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.

1. Look

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.

2. Listen

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.

3. Pay Attention.

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.

4. Be Proactive.

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!