13 Expert Tips for Avoiding Common Car Maintenance Mistakes

One of the most significant responsibilities of owning a car is maintaining it. Failure to do so can cause serious problems, leaving the owner with hefty repair bills. Still, some of the most basic maintenance steps are often ignored, and drivers wonder why their vehicles always break down.

Mechanics urge drivers to pay attention to the little things about their cars, including dashboard alerts, tire pressure, and scheduled checkups. These simple tips can help you stay on the road and out of the auto shop.

1. Neglecting Your Fluids

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Fluids are the lifeblood of your car. They keep engine parts running smoothly and efficiently. That’s why it’s vital to stay on top of them.

You don’t need to know how to change your coolant, power steering fluid, or antifreeze, but you should be able to check their levels. If you notice a leak or one of the levels is low, take it to your mechanic as soon as possible to avoid potential damage.

2. Skipping Oil Changes

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In addition to checking your fluid levels, regular oil changes will extend the lifespan of your car. Depending on the vehicle, you might need to take it in every 3,000 to 10,000 miles.

I like to stick to the same auto shop so they can recommend the right type of oil and keep track of my car’s services.

3. Putting Off Quick Fixes

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Like most minor repairs, ignoring them for too long can turn them into major repairs. Major repairs typically mean more money, and that’s not something you want.

If you notice a problem, get it fixed right away. A check engine light on the dash can mean a part is getting worn. This can be a quick $50 fix, but if you ignore it, it might be a $1,000 fix in five months.

4. Ignoring a Rough Ride

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A rough ride could be a warning sign that your tires are unbalanced, your alignment is off, or you need new shocks and struts. Left alone, all of these can be extremely dangerous on the road, especially at high speeds.

Regular tire balancing and rotating extends the life of your tires, helps you drive straighter, and keeps you and other drivers safer on the highway.

5. Driving an Overheated Engine

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If you ever see your engine overheating, the best thing you can do is turn it off and walk away. Even if you have coolant on hand, you’re better off getting a tow than trying to cool it off yourself.

Opening the hood could expose you to high temperatures that could burn your skin. Instead, call for help and let a professional handle the situation.

6. Not Replacing Air Filters

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A clean air filter means a clean engine, which helps your car run as well as it can. When an air filter isn’t changed regularly, it can let dust, debris, and rocks into the vehicle’s fuel, air conditioning, and engine systems.

This can lead to many issues, including decreased gas mileage. In more severe cases, worn-out system components could cause your engine to seize up.

7. Not Changing your Windshield Wipers

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Windshield wipers break down over time. The rubber pieces can crack and dry out, leaving them useless in a rainstorm. The last thing you want in a spontaneous downpour is for your wipers to go bad, so you should check them regularly. Not only is this a severe hazard for you, but it can also affect other drivers on the road.

Don’t let an accident happen over wipers that can be replaced for as little as $20.

8. Not Inspecting the Brakes

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It might be hard to tell brake pads need changing without taking them apart, but there are signs to look for. The first thing you should pay attention to is feel. How does your vehicle stop? Does it take longer than usual? Is there a scraping sound like two pieces of metal rubbing together?

If the brakes are making a noise, they should be replaced immediately. If not, the damage to the rotors can make your car unsafe. Get to the auto shop ASAP.

9. Not Checking the Tire Pressure

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A pen-sized tire pressure gauge is a must in your garage. A pressure gauge costs $5 or less, and a simple press can alert you to an underinflated tire. Underinflated tires can ruin fuel efficiency and lead to a possible blowout.

Tires can lose air from hitting a speed bump too fast or in colder weather. These situations can be fixed with regular testing. If your tire needs air, most gas stations and tire shops offer free air to pump those tires up.

10. Servicing your Own Vehicle without Proper Knowledge

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Modern vehicles are much more challenging for novice mechanics to maintain than they once were. The engine has various computers and sensors that trigger the check engine light when something misfires. While this technology is helpful to professionals, it can be difficult to fix yourself without proper training.

A YouTube tutorial won’t turn you into a mechanic overnight. If you’re not savvy with engines, save some time and money and let the pros take a look.

11. Ignoring Air Conditioning Problems

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Depending on where you live, you might go months without turning on your car’s A/C. But you really should check it once in a while, even if it’s December in Minnesota.

You don’t want a dead A/C unit at the start of a summer heat wave when the humidity is through the roof. Check your system regularly and be prepared. It may be cheaper to fix the unit in the winter before it will be used every day.

12. Ignoring Home Inspections

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Regular at-home inspections can help keep your car running pristine. Do a walk-through of your vehicle’s parts every few months. Listen for weird noises under the hood. Check the battery connections to see if they are free from deposits and have a strong connection.

Have someone stand behind you to check your blinkers, brake, and reverse light. Lastly, place a piece of cardboard under the vehicle to check for leaks.

13. Keeping Poor Records

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Keeping the service records off your vehicle is as important as your financial records. These records show when and where services were done so future mechanics can understand the car’s past. Essentially, they are like a person’s medical records.

Keeping these in order can help if a part fails and is under warranty. They prove the car was well maintained, plus it preserves the resale value.

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