be avoided with a new car. If you send more on #1 than #2, keep the car as long as you can. You can also view car repair expenses as car payments. e.g. - lets say a car repair of an older car is $600 - sounds like alot until you divide it into 2 months of car payments. If that repair helps the car last an additional 4 months, you've postponed or avoid 2 months of car payments.
The biggest purchase most people in their life will make is the house they live in. The second biggest purchase is usually the vehicle they drive. Wouldn't it make sense to learn at least what routine mechanical things should be done to the second biggest purchase? Just got done moving my college age daughter for the umteenth time with my 1998 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 that has 297,749 miles on it.
Original engine, Tranny was fixed at 217K, and has a number of new parts plus weird ones that never go bad unless you keep a vehicle this lone. Biggest thing.... CHANGE THE FLUIDS on a regular schedule. Oil changes generally around 3 K(unless synthetic), Transmission Fluild 35-40K, Coolant, 50-100K depending on kind, etc.... Get a good Wrench.... Never ignore strange noises...
Guys should know at least this much to get their man card punched... Too bad some people spend
more time and money on their hair & hair products than they do their vehicle, but then again those that do are most often blonde.
Win/win. They get paid $$$ and I get my bitchen' 88 Mustang GT fixed at a reasonable price.
Sad to say however a good friend purchased from a private party a four year old Lexus. She never noticed the car was smoking from the exhaust pipe until her daughter was following her home one day. She took the car to a Lexus dealer who said the engine oil had never been changed and the engine was toast. Not believing the dealer she brought the car to an independent and another Lexus dealer who said the same thing. Over four thousand dollars later with a rebuilt engine a hard lesson to learn for sure. Regular maintenance on vehicles that cost so much today is very cheap insurance.
get a quality oil filter from the dealer or walmart. unless you go for the 'premium service' option, the oil filters that the franchise oil change shops use, in my experience, are crap.
use a coolant t-stat from the dealer. period. the ones from the auto parts store (even the more expensive ones) are NOT the same quality regardless of what they say. and don't assume a lower temp t-stat (170 degrees) is 'better' for your engine than the one it was designed to use. if it came with a 220 d. t-stat, that's the best one to use.
also, use synthetic oil. it costs more but it will not cause gunk buildup in the engine like dino juice does. on many 'high performance' cars you are required to use synthetic motor oil to keep the warranty intact, and there's a reason for that.
go to a lower viscosity oil. contrary to what a lot of service professionals will tell you, 0w30 is no 'thinner' than 10w30. both are 30-weight oils, which is what the vehicle manufacturer is concerned with. however, 0w30 flows much better at start-up low temperatures. it's said that 90% of engine wear is as start-up, when the engine is starved for oil. keep in mind motor oil needs to be around 170 degrees f. to lubricate properly.
mainly, it comes down to checking fluids and common sense.
i only drive around 6k miles a year, but i check the oil (coolant and other fluid levels too) religously every week. i still change the oil around every 6 months though opinion now is that's too frequent.
a big mistake that even most garages still do: using plain tap water to top up the coolant. always use distilled water. tap water has too many minerals that will eventually form into crystal deposits and clog up the radiator.
never drive when the car is overheating. i blew a head gasket twice doing that, even though the distance was 'short' (less than 5 miles). miata's (pre 2005 version) overheat extremly quickly, so you need to really watch the engine temp light. finally, if you EVER loose heat, it means your coolant has gone bye bye. the heater core gets its hot water from the engine coolant. the temp light may still read ok, because the sensor is on the engine, and that stays HOT.
finally, a word on the auto repair industry: most people think the WORLD of their mechanic. until he or she drops the ball. then you feel betrayed, frustrated and angry. but just let it go. taking a mechanic to small claims court: don't do it. it's too hard to prove. another mechanics opinons won't hold much weight in court. just lick your wounds and find another mechanic.
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Cheap LED light bulbs cost more upfront -- between $8 to $10 apiece -- but begin to pay off within 18 months.
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