Spend your tax refund on vehicleHow will you spend your tax refund? On a flat-screen TV? IPod? Clothes? The Car Care Council has a better idea for your money: spend it on your second biggest investment, your car.
How will you spend your tax refund? On a flat-screen TV? IPod? Clothes? The Car Care Council has a better idea for your money: spend it on your second biggest investment, your car.
“Whether it’s an oil change, replacing brakes or new belts and hoses, that periodic repair bill is a drop in the bucket compared to monthly payments on a new car,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council, which oversees a consumer education campaign about the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. “The bottom line is that a properly maintained vehicle is safer, more dependable, more fuel efficient, less polluting and more valuable.
“The smartest way to get a solid return on investment is to keep your car through what we call the ‘Cinderella Era’. It’s that period of time after the payoff when your car is still in great shape and needs only modest repairs.”
The Car Care Council estimates that more than $62 billion in vehicle maintenance and repair is not performed every year, evidence that there is considerably more that consumers should be doing to protect their automotive investment.
“We advise our clients that if they want a 10-percent increase on their investments every year they need to cut down on their expenses,” said Terry Mulcahy, vice president of investments for R.W. Baird in Mequon, Wis. “A new automobile is for most people their second biggest investment next to a home, so a great way to save money and increase financial assets is to hang onto their current vehicle rather than buy a new one every few years. Budgeting for and doing preventative maintenance on your car is one of the best ways to cut your costs and keep your car.”
Basic car care
Something as basic as checking the oil can go a long way toward improving the safety and reliability of your vehicle, plus it helps avoid costly repairs down the road. The Car Care Council recommends 10 basic maintenance procedures to keep your car operating at its best:
- Check the oil, filters and fluids. Oil should be checked at every fill-up, and for maximum engine life, it should be changed per the owner’s manual recommended intervals or every three months or 3,000 miles. Brake, transmission, power steering, coolant and windshield washer fluids should also be checked regularly. Your car’s filters, including those for the transmission, fuel system and interior ventilation, need regular inspection and replacement.
- Inspect hoses at each oil change and have them replaced when leaking, brittle, cracked, rusted, swollen or restricted. Check V-belts and serpentine belts for looseness and condition, and have them replaced when cracked, frayed, glazed or showing signs of excessive wear. Typically replace the timing belt between 60,000 and 90,000 miles or the interval specified in the owner’s manual to avoid a breakdown or serious engine damage.
- Check the engine brake system every year and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.
- Check that the battery connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free. The battery should be securely mounted. If it is three years old or more, the battery should be tested and replaced if necessary.
- Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.
- Schedule a tune-up that will help the engine deliver the best balance of power and fuel economy and produce the lowest level of emissions.
- Check the car’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons, such as defrosting.
- Inspect the steering and suspension system annually, including shock absorbers and struts, and chassis parts, such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.
- Check the pressure of all tires, including the spare, at least once a month. Check the tread for uneven or irregular wear and cuts and bruises along the sidewalls. Have your car’s alignment checked at least annually to reduce tire wear and improve fuel economy and handling.
- Test exterior and interior lights and have bulbs that are not working checked immediately. Replace windshield wiper blades every six months or when cracked, cut, torn, streaking or chattering for optimum wiping performance and safety.