The longer you drive a car, the more expensive it gets to maintain. That shouldn’t be surprising. You can’t put thousands of kilometers on a car without accumulating wear and tear as you go. Cars must be maintained just like any other machine. If you want to save money on car repair, practice these ten habits. Point number 10 will solve most car problems before they even have a chance to happen.
The next time you go to the grocery store, look underneath your car before you walk inside. What do you see? If the pavement is clean, file that detail away to your memory.
After you return with a shopping cart full of goodies and load them into your trunk, look again. Are there any fluids on the ground? Uh-oh. The road was clean. Now it’s not. You have a leak!
Bend over and touch your fingertip to that fluid. Can you identify the substance’s color? If so, you’ve got a clue. Brake fluid should be clear or yellow (although it becomes darker with age). Coolant is usually green. Transmission fluid is red. And motor oil is brown or black.
It’s important to keep an eye open for leaks. Fixing a leak isn’t too expensive when you catch it fast. But if several weeks or months pass before you notice, it could cause more expensive issues. Get in the habit of looking under your car at least once a week when you go to the gym, shopping, etc. Your bank account will thank you later.
Some people drive around with their stereo blaring, singing along to their favorite songs without a care in the world. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t get too distracted.
That said, your in-car-karaoke habit could cause unexpected consequences. When you crank your car radio up to a high volume, it’s difficult to hear anything else (like your car when it’s trying to tell you something is wrong).
Your engine used to roar like a lion. Now it purrs like a baby kitten. But if you’re singing along to Lira or Casper Nyovest, so loudly you can’t hear anything else, you won’t realize this problem even exists.
Your brakes used to be strong but silent. Now they screech like nails on a chalkboard. But if you’re jamming to some banging Kwaito during your commute, you might fail to notice the issue.
For the first few minutes of every drive, leave the radio off. Listen to the sounds your car makes. When something changes in a major way, tell your mechanic as soon as possible.
You think driving is the most boring thing in the world. You’re constantly distracted by texts, phone calls, and WhatsApp notifications. Your cellphone might as well be glued to your hand.
I know driving feels “easy.” You’ve only done it 1,000+ times. The whole process feels effortless. But that doesn’t mean driving isn’t dangerous. When you’re not focused on the road, your risk of having a traffic accident multiplies.
Imagine how many things could happen while you’re not paying attention. You could run over a pothole and get stuck with a flat tyre. The car in front of you could slam their brakes. If you’re not looking, you might accidentally smash into the back of them.
These are pretty tame examples, too. Much worse things can happen, especially when you’re traveling at high speeds. Don’t text and drive.
The risk isn’t worth it. Paying attention will benefit your safety and help you
save money on car repair.
The longer you let a car problem continue without consulting a mechanic, the more expensive the repair will get. Procrastination can cost you hundreds or thousands of Rands, or jeopardize your life or that of your family travelling in the car.
For example, shocks and struts (a part of your car’s suspension system) should be replaced every four to five years in most automobiles. The average cost of this repair is about R3000.
Steep? Perhaps. But if you don’t act fast, you could get stuck with a more expensive repair. A broken strut makes it much harder to steer your car, especially in emergency situations. Vehicles have rolled over for this reason. Imagine being in a car accident and landing upside down on your roof … Scary (and it’d cause a lot more damage!).
I’ll give you a more obvious example. Let’s say a mechanic recommends a new set of brakes. Money is tight, so you ignore that suggestion. A few weeks later, you’re coming to a Stop street. You hit the brakes. Nothing happens. Your car keeps on moving forward. As a consequence, you get T-boned. An investment in car repair is an investment in your safety and well-being. Don’t delay. Act now!
Checking your fluids is the easiest preventive repair any driver can do.
(No, you’re not literally “fixing” your car… but you are lowering the odds of getting stuck with a repair in the future, so it still counts!)
Every time you visit a car service centre, they’ll provide you with a safety inspection. Fluids are one of the first things they’ll check.
But a lot can go wrong in between your routine car service. Your car can
develop an oil leak which can result in severe engine damage or it may be
leaking gearbox oil and this will cause your gearbox to pack-up.
At least once a month (and before any long road trips), pop open your bonnet. Check the level and condition of all your fluids: oil, coolant, brake fluid, and gearbox fluid (if possible, else just check for leaks).
Flushing or refilling a fluid is easy. Fixing problems caused by low or contaminated fluid is hard. If you notice a fluid is low or dirty, notify your car service centre immediately.
I know the owner’s manual for your vehicle seems like the most boring reading. Still, it contains helpful information about what it takes to keep your car in great shape.
How often do you need to service your car? What types of engine oil and antifreeze does your car need? What do your dashboard warning lights mean? Where are your most essential engine parts located?
For answers to these questions and more useful details about how to take care of your vehicle, look no further than your Owner’s Manual.
Bookmark and highlight anything you might need to reference later (like service intervals, for example).
Imagine you get sick on three separate occasions. Instead of selecting one doctor, you go to three different doctors. This would not be the ideal situation because none of them will have your full health history on file. Each doctor will have to take time to rule out all symptoms before making an accurate diagnosis.
It takes time for a doctor to figure you out. Being aware of details about your medical history will maximize their ability to take care of you. Without this awareness, their ability to diagnosis your health condition quickly, accurately and able to prescribe the correct medicine will be ineffective.
The same is true for car service history. Every car has its own unique quirks. Some engines run hotter than others. In these instances, it’d be smart to change to a more efficient antifreeze to cool the engine. A mechanic might not realize this is an issue until they service your car a few times.
Trusting one car service centre with all of your business makes sense. Their staff will have plenty of time to figure out what your car needs. If you go to a different shop for every service, they won’t catch tiny details like this. As a consequence, you’ll end up spending more money on car repairs.
Most car repairs come with a warranty. If you get stuck with a defective part, that’s a bummer… but it’s really no big deal when you have a warranty. They’ll do the repair again for free.
This is another reason you should trust one car service centre with your business. If you ever misplace a receipt or warranty, no biggie!
Your entire service and repair history should be saved in that service centers electronic database. Otherwise, it’s a mess to keep up with.
If three different service centers work on your engine this year and one of them makes a costly mistake that causes you to breakdown, you won’t know whose fault it is. Even if you do, it’d be easy for that car service centre to blame the other one. Want to eliminate that possibility? Stick with one car service centre!
Boiled down to simplicity, preventive maintenance means
“investing in affordable but effective repairs now so you can avoid disastrous and expensive repairs later.” The investment is worth it!
Buying a gym membership costs money. So, does eating fruits and vegetables. But those costs are small compared to the medical problems you’d prevent. Vegetables and fruits is cheaper than medicine and that doesn’t even factor in the benefits to health, fitness, well-being, and quality of life.
The same reasoning can be applied to car repair. Car services cost money. If you get them done on time, you’ll spend about R 1500 per year. Fail to get your car services done and it could kill your engine. That’ll cost approx. R 35 000 to replace depending on whether you choose a new or used engine.
Preventive maintenance isn’t a mystery. The people who made your vehicle know exactly what it takes to keep your car running. They were nice enough to put that information in your owner’s manual and pack it in the cubby hole for you. So flip to the end of your owner’s manual and look for a section called “Recommended Maintenance”
You’ll see a list of what repairs are suggested when you hit 1,000, 15,000, 30,000 km, etc.
If you stay on top of those recommendations, you’ll prevent unnecessary breakdowns and expensive repairs. Don’t be afraid to ask your car service
centre “Am I up-to-date with my recommended service?” as this will show them that you care about your car, and you take their service seriously so this will keep them on their toes to give you their best, professional service.