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What’s New
Tire Prices Going Up? Tire Review thinks so. Get ready!
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says, "Saving Money on Fuel Isn’t a Magic Trick" [more]
Want your car to last longer? Doug Newcomb's article, "Ten Tips to Make Your Car Last Longer."
Got a fluid leak? Get good advice.
More tips! MSN Autos gives you 10 Tips to Make Your Car Last Longer.
Money Saving Tips

Ways to Save Money on Your Car

Here is a collection of common sense money saving tips for your car.

Use Regular GasGas station price postingSwitching to the cheapest grade of gas that your engine can use is a fast way to save 10-20¢/gallon. You only need to use a premium grade if your car manufacturer requires it.
Change oil at 5000-7500 milesPicture of oil container and filterThere is no need to change your oil at 3000 miles unless special circumstances exist, like hard use, cold climates, short trips, and towing, etc.. Then, you should consider more frequent changes. Otherwise, 5000-7500 miles is recommended. If you seldom drive your car, instead of going by your odometer, minimally, change the oil twice a year.
Better Safe Than SorryPicture of a timing chain and pulleysIf a service inspection reveals that a radiator hose is cracked or degraded, or a fan belt is worn or stretched, or the manufacturer recommends replacing a timing belt, it is better to replace them than risk a breakdown at an inopportune time or place. Better to pay a little now than a lot later.
Use Factory Maintenance SchedulePicture of tune-up kitIt is better to use the factory’s maintenance schedule than the dealer’s. Naturally, the dealer wants you to have a major tune-up every 30,000 miles. Many of the traditional tune-up items are now handled electronically, so a major tune-up is not needed as often. Follow the manufacturer’s schedule unless your car is running rough, missing, or making odd noises. You don’t need to change the plugs and harness until the manufacturer says so.
Use Independent ShopPicture of Seal of Automotive Service ExcellenceUse and independent shop instead of a dealer for major services. Independent shops will almost always do the same work much cheaper, but make sure you take your car to a good shop. Make sure the shop uses only ASE certified mechanics. ASE is National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, a non-profit organization. The ASE mission:
ASE’s mission is to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service through the testing and certification of repair and service professionals.
Call the Better Business Bureau and other consumer advocates (or visit their websites) and evaluate the shops reputation for honesty, quality, customer satisfaction or complaints and guaranteed work. Pay attention to how your interaction with them goes. Are they courteous and patient or do they rush you through the write-up process? Pay with a credit card in case there is a dispute later. Using an independent shop does not void your car’s warranty.
Replace Own Wipers & Air Filter Picture of windshield wiperReplace your own air filter and wiper blades. You can buy them at a discount auto-parts store or get them on sale cheaper than having a garage or dealer replace them. Replacement is simple for either part, usually a 5-minute job. Change air filters every other oil change in a dusty climate, otherwise every 20,000 miles should suffice. Change wipers once a year.
A GUY WALKS INTO the local NAPA store and asks "can I get a wiper blade for a Yugo"?

The clerk replies, "Sounds like a good trade to me".
Don’t Replace Antifreeze AnnuallyPicture of yellow antifreeze containerChange your antifreeze only when a hydrometer indicates it will no longer withstand temperatures 30° below the coldest temperature your area sees in winter. Have your regular shop check the hydrometer reading during your annual winterizing service. Every two years is about right.
Visually Inspect TiresPicture of Kelly Safari TirePeriodically inspect your tires for uneven or excessive wear. If you have uneven wear, it probably means your front-end is out of alignment or shocks or struts are worn out. Keeping your car properly aligned and your shocks or struts in good condition and rotating your tires will save you a lot on premature tire wear. If you have a regular shop, it will most likely rotate your tires for free.

While you are at it, check your tires at least monthly for proper inflation. Underinflated tires develop excessive heat, leads to premature tire failure, reduces gas milage by a mile/gallon, and can lead to a blowout. While overinflated tires slightly improves gas milage, excessive tread wear and danger of blowout more than offset the small increase in fuel economy

For more excellent tire tips and tire news, see Check My Tires.

Pay Attention to ChangesPicture of a brakepadPay attention to any change in the sound or behavior of your car and act upon it. This is a case of solving problems while they are small (i.e. inexpensive). For example, if you start hearing a brake squeal, have your shop examine the brake pads. If they are worn and not replaced, you will face a much larger repair bill later if the disks have to be machined or replaced. Other things to be alert for:
  • warning lights
  • unusual motor vibration or hesitation
  • fluid leaks on garage floor -- oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid -- all warning signs of a larger problem
Out of Warranty Component FailurePicture of 3 year warranty sealIf a manufacturer rejects your warranty claim on a failed component, check Alldata Recalls and TSBs and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to see if a technical service bulletin (TSB) has been issued on the failed component. Manufacturers will often repair known defects outside the warranty period if you request it.

Warranty Strategy: If your car manufacturer allows you to wait until the standard warranty is about to expire, then wait and decide based on car problems encountered so far. No problems? Maybe you should skip the purchase. Consider this: the manufacturer determines a warranty period and price that favor the manufacturer.

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