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Budget-Saving Auto Maintenance Tips

With gas prices high and household budgets crunched as never before, vehicles often get the short end of the stick when it comes to upkeep.  The estimated annual cost of routine auto maintenance runs about $1,200, depending on the make and year of your vehicle.  That’s a substantial chunk of change for most people, but the good news is that there are ways to pare down the cost of maintenance.  Here are a few tips for keeping come extra bucks in your wallet:

Find a repair shop or mechanic that you trust and stick with them – it will save you money over time.  Taking your vehicle to whoever is offering a discount on tune-ups or brake jobs can cost you big bucks in the long-run.  Mechanics want to keep loyal customers and will usually go the extra mile to hang on to your business.  Plus, they’re less likely to perform unnecessary service or overcharge you if you’ve built up a relationship with them. 

The dictum that you must change your oil every 3,000 miles isn’t written in stone.  In fact, many experts now say that you can go 5,000 or more miles between oil changes without doing any harm to your engine. Follow your car manufacturer’s recommendations about oil changes, but remember that going an extra 500 miles over the recommended amount isn’t going to make much of a difference.

Consolidate many short trips into fewer long ones.  This saves on gas, but it will also save you money on repairs. Most of the wear to your vehicle occurs when your engine is cold, because the oil hasn’t started circulating around the moving parts yet. Another damage factor is condensation in your engine from combustion.  If you start your car and drive only a couple of blocks to the store or a neighbor’s house, the engine won’t heat up enough to evaporate the condensation or circulate oil. This wears on your engine. It’s not a problem if it only occurs occasionally, but making a habit of it will cause problems and result in subsequent repairs.

Save money on tires.  The big box stores sell most brands of tires, usually for a lot less than regular tire stores. They’ll also install them for you and often include free flat repair, balancing and rotation.  They don’t stock as many sizes as a tire store, but most will order them for you if they don’t have your size.  Check them out before you pay a higher price somewhere else.

Following these simple tips can save you on maintenance expense, and that can add up to big dollars over time.