Top 10 Money-Saving Car Maintenance Tips
Updated on February 22 2024
Buying a new or used car is just the start. You have to factor in car maintenance and repair costs in your car ownership experience. But as it turns out, car repairs and maintenance are getting costlier by the day.
It's relatively common for a simple repair job to turn into a money-sapping affair. And before you know it, you'll find yourself spending thousands upon thousands of your hard-earned cash to keep your car in perfect running condition.
With that in mind, it is better to be proactive than to wait for something to go wrong with your vehicle. Here are the top 10 money-saving car maintenance tips that will help you save money and extend the life of your sweet ride.
1. Read the owner's manual.
All new cars (and most used or repo cars) have an owner's manual, and you can find it in the glove compartment. It is your responsibility as a car owner to be familiar with your vehicle's quirks, features, and maintenance requirements. Most people don't know (especially first-time drivers and car owners) that the owner's manual contains the answers to the most common questions about a particular vehicle.
When to change the oil? Check the owner's manual. What type of oil to use? Again, check the owner's manual. How about the tire pressure and tire rotation schedule? Yes, everything is in the owner's manual. Stop relying on YouTube videos and start reading.
2. Avoid prolonged warm-up periods.
We're busting the myth on this one. Back in the good old days, vehicles needed to warm up after cold starts. However, modern cars with advanced fuel injection are different. Remember that excessive idling can damage your engine, including the cylinders, spark plugs, and exhaust system. When a motor is idling (whether gas or diesel), the engine is not operating at peak temperature, leading to accelerated wear and tear, poor fuel economy, and more harmful emissions.
After starting your vehicle in the morning, do not let it idle incessantly before driving off. Modern cars do not need an extended warm-up period.
3. Avoid stomping on the gas pedal.
When driving, avoid stomping on the gas pedal, especially if the engine is cold. Keep your engine revs below 3,000 rpm whenever possible. If you have a high-performance vehicle or sports car, allow all the vital fluids to warm up before letting 'er rip.
Being gentle with your pedal inputs will not only improve fuel economy, but it lessens the wear and tear on your engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension.
4. Shift to neutral at stoplights.
Some people say that leaving the gear selector in Drive at stoplights is fine, but we beg to differ. How hard is it to shift to Neutral and engage the parking brake? Not hard at all. You don't even need to press the lock button (or step on the brake pedal) to change from D to N.
If the vehicle is stopping for only a few seconds, you can leave it in Drive. But in Manila, there are stoplights that take more than three minutes to turn from red to green? Shifting to Neutral prevents wearing out your brakes and transmission.
5. Stop using high-octane gasoline.
You probably heard that filling up with expensive high-octane gasoline is better for your car, and nothing is farther from the truth. Most vehicles will run fine with low-octane 91 RON unleaded gasoline, and that's a fact. If the manufacturer recommends 91-octane gas, that is what you should use.
When in doubt, check the owner's manual. Stop wasting money on expensive fuel unless you're driving an exotic sports car. Remember: Raising the octane rating does NOT change the energy content of gasoline.
6. Adhere to the recommended oil change intervals.
You probably heard this many times over. The oil is the lifeblood of any internal combustion or reciprocating engine. Engine oil not only lubricates moving parts, but it reduces excess heat and absorbs dirt and sludge.
The general rule of thumb is to change the oil every 5,000 to 8,000 kilometers. However, not all vehicles are the same. Check the owner's manual to determine the recommended oil change intervals. Religiously changing the oil is an easy way to prevent incurring hefty repair bills.
7. Pay attention to your tires.
When you think about it, those four patches of rubber are responsible for keeping your vehicle on the ground. And since you are probably aware that tires are expensive, make it a habit to inspect your tires weekly and check for cracks, punctures, or uneven wear.
Nobody wants to deal with a flat tire on the highway, and it is hazardous to drive with bald tires. If you find unusual signs of uneven wear, take your vehicle to a repair shop. Your car might need a wheel alignment or camber adjustment.
8. Buy the right tires.
Similar to cars, tires now come in many types. Choosing the right set of tires will save money on fuel and keep your vehicle riding smoothly. If you need new tires, consider a nice set of all-season touring tires that deliver longer wear, better fuel economy, and a silent ride.
Of course, nobody will stop you from buying a sportier (and costlier) set of high-performance summer tires, but does your car need it? If you have a small practicar like a Toyota Vios or Mitsubishi Mirage, high-performance tires are a bit overkill. Performance rubber wears faster than touring tires, and most of them are noisier and deliver a stiffer ride.
9. Wash your vehicle at least once a week.
Regular washing is good practice to maintain the shine, color, and appearance of your car's paint, window glass, and various plastic/rubber components. But more than just aesthetics, regular washing will preserve the resale value of your vehicle.
When washing a car, avoid using harmful chemicals, strong laundry detergents, or dish soap. Instead, use a high-quality car shampoo mixed with clean water. If you need help, our comprehensive guide on car washing is worth a look.
10. Inspect your vehicle regularly.
Finally, do not forget to inspect your vehicle regularly. Before embarking on a long trip (or every time you fill up the tank with gas), make it a habit to review the following:
- Check the tire pressure.
- Check the exterior lights and change the bulbs as needed.
- Pull out the engine dipstick and check the oil level.
- Check the automatic transmission fluid.
- Confirm the coolant level in the reservoir.
- Check the brake fluid level.
- Check and refill the washer fluid if necessary.
Prevention is better than cure. Staying proactive with car maintenance not only saves money, but it allows you to enjoy every moment of your driving experience.