Getting your car serviced is like going to your annual check-up at the doctor’s office. It’s not a lot of fun and you’re probably healthy, but skipping it is a pretty irresponsible risk to take. Incidentally, your car doesn’t have a prostate that needs checking, so car maintenance is a lot easier to get through than a doctor’s appointment. So count your blessings.
Seriously, we can’t stress enough how important it is to do regular, proactive car maintenance. It helps keep your vehicle performing like it did the day you bought it, and will keep you and your family safe by identifying potentially dangerous issues before they become unavoidable problems.
Translation: the services we’re about to list help avoid massive, expensive repairs.
#1 Oil Change
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: Decreased mileage. Engine failure.
- ESTIMATED COST: $70
On a list of “car services I shouldn’t avoid” this one is a no-brainer. It’s not an exaggeration to say that oil is your engine’s life blood. Your engine’s oil serves the critical role of keeping your engine and its surrounding parts sufficiently lubricated. This ensures that everything rotates and works smoothly. Moreover, it aids in the absorption of the heat created by the friction of moving engine parts.
As time passes, exhaust gasses from the cylinders and other miscellaneous bits of metal will taint the oil, resulting in reduced viscosity (the state of being thick, sticky, and semifluid in consistency). Eventually, the oil will be so thin that it won’t be able to do its job of lubricating your engine and keeping it cool, removing engine wear particles and sludge, and helping improve your overall gas mileage.
As we’ve explained before (see: 5 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Your Car), how often you need to have your oil changed depends on several different factors, such as the environment in which you drive, your vehicle’s age, and your personal driving style. The commonly known benchmark of 5,000 km no longer applies to today’s vehicles, so we recommend that you consult your owner’s manual to see what it recommends for your vehicle or consult the experts at your local Go Auto dealer.
#2 Engine Air Filter Replacement
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: Reduced engine performance. Lower gas mileage and horsepower.
- ESTIMATED COST: $40
If you’ve ever ridden in a car with someone who thinks it’s hilarious to let out a toot and then throw on the window locks so that you’re forced to baste in their stench, you know how much those people suck and how much they deserve to be put on trial for torture. Well, if you’ve never had your engine air filter changed, I hate to break it to you, but you’ve been putting your engine through that ordeal for all this time.
The air that your engine takes in needs to be cleaned beforehand, and that’s what the air filter does. As you drive your car, the engine air filter collects dirt, dust and debris from outside and prevents it from entering the engine. Over time, if left alone, the air filter will clog, and your engine will be breathing in dirty-fart air, which will eventually erode parts of your engine and cost you more money in the long run. Not only that, but a clogged air filter will reduce your engine’s performance, bringing down your gas mileage and horsepower.
Distances between engine air filter changes again depends on factors such as the atmospheric conditions in which you drive and the way you drive your vehicle. If you live in a dustier area or must commute through construction areas (an experience which Edmontonians know only too well), you’ll need to have your filter changed frequently. An often quoted estimate for recommended distances to go in between filter replacements is around every 8,000 km to 16,000 km, but we recommend you consult your owner’s manual for precise numbers. If you’re still unsure, don’t hesitate to ask us at Go Auto.
#3 Brake Pad Replacement
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: Brakes that don’t work. That’s bad.
- ESTIMATED COST: $450 (pads and rotors)
Vital to your vehicle’s braking system and your own safety, brake pads will go through a lot of wear and tear over the years due to extensive friction from, well, braking. If you ignore the maintenance that’s required on your brake pads, you risk damaging your rotors and reducing the efficacy of your brakes, which could be dangerous for obvious reasons.
Similar to your oil and air filter, the rate at which you should have your brake pads replaced differs from driver to driver and vehicle to vehicle. If you’re the type to drive aggressively, tailgating other drivers and braking hard at red lights, you’ll need to have your brake pads replaced much more frequently than someone who drives slowly and prudently. Additional factors like size and weight of your vehicle, the area where you drive (city driving tends to wear down brake pads faster), and the type of brake pad you use also play a role in determining how often you’ll need to get them replaced.
As luck would have it, it’s pretty easy to tell when your vehicle requires brake work. Disc brakes come with what’s called a wear indicator, which is a small piece of metal attached to the brake pad that warns you when your brake pads are in need of replacement by grinding against the rotor and making a high-pitched squeaking noise as you hit the brakes.
#4 Battery Check
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: A vehicle that doesn’t start.
- ESTIMATED COST: $70
Nobody wants to be left stranded on the side of the road with a dead battery. Unfortunately, most people don’t obsess over the state of their car battery like they do over their phone battery, and as a result, there are more people out there with dead batteries than there should be.
Considering our cold Canadian winters and the famously long waits for AMA to arrive, staying informed on the status of your battery is one of, if not the, most important preventative car maintenance tasks to keep up with.
Every once in a while, take the time to make a thorough examination of your battery. Check it for signs of corrosion build-up, check to make sure it isn’t leaking, check to make sure its maintaining a steady voltage (anywhere between 12.4 and 12.8 volts is healthy), and be sure to check that its carefully and firmly mounted with clean connections.
Furthermore, it’s not a bad idea to keep track of your battery’s age. Most batteries have a lifespan of about three to five years. Anyone exceeding that limit should consider getting their next battery right away.
For more answers to your battery queries, check out this handy-dandy guide we have for car battery maintenance.
#5 Tire Inspection
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: Decreased mileage. Deflated tires. Difficulty steering.
- ESTIMATED COST: Free with most other services; Rotation is $40
It’s tough to exaggerate the importance of having your tires maintained. Like the rest of your vehicle, your tires will deteriorate over time and distance travelled. You should check them for signs of wear at least once a month, as well as after long bouts of driving to make sure everything is in order.
Also, like everything else on this list, the rate and degree to which your tires will wear down depends on factors such as driving style and road conditions.
Key maintenance tasks you should be keeping up with for your tires include tire rotation, making sure they’re inflated to the proper level (which is indicated in your owner’s manual), and having your alignment adjusted to make sure driving in a straight line isn’t a chore.
If you’re operating under the illusion that tire maintenance begins and ends with making sure they aren’t flat, we’re sorry to burst your blissful bubble. Regular tire maintenance will ultimately drastically improve your car’s performance and save you money.
- Further Reading: 5 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Your Car (includes a section on tires)
#6 Timing Belt Replacement
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: Engine failure.
- ESTIMATED COST: $700
A functioning timing belt is critical to the well-being of your engine. Its purpose is to synchronize your engine’s functions, and without it, your engine simply won’t run.
They can be pricey to have replaced, but the damage that a malfunctioning timing belt can cause to the rest of your engine is infinitely worse and will cost you a lot more than it would to preemptively replace the timing belt.
It’s tough to know exactly when it’s time to have your timing belt replaced. Pay attention to these clues:
- your an engine won’t turn over
- there’s an oil leak in front of your motor
- a slight ticking noise coming from the motor
If your car repair isn’t a hobby of yours and all this talk of timing belts and engines is starting to sound like a different language, then consult your owner’s manual or your local Go Auto dealership.
#7 Spark Plug Replacement
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: An engine that won’t start.
- ESTIMATED COST: $300
Put simply, your vehicle’s spark plug essentially works as a middle man that delivers electronic current from the ignition system (when you turn your key) to the engine’s combustion chamber. Think of it as the first domino to be toppled; it sets off the series of reaction that will get your wheels turning.
Spark plugs, like the timing belt, are a bit of mystery to most people who aren’t car nuts. But know this: when engines fail to start, faulty spark plugs are often to blame.
If your spark plugs are worn out due to old age, or covered in engine residue and corrosion, your engine will work inefficiently, at best, and it may not even work at all.
Moreover, while it can cost a fair penny, replacing defective spark plugs could save you money in the long run. When your vehicle runs more efficiently you avoid a bigger breakdown that could cost you even more later on.
- Further Reading: The Ultimate Spark Plugs Cheat Sheet
#8 Fluid Flushes
- AVOIDANCE LEADS TO: Essentially, complete system failure.
- ESTIMATED COST: $150-$350
People often deny that they need to have their vehicle fluids flushed. They end up paying the price for it later on. When mechanics recommend you flush your car fluids, don’t brush it off. Pay attention, because they’re trying to help you out with something that often goes ignored and unnoticed.
Fluid flushes in your vehicle can include:
- transmission fluid
- power steering fluid
- coolant fluids
- brake fluid flush
- engine oil flush
- fuel system flush
- radiator flush
Flushing your car fluids, in essence, means replacing the old fluid with the new. It sometimes involves cleaning the whole system with water or specialized cleaner to wash away any grit and filth that may have built up over time.
- Transmission fluid, for example, becomes extremely dirty as it cycles through your car. A a result, the various gears (that constitute your transmission) that depend on it for lubrication get damaged, making shifting gears a nightmare.
- Power steering fluid, for its part, is necessary for – you guessed it – a functioning power steering system. Without clean power steering fluid, your power steering pump will get damaged and your steering won’t be as smooth and easy as it usually is.
Starting to get the picture? Without clean, fresh car fluids, your vehicle’s performance will start decline fast. Letting them drop below the fill line, or even run out completely, is only conducive to a disaster later.
Go Auto is Happy to Help!
Not everybody out there is a car-wiz, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore these maintenance tips, nor does it mean you should have to pay someone piles of cash to do it for you either.
Fortunately, we have certified, trained techs at Go Auto who are dedicated to getting you the help you need. You can book a service appointment at one of our 40+ locations in seconds, right here.
We know it’s tempting to skip your servicing appointment when money is tight. But the cost of having your vehicle regularly maintained is comparatively lower than it is to have major repairs done. You essentially have two choices: spend a little every now and then, or spend a lot more later. I think most of us can agree that the former is the more agreeable option. Besides, expenses that you can predict are somehow a great deal more tolerable than the unpredictable ones. Those just feel like a punch to your bank account’s metaphorical gut.