6 Smart Ways to Save on Car Maintenance

illustration of hands holding car repair tools
Photo: Vector Source: iStock
A little DIY goes a long way when it comes to caring for your vehicle.

Here's an #adulting bummer: The cost of owning a car doesn't stop once you pay it off. Between unexpected repairs and regular maintenance, all those extra expenses can add up. But that doesn't mean having your own set of wheels needs to leave you broke (or broken down). The good news is that you don't need an auto mechanic's license to care for your vehicle. Just a little know-how will help you to extend the life of your vehicle so that you can avoid costly repairs—and instead use that money toward your long-term savings goals.

1. Don't Get Tire-d Out

We've all been there: You're sliding sideways down a slick road and think, “Hmmm, might be time for some new tires." That, or you're told you need a new set of rubber in order to pass inspection. Either way, tires are an often neglected car maintenance item. The reason is usually the cost, though you may be able to find them cheaper online. This way you can order tires at a discount and just pay the labor costs to have them mounted.

Pro tip: From personal experience, I learned to go to a shop that works on both cars and motorcycles—installing prepurchased tires is more common for motorcycles, and combined shops usually have the price listed for just tire mounting.

2. Stay Under Pressure

Speaking of tires, maintaining the proper tire pressure is an easy way to save some coin on your gas fill-ups, since having chronically underinflated tires can waste up to 3 percent more fuel. Generally it's best to fill tires when they're “cold," meaning, when they haven't been driven on. But if like most people you need to drive to a gas station air pump, then the tires will be “hot" and you may want to consider setting the pressure to 3 psi (pounds per square inch) above the “cold" rate written on the inside of your doorjamb or in your manual.

3. Avoid Filter Falter

While you may not own a race car, power is still important for getting your car over a hill or up to highway speed. If you mash the gas and find your car lacking in get-up-and-go, the usual culprit is a dirty old air filter. Luckily, it's an easy swap that usually doesn't even involve tools and costs very little money. Just unclip the cover and replace the filter.

Bonus: Staying on top of this chore can help extend your engine's life and improve performance.

ally smart money tip

Source: Edmunds.com

4. DIY the Detailing

Ever wonder why most people clean their homes top to bottom and sideways without much thought, but when it comes to our cars, we drop major coin on “detailing"? Unless your ride's interior is made of custom stingray upholstery, a good vacuum, some cleaning wipes and a little elbow grease are all you really need to keep your auto's insides shining. Yes, that goes for leather too—just be sure that all cleaning products are safe for whatever material you have. Wipe down all the hard surfaces first, remove the floor mats and beat them just like you would a rug, and then use your vacuum's hose attachment to get in every nook and cranny.

5. Change Your Own Oil

Yes, you can actually do your own oil changes. It may sound intimidating, but it'll save a few bucks and more importantly, save time waiting at the auto shop. Plus, it's an easy way to gain a little “car confidence." All the details can be searched for online (or, if you're the bookish type, found in the owner's manual). In reality, it's just a matter of unscrewing a drain plug and an oil filter. If you can't reach the drain plug from under your car, which is very likely, you'll have to buy a set of tire ramps. Also, if the oil filter is a bit finicky coming off, an oil filter wrench is a handy purchase too. Just don't forget to properly dispose of the oil once you're done; most auto parts stores will take it. With the right tools and little research, you'll be mastering this task in no time (not to mention saving hundreds over the life of your car).

6. Wipe Out

Despite the advances of modern technology, windshield wipers are still pretty basic and simple tools. Is this a product you really want to pay a premium to have someone install, especially when there's virtually no labor involved? It's basically just snapping a new wiper in. This is a job that can be done in the parking lot of the same store where you bought the new wipers—talk about immediate savings!