With the above in mind, let’s inject the reality of modern life into car ownership: once your warranty and service agreement expires, you will have to cover maintenance costs out of pocket, and this is when many drivers start ignoring certain issues. You may also fall into a pattern of putting off maintenance for non-financial reasons, which may include not being able to find time to bring your car to the shop.
Here’s another dose of reality: when your car falls out of its maintenance schedule, there may come a time when the auto service technician hands you a list of issues that need to be taken care of, and they add up to more than $1,000. This will probably not happen within three or four years after you drove your car off the dealership, and there are some service issues that you can put off for a couple of months, but never the following:
Doctors are known to always tell patients that they should stop smoking, but there are times when they get very serious and emphatic about it, and this usually after an emphysema diagnosis. A similar situation may take place at the auto shop; when a technician tells you very seriously that your safety may be compromised unless a brake service is performed, you cannot ignore the issue. This usually happens when the disks are critical, when the pads have disintegrated or the hydraulic system is malfunctioning.
When tie rods and joints start getting worn out, you may not notice it right away, but your tires will demonstrate this condition. The technicians will be able to tell you how many safe driving miles you have left, but you do not want to take your chances on the highway.
Some cars can go 100,000 miles without a timing belt replacement, but this would be pushing the engine to its limits. When technicians tell you that your timing belt needs a replacement right away, they are likely concerned about major engine damage that would ultimately cost thousands to repair.
Oil and Filter Change
This essential maintenance task is something that you do not want to postpone for too long. Automakers make various recommendations on the intervals between oil changes; for example, a new car that gets moderate highway miles on a daily basis can go as long as 5,000 miles, but you do not want to push it too much. The three-month or 3,000-mile recommendation is for older models and for cars that are subject to heavy stop-and-go driving; pizza delivery and Uber drivers come to mind.
Water Pump and Cooling System
Once your water pump starts making noise, you may have about 300 miles before complete breakdown. If your radiator or water hoses start leaking, your car will be at greater risk of overheating. Modern engines will shut down upon overheating to prevent further damage, but you do not want to risk engine failure through constant overheating.
Many of the issues above are not expensive to repair when they are taken care of as soon as they are detected. If technicians determine that your car has multiple issues, they can recommend a plan of action and timeline to prioritize repairs; for example, brakes will always come first while the timing belt and oil change can wait.
In the end, the safety of drivers and passengers will always dictate the priority of repairs. You can also ask the shop manager to provide an opinion about upcoming repairs along with a cost estimate; this will allow you to create a reasonable budget and prepare for future expenses. Keep in mind that taking care of repairs early on is part of a smart financial strategy to get the most out of your car as an investment.