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8 car maintenance tips to save you money in 2010

January 13, 2010

With the holiday season over, you’re undoubtedly dreading the bills that are on their way to your mailbox. Fortunately if you’re looking for ways to tighten your financial belt in the New Year, there are a number of simple ways to reduce the many costs associated with your car. Consider the following quick and easy car maintenance tips that can help ease the pressure on your bank account in 2010 and beyond:

1. Compare costs before you go to your car dealer for oil changes and repairs.

Independent oil change companies often charge less for regular oil changes and may offer specials and discounts throughout the year. Don’t forget to ask for upcoming deals and return customer coupons. Here’s another tip: if you’re going to an independent shop for the first time, make a mark on your oil filter, then check after the oil change is completed to ensure that it was replaced with a new one.

The same that applies to oil changes applies to car repairs. Independent mechanics often charge less for the same work your dealer would do, plus you may be able to negotiate cost. Ask your friends to refer car mechanics, or call your local Better Business Bureau branch to find a credible mechanic. Another tip: some dealers may tell you that by not using their services, you are violating your warranty - but this isn’t always true.  Be sure to check your warranty carefully so you can make an informed decision.

2. Replace your car’s wiper blades yourself.
Buy wipers on sale at a discount auto parts store rather than having a garage or dealer replace them. Doing the replacement is usually an easy five-minute job. Both your car owner’s manual and the wiper blade package will have instructions on how to make the change.

3. Replace your car’s air filter yourself.
You can also purchase air filters when they’re on sale (consider stocking up if it’s a good deal) at a discount auto parts store rather than having a garage or dealer do the replacement. Replacing an air filter is easy to do and will only take you a few moments. Your car owner’s manual will have instructions on how to do the switch. Remember to replace your automobile’s air filter about every 30,000 kilometres.  

4. Learn how to change a tire.
When was the last time you checked the condition of your spare tire? Make sure that it is still properly inflated and that you have the jack and parts stowed in the trunk of your car. It’s cheaper and usually faster to change a tire on your own than paying the often extreme emergency roadside assistance fees. Tip: why not learn more than just changing a tire by taking a basic car maintenance class at your local community college? The cost of the class will pay for itself in myriad ways when you know how to perform basic car maintenance tasks.

5. Check that your tires are properly inflated.
This may seem simple, but by checking your tires once a month, you’ll ensure that you are not wasting gas by driving with improperly inflated tires. Another helpful tip: almost all gas stations have free air pump facilities. If you need to add air to your tires, simply ask for assistance - this service is typically free.

6. Check your fuel filter.
Here’s another great way to save money on car maintenance. Replace your fuel filter every two years or as recommended by your manufacturer’s schedule (see your car owner’s manual for details or visit the car manufacturer’s website). Don’t wait until it’s clogged with grit - this will only wear down your car faster, possibly resulting in costly repairs that can easily be avoided.

7. Keep a maintenance log of your car’s repair history.
Don’t throw away that car maintenance receipt - store it away and keep tabs on every job done on your vehicle. By keeping a log and your receipts, you’ll know exactly when you got those new brakes or changed that oil filter. By doing so, you can determine if something is not quite right with a job done or the timing of maintenance work.

8. Don’t over insure or overpay on your car insurance.

Take an active approach to lowering your insurance costs. Regularly review your insurance coverage with a licenced insurance professional. Also, be sure to use comparison websites like InsuranceHotline.com where you can check your current rate against the lowest rate available from over 30 competing insurers, instantly and for free.