Avoid costly repairs by budgeting for car maintenance

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One thing which seems to sneak up and ruin many budgets is car repair. While you still have a clean financial slate in front of you for 2015, why not add regular car maintenance as a budget line item. Regular maintenance increases the safety and reliability of your vehicle, as well as prolonging its life. It doesn’t guarantee a lack of problems, but can reduce the likelihood of major repairs.

So what items should be on your maintenance schedule and why?

Engine oil is as vital to your car’s health as blood is to yours. Conventional engine oil lubricates, removes heat, prevents corrosion and sludge, and keeps the inside of the engine clean. Full synthetic oil does an even better job at all this. However, all oils eventually wear out over time, losing their ability to perform as needed. Regular oil changes help prevent various, and varying degrees, of engine damage. You know it’s time to change your oil either from a lube oil window sticker or your gauges.

Fluids — including brake fluid, engine coolant (antifreeze), automatic transmission fluid, and power steering fluid—must also be maintained at regular intervals to keep things in tip-top shape. These fluids should be inspected at least every time you change the oil.

Tires and lights are a couple of the easiest items to overlook when it comes to maintenance. These should be visually inspected with every oil change as well.

Other normal wear parts such as brakes, steering and suspension, and wiper blades, should be inspected annually.

Of course New Concept Auto Service maintains detailed records of our customers’ vehicles and we send out regular maintenance reminders specific to each vehicle.

Now the big question: How much should you put aside for these recurring items? Of course this answer varies widely based on the year, make and model of your vehicle, your driving style, and annual mileage driven. Following is a cross section of New Concept Auto Service customers who have faithfully scheduled regular maintenance (and light repairs as the car aged) for a specific vehicle. Perhaps this will help you select a comfortable amount to budget for your vehicle in 2015.

Snapshots of regular NCAS maintenance customers

Vehicle

2010 Honda

2004 Toyota

2011 Subaru

2010 Toyota

2006 Honda

2006 Ford

2005 Honda

2006 Nissan

2001 Honda

1997 Ford SUV

2005 Chevrolet

1997 Toyota

2001 Ford E150* *delivery van

Monthly maintenance avg.

$38/mo. over 38 mos.

$62/mo. over 72 mos.

$69/mo. over 17 mos.

$72/mo. over 52 mos.

$74/mo. over 68 mos.

$112/mo. over 60 mos.

$113/mo. over 72 mos.

$137/mo. over 21 mos.

$141/mo. over 76 mos.

$141/mo. over 110 mos.

$163/mo. over 75 mos.

$176/mo. over 120 mos.

$184/mo. over 121 mos.

Mileage logged as NCAS customer

45,458 mi. (.03/mile)

105,040 mi. (.04/mile)

23,675 mi. (.05/mile)

58,082 mi. (.06/mile)

64,708 mi. (.08/mile)

50,171 mi. (.13/mile)

91,643 mi. (.09/mile)

25,583 mi. (.11/mile)

110,309 mi. (.10/mile)

96,623 mi. (.16/mile)

135,541 mi. (.09/mile)

139,610 mi. (.15/mile)

159,079 mi. (.14/mile)

Keep in mind that luxury cars and older cars cost more to maintain. As they get older and major components begin to wear out, cars naturally go from maintenance only, to maintenance and repairs, and poorly maintained cars cost more to repair. Remember to add gas, insurance and perhaps tires to your annual budget—but you won’t need to include a tow service fee!