Keeping Vehicle Costs Down

This can be read here, on the Eastern Echo’s website, or picked up in tomorrow’s print edition.

We have all had a $30 oil change balloon into a $3,000 smorgasbord of tie-rod ends, valves, springs and other oddly named parts that many have no clue what their function is.

There are many things you can do to ensure you are not charged for insanely high fixes like transmission repairs or engine rebuilds.

An honest mechanic is not as rare of a find as people speculate. There are mechanical wizards out there who can do an honest job for an honest price.

The first thing to do is find a respectable mechanic either through friends, word-of-mouth, the Internet, your own trial and errors and shop around.

Respect their costs. Even though a $600 repair bill might seem outrageous for a part that costs $7, you have to understand the time, effort and knowledge that goes into fixing a vehicle.

That 7-dollar part repair might entail disassembling and reassembling the engine or transmission – an eight-hour job or more.

Probably one of the easiest ways to keep repair costs low is to simply maintain the car.

Check up on your fluids regularly and note any changes in fluid level, color and even odor. If there is something major wrong with the vehicle it will first show up in the fluids – engine oil, transmission, brake, power steering and radiator fluid.

Fluids are the blood of the car.

Engine oil is especially important due to its high importance within keeping the engine lubricated and cooled, but over time it gets dirty and needs replacing. As cars do not have mechanical kidneys, we must change to oil on a regular basis.

The old adage used to say change your oil every 3,000 miles, but most modern cars can go 5,000 or even 10,000 miles between changes. Check the owner’s manual for your cars specifications.

Changing the oil at regular intervals is crucial to maintaining your car.

Read and understand the owner’s manual to know when maintenance needs to be done. Engineers figured out when your car needs maintenance, and there is a reason why they make the money they do; follow the manual for the best performance.

There is usually a maintenance chart that outlines what needs done when and at what mileage.

Stores like AutoZone and Advanced Auto have monthly ads where you can buy oil supplies, wiper blades and fluid and other routine supplies for cheap. If it’s not on sale one week, it might be another week. Advance Auto usually offers an oil and oil filter combo monthly for around $30.

Shopping around and comparing prices is the surest way to make sure repair costs are kept to a minimum.

Also check your local quick-lube facility. They might offer specials or coupons on select services, but make sure you read
their fine print to make sure you meet the guidelines to receive the largest discount.

If you keep up on the basics, the car — like the human body — will keep trucking. You don’t need a heart transplant when a simple blood transfusion will work just fine.

For the mechanically inept, you can always seek parental help when maintaining your vehicle.

“My parents usually help and take care of it,” said Mike Fisher, an Eastern Michigan University student.

Parents might know where to take the vehicle and will probably help make sure you find an honest mechanic, and if you are lucky, maybe even some of the cost.

To keep maintenance costs down, follow the recommended schedule, maintain the basics and always, always, shop around for better prices. Some locations might even price match a competitor.