The current state of our economy has left many of us neglecting something that is extremely important. Taking care of your car or truck is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you remain financially above water. When your car breaks down you may be late to work, if you can get there at all. You may end up having to pay for a taxi or rely on a friend to get to and from work and pick up the kids at school. What you’re left with is a very expensive car repair bill and all the incidental costs that occurred while it was in the shop. What I am going to give you now is some very valuable information that will keep you out of this situation. These are some very easy and very inexpensive ways to maintain your own car so that you can avoid those expensive bills. By the time you’re finished with this article you will be able to get more miles and better gas mileage from your car.
The first step is very simple, read the manual. That’s it, that little book in the glove box is your golden ticket to understanding how to keep your vehicle in great shape. That manual has a list of all the maintenance that your car needs to keep you on the road. You may also find out about some features in your car that you didn’t know you had. If you don’t have one they are very easy to find online or you can get one at the dealership. Buying one is a great investment and will begin saving you money on those costly repair bills
The second step is actually using the manual. Now that you know what the car needs go ahead and do it. It’s really not that hard. I have been able to teach most of my friends how to do it themselves with just a couple of tools. It may be hard to believe but many people don’t know that you need to change the oil. Those same people are now doing it themselves and much more.
Now let’s work on your car. I’d like to start with something that will increase your gas mileage and keep your tires in good shape for several thousand miles longer than your neighbor. This is an easy one. Check the tire pressure. You can pick up a tire pressure gauge for a couple dollars or less at any auto parts store and all you have to do is press it against that little thing sticking out of the wheel. Compare the number on the gauge to the one in the manual or on the little sticker inside the door jam. When the pressure is low just take your car up to the gas station and use the air hose (most gas stations have them) and fill the tire to the proper pressure. This might cost you about one dollar to use the air hose and it will save gas and increase the life of your tires. A good thing to remember is that when the seasons change so will your tire pressure. When it gets cold you’ll see that your tires are a little low. Don’t worry, the tires are probably fine, just put a little more air in.
Next on our to-do list is the air filter. This is another easy thing to do. Under the hood of your car there is a big black box with some clips on it. Just unclip the top of the box and you have found your air filter. Most of them slide out pretty easily and you can check to see how dirty it is. You can blow it out or vacuum it, but if the manual says it’s time to change it you probably should. The last time someone at a repair shop wanted to change it for me I said now and I was glad I did. They wanted $40 to do it! I went to an auto parts store instead and bought one for $15 and put it in myself. It took less than 30 minutes including the amount of time it took to buy it and I saved $25. So now you can save $25 and get better gas mileage.
The next two items on our list are a little more involved, but one of them you may not have to do it all. Let’s change our fuel filter first. This is the part of your fuel system that keeps all the dirt in the gas out of your engine. It is usually located under the car so you may have to lift up the vehicle. This is pretty simple and safe if you follow how the manual tells you to do it. Most cars come equipped with a jack or you can get one pretty cheap at the auto parts store. This task requires our second tool. On most new vehicles you need a special tool to unclip the fuel lines from the filter. It is a very inexpensive tool and the person at the auto parts store can tell you which one you need. You should also have some safety glasses and maybe some gloves for those with sensitive skin. A good safety tip here is to let the car sit for about an hour before you do it to make sure there is no pressure in the lines. All you do now is slide the tool into place. Some fuel filters may fight back a little but don’t be afraid. It will come out. The new one goes in just like it came out minus having to use the tool. That’s it you have once again increased your gas mileage and avoided a repair bill. The last tip about fuel filters is you may not have to change it at all. Some do not need to be changed and if that is the case you will probably not even see it under the car. They hide those in the fuel tank.
The next task we have is one that we all have. Many people don’t do this at all and it will absolutely kill your car. You need to change the oil and the filter. If you don’t you are guaranteed to be purchasing a new engine very soon. This bill is one of the big ones and you can avoid it for about $25 to $30. For this task you should keep your eye out for specials at the auto parts store. Many of these stores have their own brand of oil and filters they sell. Most of the time when you go in and ask for oil and a filter, they will tell you about their $15 oil change special. Yes, some oils are better than others, but when the budget is tight a cheap oil change is much better than no oil change. Your manual will tell you how often to do it and what type of oil to use. The first step is again to lift the car up. Once you are there all you do is unscrew the drain plug and then unscrew the oil filter. Make sure you have something to catch the oil. This can be done with one standard wrench and an oil filter wrench which are both inexpensive and easy to find. Be careful not to unscrew the plug on the transmission by mistake. Replacing lost transmission fluid is a little more expensive. Once you have all the oil out it is very important to remember to put the plug back in, or you may be purchasing more oil. I like to put a little oil in the filter before screwing back on. Once it is hand tight I like to give it just a little turn with the filter wrench, just be careful that you don’t damage the filter. Now you can refill your engine with new oil. There is a cap on top of the engine with the label “oil”. That was easy. In the manual it will show you how to check your oil level to ensure that you have the proper level. This is especially helpful if you have a small leak somewhere. Running a car with low or no oil is even worse than not changing it. You should check it periodically between oil changes just to make sure. You have just extended the life of your engine, improved your gas mileage and got a great deal on an oil change!
There are many other little things that you can do to keep your car running better for years to come. Just start with your owners’ manual and go from there. You can find even more information online in auto forums and blogs. It’s all very easy once you learn how to do it and in the long run it will save you thousands of dollars and you and your car will be very happy.