Save Money & Time With These Easy Tips
Maintaining your car so it is safe and reliable doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
But it can cost a lot of money if you don’t run a regular maintenance schedule.
Having a car can be fun, and it definitely makes life easier, but when it starts to malfunction or break down, it can be a costly hassle and a safety issue. Making sure that maintenance is affordable and easy is important in our go-go-go world. Luckily, there are some things you can do to ensure your car is running smoothly and safely, without breaking the bank. Here are some handy tips and information on some simple, affordable things you can do to help your car run better and last longer.
Get to Know Your Car
Read the owner’s manual and keep it handy in the glove box.
Read and pay attention to the owner’s manual for your car. Don’t have one? Check with your local dealership or go online – there might be a PDF version you can grab, load to your phone and have with you at all times. No matter what car you drive, the regular maintenance schedule should be spelled out in the manual. Old myths like “Change your oil every 3,000 miles,” will go right out the driver’s side window. Of course, if the manual says you should change the oil every 3,000 miles, then do it – but we bet it doesn’t say that.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
You’ll discover how often your manufacturer recommends to change the oil for best performance and reliability, as well as even what kind of oil to use. Your owner’s manual will also enlighten you on many other aspects of your car and the things that should be regularly maintained – such as the all-important transmission fluid, filters, timing belts, hoses, battery, lights, and fuel types. All of this information is available in the car’s owner’s manual.
Knowing more about your car makes it less likely you’ll be taken advantage of by a mechanic.
If you’re part of the TLDR crowd, then just consider this: you’re throwing away good money by not taking care of your car, and to do things right you have to educate yourself. Most car owners know how important it is to know at least a little about their cars, but even if you’re not interested in how your car works you should know a little about it, otherwise you run the risk of being taken for a ride with some shady mechanic (more on that later).
Knowing the basics, like what kind of gas to put in and what kind of oil the engine takes will save you money.
Knowing some simple things, like the right kind of oil to use, for example, can save you trouble in the long run. Even knowing what kind of fuel is best for your car is really important and can save you a lot of headaches – and money – if you just know. Doing the wrong thing or treating your car poorly might run the risk of voiding your warranty or even worse – causing damage that requires expensive repairs.
Sure, these days we can just pick up our smart phones and holler questions at it and get quick answers. Good, solid answers that provide you useful information that helps you make good decisions can be hard to come by, though – even in this day of information access (and overload). If you want to know more about your car or are concerned about its performance, why it’s making weird noises, or is bumpy even on smooth roads, or if you know you need repairs, call your local Minnesota AAMCO auto maintenance and repair center.
Check and Change Your Oil
It’s a good habit that will save you money in the long run.
Old story, been handed down from campfire to Facebook – but oil is vital to the successful operation and long life of your car’s engine. Checking the oil is a good habit to get into. Even if you think everything is fine, it’s a good idea to check it when you stop to get gas. It’s easier than it sounds. Pop the hood (you do know where the hood release lever in your car is, right?), grab some paper towels (usually found with the windshield squeegee around the gas pump), pull the dipstick, wipe it, put it back in, pull it back out, and see where the oil meets the fill line. If it doesn’t meet the fill line, it’s low. Repeat the steps and check again, but if it’s still low you should take your car in for a checkup to find any potential leaks or areas that might be eating or burning oil.
Also pay attention to the color of the oil. It should be golden and clear. If it’s dark brown, a change is in the near future. If it’s black and/or thick and gooey, it should be changed as soon possible – don’t wait! Modern cars will tell you with an electronic warning light when it’s time for that regularly scheduled oil change you read about in the owner’s manual. Keep in mind that checking the oil after the car has been running might not give you the most accurate read on level. You’ll want to double check once the car has had a chance to cool down and sit a while. This gives the oil a chance to recollect in the oil reservoir, which will give you a more accurate read on its level – and you can get a better read on the color, too.
Go beyond oil and learn how to check other important fluids in your car.
Even if you don’t know how to change your antifreeze, power steering, transmission, or even your wiper fluid, you should learn how to check them and which ones to top off, which ones to have changed by a mechanic. Wiper fluid – don’t let someone charge you for this, unless it’s part of a larger package deal. That is so simple, it’s painful to think of paying to have it done.
For many fluids you can see the tank level directly, but most have gauges or dipsticks that help you check the levels. Even if your owner’s manual doesn’t provide much information or guidance about checking things such as your transmission fluid or coolant, don’t be afraid to educate yourself. Go online and find answers, or just open the hood and look around. See if you can find the right tank, cap, or dipstick (they’re usually labeled to some extent). If you’re running low, add more fi you can, or schedule a maintenance appointment with your trusted mechanic. If you notice a leak of some sort, definitely take your car in for diagnosis and repair.
Check the Battery
The battery is a relatively inexpensive part that gives you so much peace of mind, but gives little warning before it fails.
Check the battery for signs of corrosion, and generally keep it clean and clear of debris. Make sure any terminal convers are secure and clean, and clean the terminals if necessary. Most batteries these days don’t require much manual maintenance, but you should know where the batter is and check it from time to time, usually along with the oil. This will help you ensure it’s not leaking and there is no corrosion or crud building up on the contacts. If there is, clean them with a battery cleaning brush. The brush doesn’t cost much and it’s a quick, easy thing to do. Also consider getting a simple battery tester or jump starter. Using these, you can monitor your battery and know when it needs to be replaced before it leaves you stranded. You’ll never have to call or wait for roadside assistance.
Check Timing Belts and Chains
Replace your timing and serpentine belts when necessary.
The engine timing belt is usually replaced every 60,000 miles or so, and the serpentine belt about every 40,000 miles. Again, your owner’s manual is the authority on this. If your car has a chain, instead of a rubber belt, the maintenance recommendations will be vastly different – but chains do require maintenance.
Timing belts and chains are really important parts that can make or break the engine. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, look online to get this important information, or call your local Minnesota AAMCO. If you’re just not sure, or know that it’s been a long time (or never) since you last even thought about that serpent timey belt or whatever it’s called, schedule an appointment and ask your mechanic to inspect all belts and hoses and replace them if necessary. You just don’t want to let them fail. It is not only a matter of having a safe and reliable car, but if you wait and those belts do fail, your car will break down, possibly leave you stranded or in an unsafe place – and leave you with costly towing (if your mechanic doesn’t do it for free within a certain mile radius). It can also damage other engine parts and systems, making repairs even more expensive.
Rotate and balance your tires, check the alignment.
Bad alignment destroys tires. Uneven and extreme tire wear can cause dangerous blowouts.
Tire rotation and balancing is often overlooked by drivers. It does take time, you always have to battle a long line, and it’s just never convenient (when is any car-related maintenance or repair convenient?). Once again, your trusty owner’s manual will tell you how often to rotate the tires. It’s important to make sure your tires wear evenly and your car drives smoothly, not only because your fuel efficiency is directly affected by these factors, but your safety is, too. The saying that you’ve got a lot riding on your tires is true! You can make your tires last a lot longer by having them rotated and balanced. Along with that, your alignment is just as important. If you’re fighting to keep your car driving straight or having trouble safely navigating curves and turns, it’s time for an alignment. Alignment also affects the wear of your tires. Bad alignment will cause serious wear and tear on your tires, risking flats and, even worse, blow outs which can be dangerous or deadly high speed.
Change the Spark Plugs
Make sure the engine timing is right and it’s firing on all cylinders.
Spark plugs that are dirty or worn out will not fire properly, and this means they’re not correctly igniting the fuel in each of the piston cylinders. This causes the engine to misfire, which is commonly known as “not firing on all cylinders” and basically means your engine is not running efficiently. This alone can cost you a lot of money in fuel, and it can lead to a breakdown. This might be a little more technical than you’re comfortable with, but in many cases checking and replacing the spark plugs is not that difficult. If it’s something you just don’t want to do – especially if it’s complicated for your vehicle, just follow the recommendation in the owner’s guide. Take your car to your trusted mechanic and get those spark plugs changed on time – usually around 30,000 miles for standard copper spark plugs, but it can vary.
A Good Tune-Up Will Cover Many of the Items in This Article
Find a reputable repair shop with certified mechanics.
Finding a mechanic you trust is important, and sometimes not easy. It can take time, and might involve some trial and error, as well as, unfortunately, some money in the process. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a mechanic who is honest, trustworthy, tells you like it is, and doesn’t do any repair work that is unnecessary – and definitely not until you give the OK.
AAMCO Minnesota is your one-stop shop for affordable local auto maintenance and repair.
AAMCO represents a national family of trust and expertise with over 50 years of transmission repair and automotive repair and maintenance experience. At AAMCO Minnesota, our mission is to provide the best auto repair and maintenance in Minnesota. With several locations to serve you, including the Twin Cities, we are your go-to locally owned and operated automotive repair shops. Our certified mechanics have years of knowledge and experience to provide expert diagnosis, repairs and maintenance on nearly all makes and models of cars. With nearly 50 years in business, you can count on your local Minnesota AAMCO center to provide expert transmission repair, brake service, tune-ups, oil and filter changes, electrical system repair, battery service, fluid services and much more for your car, truck, or SUV.
Find Your Locally Owned & Operated AAMCO Minnesota Auto Repair Center
1571 S Robert St | St Paul, MN, 55118
AAMCO Transmissions West St. Paul is your Twin Cities one-stop shop for transmission repairs, rebuilds, and car maintenance. Our certified technicians can handle any transmission repair or rebuild, as well as auto repair and maintenance service for your vehicle. You can rely on our mechanics for automatic and manual transmission problems and rebuilds, clutch service and replacement, and more. We use modern computer diagnostics to identify transmission and engine issues so we can repair your car quickly and get you back on the road. We work on all makes and models, including 4x4s.
1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109
People come to AAMCO of Maplewood, MN because we care about making sure you car is running safely and reliably. You can count on us for all your automotive repairs and maintenance. From transmission repairs and rebuilds to brakes, radiators, air conditioning, check engine light and tune ups. AAMCO Maplewood transmission and auto repair technicians use the latest technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time - and we back it with the best nationwide warranty. At your local Minnesota AAMCO of Maplewood we know all vehicle makes and models - we're your one-stop total car care specialists.
Convenient payment plans available.
940 Osborne Rd NE | Minneapolis, MN, 55432
At AAMCO Fridley we believe in performing honest and affordable transmission and auto repair services. We do the job right and get you back on the road safely and reliably. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO Fridley, MN is your one-stop auto mechanic. Trust AAMCO’s expert auto technicians to use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle, and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO of Fridley, Minnesota we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care specialists.
Convenient payment plans available.
10921 Excelsior Blvd #117 | 10921 Excelsior Blvd #117, MN, 55343
At AAMCO Hopkins, MN we believe in the value of good, honest work and giving you and your family the peace of mind a safe, reliable car provides on a daily basis. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, auto tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO of Hopkins is your one-stop shop for car repairs and maintenance. Trust the transmission experts at AAMCO of Hopkins transmission repair to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO Hopkins transmission and car repair we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care and repair specialists.
Convenient payment plans available.
5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429
Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO Minneapolis Transmission Repair and Auto Services. Our expert technicians use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle. From automatic and manual transmission repairs, clutch service and replacement, and more, we know all vehicle makes and models. We back our work with the best nationwide warranty. AAMCO of Minneapolis, MN is your one-stop transmission rebuild and total car care center.
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