Don’t Let Car Maintenance Costs Wear Your Wallet Down

An unexpected car repair is costly, averaging between $500 and $600.Ben Franklin famously stated, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was not talking about cars, but it's prudent to plan for future car maintenance to avoid inconvenient and costly breakdowns.

Cars are costly both to own and maintain. According to AAA, small sedans cost about $0.501 per mile to own. Larger cars are the most expensive to own, and a minivan's ownership costs roughly $0.6734 per mile, while a pickup is the highest at $0.7539 per mile.

Owners of today's cars know that maintenance costs are rising. Even without inflation, routine expenses, like oil changes and tire rotations, are increasing. The price of more costly items, such as new tires or brake pads, is growing too.

Regular car maintenance is an investment both in safety and prevention – lower the costs of more significant problems later.

But car maintenance does not always have to be complex or put a big dent in your budget. By performing routine maintenance, you can extend your vehicle's life beyond 100,000 miles and save money in the long term.

Do-It-Yourself Routine Car Maintenance

Some car maintenance can be performed by the owner, making this the cheapest option. Granted, today's cars are more complex and full of electronics, but there are still simple checks and maintenance one can complete.

Check Tire Pressure

Properly inflated tires improve gas mileage, handling, and tire life. Underinflated tires will wear out faster, increasing maintenance costs, and lowering fuel efficiency when the engine must work harder. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) says appropriately inflated tires will save $0.11 per gallon.

Overinflated tires will also cause a bouncy ride and can rupture when hitting the curb.

Checking and maintaining tire air pressure is simple and easy. Most cars have a sticker on the driver's side door jamb listing the correct tire pressure. You can check the tire pressure and inflate the car's tires yourself at most gas stations for $1 or $2.

Replace Wiper Blades

Wiper blades are another simple DIY maintenance item. Worn-out wiper blades cause streaking and visibility problems on rainy days. They should be replaced every six months to a year. It's easy to buy replacements at an automotive parts or department store and replace them yourself. Some stores even replace them for you for free, saving dozens of dollars.

Change Burned Out Lightbulbs

Lower car maintenance costs by replacing lightbulbs yourself. Burnt-out light bulbs are a safety issue, but they are usually easy to change, and new ones cost a few dollars. Newer cars typically have access points in the trunk and engine compartment or the wheel wells. The old bulb is easy to pull out of the socket, and the new one clicks into place.

Don't try to replace the headlights yourself. The process is usually more complicated than simple light bulbs at other locations.

Replace Air Filter

The engine air filter prevents dust, dirt, and debris from entering the engine. No wonder it can become dirty, slowing the airflow and causing a loss of power and fuel efficiency. Air filters last about 15,000 to 45,000 miles, depending on the car, and driving conditions. Replacing them yourself is much cheaper than having the dealer do it.

Inspecting and changing it is relatively simple. The engine air filter is usually in a plastic housing in the engine compartment at the side with a large hose connected to it. Check your vehicle's manual for the location and how to open the housing. You may need a socket wrench or screwdriver, but many newer cars have clips for easy access. If the old one is dirty, remove it, and replace it with a new one.

Similarly, replacing the cabin air filter can improve the performance of heating and air conditioning. The filter's housing is usually located below the glove box.

Don't Neglect Timely Oil Changes and Tire Rotations

Vehicles need oil for an engine to work properly, and it should be changed out every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the car's age and type of driving. Later model cars have sensors that indicate when the oil needs to be replaced.

Greg Wilson, the owner of, was especially impressed by his uncle's ability to have several cars last over 250,000 miles. One of them even made it to 463,000 miles without any major repairs. He advises, “Always change the oil filter on every oil change. Consider an antifriction additive like Slick 50 every 100,000 miles.” He also reminds us always to follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

Vehicle owners can do the job themselves, but it's dirty, and oil must be properly disposed of at the correct facility. It's often easier to use a mechanic. Standard oil is less expensive than synthetic oil, but most people like the latter now because it typically lasts longer.

Concurrently, tires should be rotated to ensure they wear evenly, maximizing tread life. Tires wear at variable rates depending on their location. Evenly worn tires will have better traction, handling, and braking performance.

Add Tire Replacement to the List

Depending on the model and driving conditions, tires must be replaced approximately every 40,000 to 60,000 miles. But the tread can be checked by a mechanic during an oil change. Worn tires are a safety issue because of worse handling and longer braking distance.

According to AAA, tires worn to a depth of 4/32-inch have, on average, longer stopping distances of 87 feet for cars and 86 feet for trucks. In addition, handling ability is reduced by 33% in cars and 28% in trucks.

New tires must be balanced and sometimes aligned, so it is best to let a mechanic replace them.

Routine car maintenance keeps your vehicle running smoothly and safely for many years and miles. Basic checks and low-cost care can improve fuel efficiency and handling and lower overall ownership expenses, preventing more significant problems and repairs in the future.

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This post was produced by Dividend Power and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Prakash Kolli is the founder of the Dividend Power site. He is a self-taught investor and blogger on dividend growth stocks and financial independence. Some of his writings can be found on Seeking Alpha, TalkMarkets, ValueWalk, The Money Show, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, FXMag, and leading financial blogs. He also works as a part-time freelance equity analyst with a leading newsletter on dividend stocks. He was recently in the top 1.5% (126 out of over 8,212) of financial bloggers as tracked by TipRanks (an independent analyst tracking site) for his articles on Seeking Alpha.