Getting the Most Out Of Your Vehicle

No one invests money in buying (or even leasing) a vehicle with the hopes that the vehicle will only last a short period of time. Between growing equity in your investment, to keeping the vehicle long after you have finished making payments, a vehicle is a good way to put your money into something useful. But as with any major investment, you must properly care for it and take the time and finances to ensure it is maintained in order to get the most out of it. Just as you would frequently add to a 401K retirement over time to ensure it is growing and you get the most out of your investment, you need to give your vehicle plenty of TLC and preventative maintenance over the span of it's life. If you follow a recommended maintenance plan or scheduled service intervals, you will have your vehicle much longer and it will cost you less.

The goal of a trustworthy auto repair shop shouldn't be to just "fix cars." It should be to maintain them in order to save you time and money in the long run. By diagnosing or recommending services based on routine checks every time the hood goes up in their shop, you can see what minimal services your vehicle could benefit from at that point in time. A vehicle properly maintained and kept three years after your payments end will save you $20,000 to $30,000. Checking vital fluids is a key tell-tale sign of possible problems. Recommendations should also be made based on the physical condition of the vehicle's parts, the odometer reading, and the time between service intervals.

According to the Car Care Council, the key to a longer-lasting vehicle is the extra attention and preventative maintenance that you put in. "Basic car care is the key to a long-lasting vehicle, improving it's safety, and dependability." "Neglected vehicle care almost always means much higher costs down the line in the form of more extensive repairs or lost resale value," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Following a routine maintenance program makes financial sense, extending useful vehicle life and helping avoid costly repairs down the road." The Car Care Council recommends 10 basic maintenance procedures to keep your car operating at it's optimal performance. According to their website, they are as written with additional information following:

1. Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. Maintaining proper fluid levels is an essential and easy maintenance task.

2. Check the hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear. To prevent an emergency or inconvenience, have your belts and hoses checked every time you have your oil changed.

3. Check the battery and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free. Your battery has important functions such as storing energy, providing power to the starter motor, ignition system, fuel system, and other electrical devices during engine starting. Also, it provides power to the electronic components as required when the vehicle is off (e.g. digital radios, clocks, door locks, alarms, vehicle computers, etc...)

4. Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change. Your car brake is the indispensable device that enables you to stop the car and be in control. With a poor brake it may be difficult for you to stop the car. It is very important to inspect your cars brake system at least once a year. Your brake inspection should include a check on the brake lines and the dash warning lights. When it comes to your brakes, safety should be at the forefront of maintenance.

5. Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay. The exhaust system affects the way your car drives and the gas mileage that it gets. The exhaust system is kind of like the lungs of your car. It allows air to run through your engine and spits it back out.

6. Schedule a tune-up to help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emissions.

7. Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting.

8. Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.

9. Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots. Taking care of your tires is an important part of vehicle maintenance and ensuring that you have the safest ride possible. Every year, people are injured and killed in tire-related accidents. While vehicle and tire manufacturer's can be responsible for defective tires, underinflated and overloaded vehicles are also often to blame for tire failures.

10. Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.

This may seem like a great deal of information to remember and regularly have to take care of, however each aspect of vital to the health and safety of your vehicle. With the service intervals recommended by your manufacturer, repair shop, or from the Car Care Council, you can stay organized and on top of things easier. After all, won't a long-lasting vehicle be worth it? According to an online article from the Sacramento Bee, a recent national consumer poll reveals that most motorists hope to drive their vehicle to 200,000 miles. The survey showed that Americans are genuinely concerned about the longevity of their cars. According to a new national survey conducted by Kelton Research*, motorists on average estimate that a vehicle should go for more than 200,000 miles before sending it into retirement. In fact, those American car owners think that a vehicle doesn't get "old" until it hits around 147,000 miles, and nearly nine in ten (86 percent) vehicle owners are more concerned with engine upkeep than their vehicle's aesthetics on the inside or outside. Similarly, The survey also reveals that 85 percent of motorists are more concerned about the longevity of their vehicles, compared to their homes; and rather than using its actual age, 68 percent of car owners use their vehicle's mileage as the key indicator in determining how old it is. "With drivers wanting so much mileage from their vehicles, the potential for engine wear and tear is greater and the need for car owners to care for their vehicle's engine is most important," said Chris Hayek, Quaker State Global Brand Manager.

Results of vehicle inspections held at community car care events across the country during Car Care Months in April and October 2011 reveal that 84 percent of vehicles need service or parts, the highest percentage in five years, according to the Car Care Council. "The unsatisfactory condition of vehicles reflects the current economic climate and reinforces the continued need for consumer education about the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair." Another important statement from Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council is "during an uncertain economy, some motorists think they will save money by putting off needed vehicle maintenance." "What they don't realize is that neglecting routine maintenance can end up costing a lot more in the long run. These results demonstrate the importance of consumer education as the lack of proper vehicle maintenance can greatly impact highway safety, air quality, cost operation, and vehicle performance and dependability."

Data collected by an analysis of vehicle inspection forms submitted by volunteers who conducted a record number of car care events in 2011, found the top problem areas to be engine oil and fluids, air filters, battery cables, lights, belts and hoses. Nearly one out of 10 vehicles had the check engine light on and new air filters were needed in 19 percent of the vehicles. At least one belt was reported as unsatisfactory in 20 percent of the vehicles inspected, and 15 percent required at least one new hose. Battery cables, clamps and terminals needed maintenance in 17 percent of the vehicles inspected, while 10 percent of the batteries were not properly held down. These are many of the recommended maintenance services from the Car Care Council.

Years ago in research conducted by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), it was found that 78% of women interviewed think that regular preventative maintenance is either "extremely important" or "important," yet only about 68% of women are following through with this maintenance. There is still a need to reinforce the important and education of preventative maintenance and the message to consumers. It is important for all motorists to keep their vehicles maintained for safety, savings, and optimal performance. Get started today with your trusted repair shop.