Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thrifty Thursday - Preventive vehicle maintenence

Jeff working on my Blazer back in 2008

I've been driving the same 1998 Chevy Blazer since I graduated high school in 2005. It has just shy of 250,000 miles and is still going strong. Well, actually, it's a little weaker than it once was, but it gets the job done. Honestly, if it hadn't been for Jeff giving it a little TLC from time to time, it probably would've died a long time ago. Or I'd be totally broke from paying a shop to repair it. We're saving for a new-to-us vehicle, but in the mean time, we make sure it gets regular maintenence so it lasts until we can replace it (I say "we" like I actually do anything ... sometimes I'll ride to the parts store with Jeff).

Here are a few tips from the handyman himself.

Check your oil level regularly.
Be sure to get an oil change every 3,000 miles or every three months. Oil breaks down and losses its viscosity. If not changed regularly, it can lead to premature engine wear. Contrary to popular belief, synthetic oil isn't always the best option. Vehicles over 75,000 miles should use a high-mileage oil. High-mileage oils have additives that help keep seals properly lubricated which help in the prevenion of leaks and oil burn off. Also, it's OK to switch back to conventional or high-mileage oil after using synthetic.

A standard oil change, on average, will cost $35 to $55 depending on your oil choice. You can save half of that expense if you do the oil change yourself.

Check all other fluid levels.
Transmission fluid - For most vehicles, you need to check the transmission fluid level while the engine is warm, the vehicle is running and it's in park. Have a professional flush your transmission as specified by the manufacturer. A standard transmission fluid exchange will have an average cost of $90 to $120 depending of the amount and type of fluid your vehicle requires. Many new Fords and some Nissans take a synthetic fluid (CVT) which is more expensive.

Coolant/Antifreeze - Check the reservoir and the radiator, but never while it's hot because it's under pressure. Always use the fluid recommended by the manufacturer. Having your radiator flushed when recommended by the manufacturer will help prevent excessive engine heat in the summer and reduce the risk of freezing in the winter. A standard professional coolant/antifreeze flush will cost $80 to $100. If you can do this yourself, it costs about a third of the shop price.

Check your tire pressure.
Properly inflated tires can lead to benefits including improved fuel mileage, prolonged tire life and better vehicle handling. To find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle, check the manufacturer's recommendation sticker inside the driver side door. This sticker will list the proper tire size for your vehicle and their proper inflation.

Change your engine air filter.
This filter should be changed every 10,000 miles or as necessary. If you can't see light through the filter, it most likely needs to be changed. Benefits of changing your engine air filter include improved fuel mileage and vehicle acceleration. Never blow out an air filter. Forcing compressed air through it will perforate the paper filter and allow particles to enter your engine.

Don't put off preventive maintenence.
You may think you are saving money by pushing the limits of service intervals, but it may end up costing you thousands in major repairs later. When it's time, call around for prices before just taking it to the closest shop, this can definitely save you money. Also, ask friends or family for recommendations. They may be able to guide you in the right direction.

If you have questions about maintenence for your vehicle, feel free to email me at

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