Our tough economy has stretched most of our finances thin and it’s more difficult than ever to stay within budget each month, let alone shell out money for things we haven’t budgeted for. Since cars are often the biggest culprits when it comes to unforeseen expenses, it’s more important than ever to keep them in good running order so they don’t cost us more later.
Here are seven key pointers to help you avoid unexpected repair bills:
- Tyres aren’t cheap, so you need to look after them. A good set of well-maintained tyres will last about 50 000km. You should rotate tyres every 10 000km. Also make sure you get the wheels balanced and the wheel alignment checked, and always make sure your spare tyre is in good condition and pumped at the correct air pressure.
- To keep costs down, take care of certain minor repairs yourself. Globes and wiper blades can be bought at an AA Quality Assured parts centre and the staff will fit the parts at no extra cost. Watch and learn so that the next time you need to replace anything you can do it yourself!
- To keep your car’s engine running optimally you should always have your car serviced according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Contract the services of a mechanic who is trained on your particular model.
- Book your car in for a service every 12 months or 10 000km, whichever comes first. In a service, the oil and oil filter are usually changed. lf you skip a service, dirty, metal-particle-laden oil builds up and can cause the premature wear and tear of the entire engine, eventually resulting in its failure.
- In a manual-transmission car, try not to ride the clutch when you have stopped at a traffic light or stop street, as this wears it down – and clutches are expensive to replace. Don’t rest your foot on the clutch pedal while driving – this can also lead to premature wear.
- Generous boot space is great but don’t make it an excuse to carry half your wardrobe, office equipment and miscellaneous knick-knacks in the car. Heaps of heavy items will weigh it down and ultimately increase its fuel consumption.
- Before taking your car in for repairs, ask the repair centre for a complete quote setting out the total cost upfront, and ask them to check with you before doing any extra work. The owner of the vehicle should authorise any additional costs before any work is done.
…Or Pay (Much More) Later
The bottom line is that skimping on your car’s service or not attending to minor repairs can cost you big-time later. For example, if a fuel filter is due for replacement but is not changed, it can slowly become blocked, which can result in the fuel pump having to work harder – and it’ll ultimately burn out. This can cost thousands of rands.
It’s the same with brakes. Replacing a set of brake pads timeously during a normal service will incur the cost of the pads and some labour, but if allowed to run down and grind into the brake discs, the pads and discs will have to be replaced. Ultimately, preventive maintenance now will save major costs later.