How does preventative maintenance protect my automobile?

For the past five years or so, two people both have owned the same car model and have driven about the same number of miles. Their driving habits are similar, so it would stand to reason that the repair histories for both vehicles should be about the same, right? Wrong. While one has never had a major problem with her car, the other has had numerous malfunctions, breakdowns and unexpected repair bills.

Could that car simply be a "lemon"? Maybe, but luck probably has more to do with the difference in the way the two care for their vehicles.

The first faithfully follows the suggested maintenance schedule for her car, while the other has a tendency to forget about, procrastinate, or otherwise neglect his maintenance recommendations. He has an “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” attitude.

The first knows that practicing good preventive maintenance is the best way to avoid major mechanical breakdowns and to protect the substantial investment she made when she purchased a quality vehicle. Her goal is to drive a safe, dependable vehicle that will maintain its full market value.

In the meantime, the second seems unaware that driving a neglected vehicle can pollute the atmosphere, waste fuel, increase ownership costs and pose a safety hazard to himself and other motorists. It is also difficult to budget for car repairs when you don't know when they might occur or what is likely to go wrong. He still does not realize that if small problems are not found and corrected, they turn into major problems that can get expensive and shorten the life of the vehicle.

Preventive maintenance is recommended to prevent major problems by ensuring the vehicle's various systems are properly inspected and serviced at regular intervals. Unfortunately, some motorists are under the impression that "preventive" means "optional" or "not really necessary." They put off these procedures, and then they can't figure out why their vehicles are not delivering the reliability, fuel economy and trouble-free performance they expected.

Let’s take an example: tire maintenance. Checking tire pressure every few weeks. Making sure sure your wheels are properly aligned and balanced, and getting your tires rotated every 6,000 to 7,000 miles. As a result, you can expect them to last up to 20% longer than the neglected tires that are wearing unevenly on Ben's car.

As far as your pocketbook is concerned, that's the equivalent of getting a 20% discount on a set of four tires. As a bonus, you gets better gas mileage, performance and handling to boot!

Here's another example: Many motorists assume their car's thermostat is working fine as long as the engine doesn't overheat. But a thermostat’s primary function is to help keep the engine at its most efficient operating temperature--neither too hot nor too cold. Any deviation from that temperature can produce a drop in efficiency, fuel economy and performance. The problem is that a thermostat, like most other parts on your car, does not last forever. After a few years, it begins to lose its ability to regulate operating temperature. This can result in increased engine wear that will shorten the life of the vehicle. So for our second motorist, a simple component like a thermostat can become an invisible drain on his wallet if it's not replaced at the appropriate interval.

What about severe service?

When you review your car's maintenance schedule, you must determine if it falls under the use category known as "severe service."

Many people assume this category pertains only to taxicabs, police cars and tow vehicles. They're often surprised to learn that under most manufacturers’ definitions, about 70% of all vehicles may fall into this group! The determining criteria often include common situations such as short-trip driving, stop-and-go driving, driving in extremely hot or cold temperatures, excessive idling and driving in dry or dusty conditions. If your vehicle meets any of these criteria, you may need to follow your manufacturer’s schedule for severe service.




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