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Auto maintenance focuses on ensuring that all systems within a vehicle are operating correctly. This work could involve changing fluids, cleaning or replacing parts, and tightening components. Effective maintenance happens on a regular schedule, whether the car needs additional attention or not.
Repairs, on the other hand, take place when the vehicle is not running properly. These fixes are usually expensive because they involve dealing with unexpected issues and paying for additional labor and parts.
Scheduled maintenance can help you catch issues early when they are cheap to fix or avoid them altogether. Not only does this help you avoid expensive repairs, but it also protects you from dealing with the stress, danger, and time-loss that comes with a car breakdown. Additionally, maintenance helps your car run as cleanly and efficiently as possible, positively impacting the environment and limiting your contribution to local air pollution.
In a broad sense, regular maintenance saves money and time and helps the environment. Now, let’s look at specific ways in which you benefit from keeping to your vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Regular maintenance, such as oil changes, fluid flushes, component cleaning, and scheduled parts replacement, can keep your vehicle on the road for longer. You may be able to perform some of these maintenance tasks yourself.
Longevity offers two finance-related benefits. First, a well-maintained auto won’t need repairs common in older cars as often as a poorly kept one. Second, the longer a vehicle runs, the longer you can go before making the financial commitment of purchasing a new car. A new car requires either a down payment and monthly payments or a significant upfront cash payment.
Producing new cars and scrapping older cars have an impact on the environment. Sourcing materials such as rubber, plastic, and steel leaves a large carbon footprint, as does the actual act of assembling the vehicle. Though about 75% of older car components are recyclable, battery acids, fluids, and plastics can remain in the environment and cause pollution and toxicity issues.
When is it time to get a new car? Proper maintenance can push this question much further into the future, but eventually, you will have to decide when it is no longer worthwhile to perform repairs and maintenance. You could scrap or trade-in your old car when confronted with a major repair such as an engine or transmission replacement, which, according to Edmunds, could cost between $3,000 and $7,000. You could also decide to retire your current car when repair and maintenance costs add up to more than half the value of your vehicle.
New cars can provide environmental benefits that outweigh the carbon output from production. According to the EPA, emissions in newer vehicles have decreased by 23%, and fuel economy has improved by 30% since 2004. If a new vehicle would bring a significant increase in efficiency, you may want to consider trading up.
Scheduled maintenance can drastically improve fuel efficiency. ExxonMobil claims that regular tune-ups can increase efficiency by 4%. AAA puts this percentage much higher, saying that significant engine problems can cause you to use up to 50% more fuel.
You can find your car’s OBD port and use a diagnostic tool to look for bigger issues that could be causing efficiency problems. You can use such a device when you see maintenance lights on your vehicle information console, and pair it with an app or online code library to understand the diagnostic information you find.
Ensuring the correct tire pressure, something you can easily do on your own, can improve fuel efficiency by 3%, and changing motor oil can lead to a 2% miles-per-gallon increase. These regular maintenance tasks, when added together, can ensure that you are using the minimum amount of gas possible, which will help your wallet and reduce your pollution emissions.
Consumer Reports suggests that the value of a used car varies significantly depending on its condition. Most buyers and dealerships weigh the make, model, and trim and condition when coming up with a purchase or trade-in price. They may use visual inspections and a code reader to assess the car's condition. You can keep a record of maintenance work to prove that you cared for your vehicle and took steps to maximize its value.
Regular maintenance reduces the wear and tear that a vehicle has, and it ensures that a new buyer won’t have to worry about major repairs. The chance of major repairs will factor into the resale or trade-in value. The warranty for a new car may require that you perform all regular maintenance on time. Failure to do so may void the warranty.
Poorly maintained cars can cause financial problems, but they can also be a danger to the driver, their passengers, pedestrians, and others on the road. A lack of maintenance increases the risk of a vehicle malfunction. If this issue happens while driving, it could be dangerous.
Worn brake pads and a lack of brake fluid, for example, could decrease stopping ability, which, in turn, could increase the odds of a collision. Replacing both these items is a part of a regular maintenance routine.
Leaking fluids, inefficient engines, and emissions issues also increase harm to the environment by releasing toxic substances into the environment and increasing carbon emissions.
When you feel that vehicle repairs are necessary, you can perform a diagnostic assessment to see if there is actually an issue. If you confirm a problem at the first sign of trouble, you can potentially avoid more-serious (and expensive) repairs in the future.
However, with proper scheduled maintenance, you will likely have fewer vehicle repairs because everything will be properly lubricated and worn parts will get replaced before they rub against and damage additional parts.
Finally, regular maintenance reduces the chance that you will get stranded on the side of the road by a malfunctioning car. Breakdowns lead to expensive repairs and towing services. Angie’s List puts the average cost of a tow at $109. That cost comes in addition to parts, labor, and fees to fix whatever caused the breakdown.
You can also factor in the stress of being stuck on the roadside, the time you miss at work or school, and the disruptions to your daily life while you wait for repairs.