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5 car repairs you shouldn't skip

Having your car routinely maintenanced can help extend its lifespan.

Having your car routinely maintenanced can help extend its lifespan.

We often don’t think about maintenance on our vehicles until something is wrong. But keeping your car in top running condition is vital.

Angie’s List went to highly-rated auto repair professionals for the five auto service items you shouldn’t skip out on.

Oil changes

Oil is the engine’s blood and it's critical to ensuring a car’s long life. Your vehicle’s oil should be changed depending on your driving habits, typically every 3,000-7,000 miles or around 3-6 months. You should check your car's oil level about every 1,000 miles.

"Keep your oil changed - it is the easiest thing to overlook and ignore but the most important thing anyone can do," says Terry Irwin of highly rated Aloha Auto Center in Hillsboro, Ore. "We see more worn engine parts due to the lack of oil changes."

Tire maintenance

Properly maintained tires improve your vehicle's steering, stopping and traction. Tire pressure should be set to the manufacturer’s specifications, which can usually be found in the owners' manual, on a sticker inside fuel filler door or on the door well of the driver's side door.

"It’s important to keep your tires inflated to the pressure that is recommended by the manufacturer of the car; Proper inflation keeps your tires wearing correctly," says David Beck of highly rated All Star Tire & Auto Service in Indianapolis.

Over- or under-inflated wears tires out faster, can negatively affect fuel consumption and present a safety hazard. Get your tires rotated and balanced every 6,000-8,000 miles and get the alignment checked at least once a year to make sure there are not suspension problems.

Fluids

Transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant can break down over time and lose their effectiveness. All fluids should be checked and topped off every oil change. Have your transmission fluid flushed out every 50,000 miles, depending on your driving habits and your vehicle manufacturer's specifications.

Brake check

A brake inspection should be part of your vehicle’s ongoing regular maintenance to ensure safety and reliability.

Have your brakes inspected at least once a year or more often if you experience grinding, vibrations or shaking when you brake. Regardless of the vehicle, brakes generally need to be replaced every 20,000-30,000 miles.

Scheduled maintenance

Failure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule could lead to loss of warranty coverage, breakdowns, poor fuel economy and a higher cost of ownership in the long run.

Having a certified professional inspect your car according to these schedules is an opportunity to catch problems before they get you stuck or escalate into larger repairs.

Build a relationship with a shop or mechanic. Bouncing from shop to shop may save a few dollars on particular jobs, but in the end the only one who will have any responsibility for the condition of the car will be you. "Having a reputable shop you trust means you having someone looking under the hood for any potential problems on a regular basis," says Mike Aronow, owner of highly rated Sunset Auto Imports Service in Henderson, Nevada. 

A good mechanic, who is familiar with your needs, your expectations, and your car, will help you get the most from your car.

*These tips are simply guidelines and are not intended to replace or overrule your owner's manual.


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Comments

ive been driving the same car since highschool 24 years now has original 318 unrebuilt runs great i use regular advanced oil and filter change every 3-5000 miles car gets 32mpg it has a carb its getting old better mpg than new 4 bangers and nice to drive i drive 500 miles a week i get about 6 yrs out of brake shoes if coolent is in rad and i can see it it has enough i have never changed the coolent or the tranny fluid and the car has over 1 million miles on it but it is a plymouth roadrunner the odometer has rolled over 14 times since i bought it

My only car tip: I have the oil changed (I use synthetic, but probably not needed) every 6000 miles. My tire provider and garage are next to each other. This way, I leave it at one shop, and ask them to take it to the other. I am at 165,000 on a 2004 Tahoe and only on my 3rd set of tires, and no engine issues in 8 years!

Just comes on in the winter every winter,replaced gas cap like auto place said and still comes on and stays on..Been on a week now.

My gramps has a 1967 Cougar that has never had an oil change. Bought it new off the lot and it now has right over 500,000 miles on it. Car runs great. Took it in to the shop last week to make sure everything was up to par and it blew the techs minds at how long the car has went without an actual oil change. All he does is change the filter and top it off. Car has no problems at all and runs a helluva lot better than anything now a days

Here is a sad thing that can happen. You can be perfect in oil changes but when the oil pump goes, your engine goes. Wish the engineers have an answer to this dilemma.

Some commenter out there have stated that this aritcle should have been titled maintence list or some other title. Some have commented about the way the article was written. Ok, some of you are are probably english majors and want to prove how intelligent you are about sentence structure or whats in a title. I don't care about all that. I welcome all the comments and thank all of those who have taken the time to put theire opinion and suggestions in this article. I am a person that strives to learn something everyday. I have found in life that other peoples opinions, idea and experiences are important to the learning process. I learned a lot from this article. It had some very good advice and some not so good. Like anything in life take the good for what its worth and leave the rest. There is no need to attack another commenter on their sentence structure or title for the article. This article was ment to inform and share exchanges of ideas and experiences. This is still America and honest exchanges of opinion is what has made this country great in most cases. We need to put our egos aside and just listen to each other. Accept what we want and leave the rest with respect.

My 89 Toyo Camry is at 345, 000 miles and still gets over 35 mpg regularly. Oil consumption is about a quart every 4,000--I change it at maybe 10,000 or 12,000--regular oil. Really, it's how you drive it--and short hops are a killer......and the coolant flush deals are the most absolute waste of money. Finally got around, last summer, to changing radiator hoses for the first time.....and rear brakes for the first replacement, too. (NO, I didn't have the drums machined) Did I mention it's on the original clutch, too?)

Let's update your antifreeze comments. The newer antifreezes have change intervals up to 150,000 miles. Old technology the 2 year change intervals

There's something the article seems to overlooked that is very important, but people don't think about because it's not needed until 60,000 or more miles. And that's the timing belt/chain. It IS expensive but really should be done.

the actuator broke. i paid 2,000. for xtra service and ofcourse this unfortunataly wasnt a part of the deal. the part is about 90.00 and labor brings it to 530.00. where else can i go. too much money to pay. i just hope a/c keeps going fotr summer and heater will work when i switch it over. any suggestions?

A car is like a woman, treat it with respect, give it the maintenance it needs, and it will give you years of service. Mis treat it, beat on it, neglect it, treat her poorly, it WILL pay you back, some day, some how. 3000 miles for an oil change, is fine with me. I will do it, no questions asked, because it is worth it, PERIOD, any one that says different is ignorant and STUPID!!!!! I rely on my cars to do the job, my cars rely on me to do what it is necessary for them to work.

The trunk opens about 4-5 inches, then slams close. It does not stay open on its own any more.

I have a 1997 Honda accord, I purchased it from a single owner @ 133,000 miles, How can I tell when it's ready for a new timing belt, It now has 177,500 miles, what are some of the signs of a timing belt going bad?

A timing Belt should be changed by age, about every 6 to 7 years. Look at your cars service/owners book. If not replace regularly, you could be in need of a new engine if it breaks.

Look and see if the timing belt is OEM ( Honda ). Good reminder is to change at 90k mile intervals. Most timing belts are changed around 90k - 120k mile intervals .

Here come the ASA certified folks who have no clue. As if we should bow to their faux expertise. not a one of them has ever overhauled an engine outside of the antiseptic classroom. Unless you can quantify your claims, which no one can, use reality to defend your position boys. Been at this all my life. 6000 miles is fine for today's oil and engines. Change the filter at 3K, and leave the oil in there. IF you are worried have the oil analyzed, and keep an eye on the results of all that time and money wasted. Figure on 150K miles from about any engine made in your generation if you change the filter often. Oil doesn't break down, it just gets dirty. Filter it, and stop obsessing. BTW, take the tire inflation myth and shove it. Unless you know what the hell car you are talking about, cease the lies about 1-3 mpg increase. You would be from the same graduating class that says all cars will save xx mpg if they slow down by 10 mph, as if you know the engine, and the drive train in the first place. It takes a village to pull stats out of the ass and worship them as if they are true.

All great points, especially about taking a village.

No matter what you drive, take care of it like you would your own child and you'll get equal results. If every time you change the oil it comes out like sludge or black, you went too long. Smell it. It should still smell like normal oil, not burnt, acrid, pungent, etc. If you want to go longer between changes, or longer than recommended, then make sure you aren't driving only around town, use high quality filtration and oil, and don't beat on your vehicle. If you drive a forced induction vehicle (turbo or supercharger) do NOT go over the recommended change interval no matter what. Easiest way to ruin the bearings since turbos use the oil for cooling and lubrication. They are very intolerant to additional friction, viscosity or particulate. You can't compare cars to trucks to semi's. They have massively different jobs to do, the 5Quarts in your car is a lot less than the 20+ Quarts in a Semi or any other heavy machinery. If you want high performance out of your vehicle, 3000 miles is about the limit before you start to see it power drops on a dyno. Stay away from high milage, extended performance oils as they all negatively effect performance. Every car is different, generally related to quality of materials. New cars have higher quality materials and better closed loop information systems to increase reliability. They last longer between scheduled maintenance, but can fail just as fast if not taken care of. Driving style changes everything as well. I've had a number of very high performance new vehicles and drive them very hard, even race 2-3 times a year. However, efficient driving habits will drastically reduce wear on your vehicle. I just hit 60,000 miles in my 09 Subaru WRX turbo sports sedan daily driver. I have almost half my pad left on my brakes I changed out this week. I drive very fast when nobody is looking. When I stop, my car never lurches forward from waiting until the last second to brake. I drove my 2004 STi to 210,000 miles the same way and no malfunctions of any kind sticking to the recommended maintenance/inspection schedule. If you hear a noise, see a light, smell something, fix it when it happens and you'll save money and time and have a happy car/truck/toy that will last "forever". What you hear may or may not apply to your vehicle. Take it all with a grain of salt. Better safe than sorry.

Changing the oil every 3 mo./3000 miles not a waste of money, especially when I get coupons for $20!

With fluid change, be sure to include a antifreeze / coolant flush. A new radiator is not that expensive, however having a new headgasket and/ or waterpump will set you back a $1,000 + when they go from dirty fluid eating away at the gasket and pump. You can also cook and destroy the engine.

So.... repairs you shouldn't skip are.... ALL of them, and also pay for all scheduled maintenance? This is simply not true. The scheduled maintenance required by Nissan for my truck is nonsense and seriously overpriced. Change your oil, mind your fluids (to change them when they begin to break down, which is not nearly as often as they say), brake repairs, and then just don't worry about it until something changes. The dealerships have got us in a stranglehold, not to mention making cars that independent mechanics and hobbyists can no longer fix. One of my friends is a mechanic for Ferrari... did you know they put a computer in there that is programmed to shut down after a certain mileage, forcing you to take it in, where they are instructed to tell you that you need a new computer, and replace it? There's a new dawn here of "programmed obsolescence." Nice.

Of course manufacturers don't want these dim-witted, shade tree mechanics working on their vehicles. Dealerships and manufacturers send their technicians and engineers to extensive training, quarterly, to properly service these vehicles. Did you know that lack of fluid maintenance is the number cause of failure of mechanical components? Once fluids endure the stress of thermal cycling after so many thousands of miles, they no longer have the ability the properly clean and lubricate their corresponding components. If you ever have the opportunity the visually inspect the fluid condition of a failed transmission, pay close attention to the content of the fluid. I can say, with almost 100% certainty that the fluid is either severely discolored or has a burnt smell to it. Why you ask? Because the ever so "intelligent" customer neglected to exchange his or her transmission fluid at the manufacturers recommended service interval. Until you actually work in the industry and service these products, you are by no means qualified to pass judgement on how much a service should cost or how often it should be done. *Hugs n Kisses* :)

I am sorry but Really, really is telling the truth in regards to the scheduled maintenance that the dealerships want you to adhere to for such an exuberant price. I have owned three vehicles and put well over 150k miles on them and never did the maintenance as THEY requested. I changed all fluids at the needed intervals, tune ups, brake jobs, tire rotations, etc. and never had any major issues. I am sorry but but to bring your vehicle in to have them inspect it and do a few things for the price of 400.00 to 600.00 dollars at 20 or 30 thousand miles on a brand new car is robbery. I have know several people who adhered to those scheduled maintenance bulletins that were suppose to prevent issues and turned around had issues and then the dealership charged them again.

"Until you actually work in the industry and service these products, you are by no means qualified to pass judgement on how much a service should cost"

ck engine light comes on and no one can find a answer ,,disconnect the neg.batt. cable and it goes off for a few days and them reappears..

looking for a good company for a extended warranty for my car I have a Mercury Sable 2003

Linda - I also have a 2003 Mercury Sable LS Premium. This model has the 24-valve Duratec 3.0l V6. I have 147,000 miles on mine and have not had any trouble at all. The only real "repair" I can remember having is replacing the power steering pump at 140,500 miles. Other than that it has been trouble-free and I have never babied it. Remember that an extended warranty is an insurance policy based on statistical data that favors the insurance company. If you need it, and it actually covers your problem, you'll be glad you had it. But be careful. Many used car extended warranties only cover specific items and problems in specific ways. They are designed to make money for the seller, not to protect the consumer. Not saying you shouldn't get one, just be careful. You might want to consider asking your mechanic to take a look at the policy to see if it covers the kinds of issues you might expect with your car... unless he's the one selling it to you. Good luck! :-)

Good suggestions.

I've been using synthetic oil for over 20 years, having lived in Anchorage where it was mandatory if you didn't have a block heater in the winter. Now I use Amsoil premium and can go 25,000 miles between oil changes, verified by Oil Analysis. I use their super duty filters and change them at 12,500 miles. My diesel truck goes 50,000 between changes with Amsoil. People changing oil at 3,000 miles are throwing good oil away (unless it's the cheep dino oil, which I would never use). Of course the oil change shops love you, but most relatively current car/truck manuals state much longer intervals. Depends on how you drive and what conditions you live in.

the bad shavings or gunk is in the filter! Change filter ,top off with same kind of oil and save yourself some bucks!

Santa Fe is spot on. More important than changing your synthetic oil is keeping it clean. A special aftermarket oil filtration system, like Santa Fe is using, can extend the life of synthetic oil well into the 6-figures for mileage. I've seen an experiment that one Amsoil customer is doing who had over 240,000 miles on his oil (18 wheel big rig) and still going. To accomplish this, he had a big 3-stage oil filtration system. He had an oil analysis done like every 20,000 miles or so and there was no sign of engine wear. If you spend the extra on synthetic oil, be sure you are at least using a good filter. Dirty synthetic is no better than clean dino/standard oil.

This isn't a repair list, a repair is an action taken to restore something broken to a working state. This is a maintenance list, the author really should study English.....

A bigger killer than old oil in the more common 4-cylinder engines is low coolant and cooling system failures. The venerable old Chevy 350s could be overheated briefly, allowed to cool down and driven another 100,000 miles. Overheat a 4-banger and it's almost certainly DOA - often not even worth rebuilding. I agree with the poster who added timing belts to this list, but I'd also say the most important routine maintenance item you should stay on top of from month to month is your coolant system. Never let your coolant level get low. Fix any leaks immediately. And, drain old coolant, flush the system, and refill with fresh coolant and distilled water (with maybe some water pump lubricant) every two years.

It's not so much the number of cylinders, but the composition of the components. Most modern 4 cylinders (and modern engines in general) have aluminum heads that are extremely vulnerable to warping/cracking in an overheating situation. The older engines all have cast iron blocks/heads, and if you do something to break cast iron you are already way past wrong.

If brakes require replacing every 20K- 30K miles the driver(s) either ride the brakes or don't know how to brake.

I concur. I'm a "spirited" driver and my front brakes have always lasted about 60-65,000 miles; rear brakes: 125,000+++.

I've looked all over my owner's manual & can't find ANYTHING about BREAK fluid.. Funny how the writer screws it up under Fluids but somehow gets it correct in its own category.... from the article: "Fluids: Transmission fluid, break fluid, and coolant can break down over time and lose their effectiveness. Brake Check: Brake inspection should be part of your vehicle’s ongoing maintenance to ensure safety and reliability.

"break" fluid??

This list is dumb. More like common sense.

This list is not dumb for people who know little to nothing about cars -- which I am one of. I found this list very informative, as well as the subsequent comments (even the ones that are very technical)...well, except yours -- it was ignorant. When I have the time and money I will take a basic auto course. It's all very interesting to me...except for your dumb "dumb" comment. Thanks to everyone who contributed something intelligent!

Right on. Did the dealer write this list up?

agree, especially the catchall #5 that says follow the scheduled maintenance. If you take that as the recommendation. Then what repair(s) should you be doing? everything recommended by the schedule What repairs should you skip? nothing, follow the schedule. AKA, his should just be a list of 1 item. RTFM. It tells you exactly what to maintain and at what schedule. No more, no less

using 100 synthetic oil I change it around 30,000 miles and never worry about it (my 79 280zx had 375,000 on it and it was still running good when sold)..however it's the radiator fluid (water) that should be changed every 2 years or more often...it's head gasket leakage that kill most engines and that's from the acid buildup on the gasket...if not the gasket it's the radiator itself that goes bad...

oil change with 0W20 is now 10k miles or once a year in my Lexus and Camry

My son's 2010 Scion xD...per the owners manual, 10k miles with full synthetic 0w20

Have a 2010 Camry and change that oil and cartridge every 5000 miles, and use that 0W-20 oil!!!!

The oil change thing is definitely important for older vehicles... but newer ones.. say 15 years old or less... are better engineered... and the oil is better engineered... I chance the oil on my 1999 Toyota Avalon every 10,000 miles.... and I'm at 160,000... However, something that was not included... and will destroy your engine if it fails (and inexplicably missed this list) is the timing belt... it must be replaced ever 60 to 80 thousand miles....

HELLO . I bought a 64 fairlane in 1998 with 41000 original miles . from a older man than myself. and i,m68 now, and this car now has 58000 original on it . i always change it in the spring and fall . with a new filter . from purolator. and use castrol 5W30 . and i have had it on 4 1200 moile trips one way . and this car does not burn a drop of oil. but i drive it not over 70 mph . i recall many yrs ago my dad , would change his oil every 1000 miles . this would be approx. 60 yrs ago. should i be changing mine at 1000 miles . as i drive mostly hwy .miles. thank you kindly. ralph smith ontario canada

I would change the oil in your Fairlane every 3000 miles if it mainly sees a lot of short trips around town, or every 5000 miles if it is mostly highway driving. Not sure how many years ago your dad was changing his oil at every 1000 miles, or what type of car it was on, but based on the fact that you're 68 now I'm guessing it may or may not have had an adequate oil filtration system (the 1955 265 cubic inch small block Chevy V8s had no oil filtration system machined into the engine block; they relied on an lousy add-on filter that was mounted on the thermostat housing) so maybe 1000 miles was a more reasonable interval at the time. Also, oil was probably not as refined at the time either. Not writing from personal experience though, as I'm 36 years old... As a side note, hopefully you're running leaded gasoline or at least a lead additive through that engine, unless it has hardened valve seats...

HELLO, MIKE . THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENT . I,M THE GUY WHO HAS THE 64 FAIRLANE. AND YES , ON MY TRIPS I NOTICED MY OIL STAYED NICE AND CLEAN ,BUT I ALWAY,S CHANGED THE FILTER ( PURALATOR ) NOT FRAM. AS FRAM CAN COLLAPES . SO WHAT,S A DOLLAR MORE . VERSES MOTOR . NOW BACK TO WHEN MY DAD , USED TO CHANGE HIS OIL EVERY 1000 MILES . HE FOUND OUT IN 1957 , WHEN MY UNCLE BOUGHT A NEW 57 CHEV. IN FREDERICTON NEW BRUNSWICK.CANADA , AND HAD TO DRIVE TO ONTARIO . DUE TO A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. AND THE 57 BURNED I BELIEVE 5 MAYBE 6 QUARTS OF OIL ONE WAY . WHEN MY UNCLE GOT IT BACK TO FREDERICTION . HE FOUND OUT HE USED THE WRONG OIL ... ONE OIL HAD A ( WAX BASED ) , AND THE OTHER A (PARIFENE BASE ). WHICH OIL I,M NOT SURE OF . BUT AFTER CHANGING BACK TO THE PROPER OIL . THE 57 RECOVERED . AND NEVER BURNED OIL LIKE THAT AGAIN. AS FAR AS MY 64 GOES, MOST OF MY DRIVING IS HWY. AND 5000 IS NO PROBLEM . I USE CASTROL GTX 10W 30 . AS I ONLY TAKE IT OUT IN THE WINTER , WHEN THE ROADS ARE DRY . AND NOT FROZEN . AS I DON,T WANT SOMEONE T-BONING ME . SO MIKE THANKS FOR THE COME BACK , AND HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR , . again have a safe one. RALPH

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