The cost of owning a car doesn’t end simply because you have sent in your last loan payment. Aside from fuel, parking fees, and annual state auto taxes, you also need to maintain your car and have insurance. However, did you know that a working car could result in paying less for insurance? This article will describe several simple car maintenance tips to keep your premium lower.
It’s as simple as this: maintaining your car could mean fewer accidents. With fewer accidents, you will have fewer insurance claims. And, your insurance company may reward you with lower premiums, or even an annual discount, just for having a clean driving record. But, it all starts with keeping your car in working order.
So, what are some easy ways to maintain your car? It’s as easy as tires, lights, oil, brakes, belts, plugs, and filters.
Rotate your tires regularly. The type of tires, usage, and car model will determine the number of miles you can go between rotations. Having a mechanic switch the tires from front to back, or driver’s side to passenger side, can help the tires to wear more evenly. This means that the tread on your tires will last longer, your vehicle will perform better, and you will get better gas mileage.
Changing your tires is also important, whether it is due to wear or the change in seasons. A good mechanic will let you know how much tread you have left on your tires, and when to purchase a new set. If your tread is too low, your car will be ill equipped to handle poor road conditions and weather. For drivers who live in states that get snow during the colder months, consider purchasing winter tires. These have specially formulated rubber and a certain tread pattern that is better for driving in the snow. Your car will be able to plow through snow better, stop easier on slicker roads, and will be less likely to crash into another vehicle.
Clean and working headlights, taillights, and brake lights are important for communicating with other drivers. How will the cars behind you know if you are stopping if your brake lights don’t work or are dirty? If a light does out, change it as soon as you are able. It can be easy to change the bulb on your own, which can save you a trip to the mechanic. Otherwise, keep an eye out for lights that seem to be dimmer than when they were initially installed, lights that are shining at the wrong angle, or are covered in dirt or snow.
Regular oil changes will help prolong the life of your car. The type of oil used (synthetic vs. conventional vs. high performance) and your car make and model will affect the number of miles between changes. Typically, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles is recommended by most mechanics. With new, clean oil, your engine will run more smoothly, there will be less debris running through the system, and you will get better gas mileage.
Have your brakes inspected annually. The pads and shoes will wear with use and will eventually need to be replaced. Generally, the front pads wear faster than the back. When you’re driving, pay attention to how the brakes feel when you step on the brake pedal, and listen for strange noises as well. You might hear screeching, grinding, the vehicle might pull to one side, or you might feel the brakes pulsing. There are many other warning signs as well, like lights on your dashboard.
The time to change your spark plugs isn’t when you turn your key in the ignition and the car doesn’t start. Rather, you should have your plugs checked, cleaned, and changed at regular intervals. You will know when it’s time to buy new spark plugs when your engine idles rough, your car has difficulty starting, the car jerks while driving, or your fuel economy gets worse. The replacement cost is very low. Poor plugs could cause your catalytic converter to fail, which could choke the engine and cause major problems.
Keeping your engine air filter clean is just as important as keeping your headlights, plugs, and oil clean. It exists to keep dirt and debris from entering your engine and causing a larger issue. If you continue to use a dirty filter, your fuel economy will also decrease. Depending upon your car model, you should have the filter changed every 30,000 to 45,000 miles. They are fairly easy to access and change, and can be done on your own, saving you a trip to the mechanic.
Timing belts eventually need to be replaced, and you don’t want to wait until the last possible moment to take your car into the shop. That’s because a timing belt helps to rotate the crankshaft and camshaft(s) so that they are synchronized with one another. This helps to open and close the engine valves at the right time. If the valves open wrong and hit the pistons, you could cause serious damage to the engine. Depending upon your car, the belt may need to be replaced between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. The recommended timeframe will be written in your car maintenance schedule. There may not be any warning signs that the belt is about to break, but if you hear squeaking under the hood, bring it in as soon as you can.
Regular maintenance will cost far less than the price to fix a much larger problem further down the road, repair your car after an accident, or pay a higher premium as a result of multiple auto claims. Bankrate.com created a chart displaying the price differences between regular maintenance and ignoring the problem. For example, a year of oil changes may cost $120, but the price to replace your engine after dirty oil and debris enters the system could cost $4,000. A $50 tire rotation every 7,500 miles costs much less than $350-$700 to replace the tires earlier than necessary.
Speak with the Experts
Bring your car into a mechanic and discuss any pressing maintenance issues for your car, including any dash light warnings. If a computer sensor may be out, that is a simple and quick fix. However, without the sensor working, something important like your anti-lock braking system may fail to work.
Follow the mechanic’s recommendations, as well as the car maintenance schedule for your make and model. This will tell you how often things need replacing, and when to expect the more expensive work, like the timing belt, to take place. Paying a little bit here and there could save you a lot in the long run.
Set up a meeting with your independent insurance agent. Discuss your car history and any recent accident reports. If you have done a good job maintaining your car, you will see lower premiums in the long run. You may even receive a good driver discount, which could save you up to 30 percent on your annual premium.
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