It’s easy to put off today what can be done tomorrow…or the day after that, particularly when it comes to maintaining a vehicle. After all, who among us wouldn’t rather go out for dinner or buy some new clothes or audio gear rather than spend hard-earned money on an oil change or new tires or brakes?
But there’s a price to be paid for delaying your vehicle’s maintenance. As the mechanic used to say in the Fram oil filter ads, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” The implication, of course, was that you can spend a little money now for some preventive maintenance or you can spend a lot of money later for major repairs.
With that in mind and in honor of Fight Procrastination Day on September 6, here are some vehicle maintenance items that you definitely shouldn’t put off.
Oil reduces the friction that can literally wear away the parts of your engine, so it’s important to keep it fresh–but only when your vehicle actually needs it. Quick-lube oil change outlets may recommend that you change your vehicle’s oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but today’s synthetic oils can go anywhere from 7,500 to 15,000 miles between changes. And many newer vehicles can now tell you how much life your oil has left. So keep an eye on your oil and when the time is right, get it changed.
The old industry standard was to rotate your tires whenever you got an oil change. But if you have a vehicle that can go 10,000 or more miles between oil changes, you should plan to rotate your tires at least every 5000-6000 miles. Your owner’s manual may recommend more or less frequent rotations; either way, it’s important to rotate your tires.
“But they rotate every time I drive the car!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve heard that joke before. The reason you want to rotate your tires to a different position on the vehicle on a regular basis is because it spreads out the work that the tires do and helps them wear more evenly. In addition to steering your vehicle, the front tires, for example, can also do as much as 70% of the braking. And front tire wear can be exacerbated if the vehicle is front-wheel drive. So regular rotation evens out the wear and helps your tires last longer, which will save you money in the long run.
Air Pressure and Alignment
In addition to rotating your tires, you should also check the air pressure every few weeks and have the alignment checked when the tires are rotated, Under- or over-inflation can cause uneven and premature wear and can negatively affect your vehicle’s handling, while under-inflated tires can adversely affect your fuel economy. If your wheels are out of alignment, your tires will wear unevenly and your vehicle may pull to one side of the lane, creating a dangerous driving situation. Proper inflation and a correct alignment will make your tires last longer and will improve your vehicle’s handling, so don’t delay on these important–and easy–maintenance items.
Give Them a Brake
The braking systems on most modern vehicles have brake pads, calipers and rotors. When you step on the brake pedal, the caliper squeezes the brake pads against the rotor, slowing the vehicle and bringing it to a stop. The pads and rotors will and do wear out, but you can extend the life of your rotors by replacing the pads when they’re nearing the end of their life.
There are two ways you can tell if your pads are nearly done. 1)Look at them. If they’re a quarter-inch thick or less, it’s time for new pads. And 2) Listen to them. If you hear a squealing noise every time you step on the brake pedal, that’s caused by a piece of metal that’s put in the pad to intentionally make noise and let you know your brake pads must soon be replaced. If you ignore this sound until you hear the sound of metal grinding on metal, your brake pads are completely worn and are now tearing up your rotors, which means they will also have to be replaced. So look at and listen to your brake pads. When they start singing to you, get them checked and replaced before they have the chance to do damage that will cost you even more money.
So what’s the bottom line if you put off your vehicle’s maintenance? In this case, procrastination will adversely affect your bottom line.