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Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid big repairs

Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid big repairs, and to keep your favorite ride running for a long time.

Robert, let’s talk about some basic preventative maintenance topics. Why is car maintenance important? You’ve touched on it before, but in a nutshell, why is it important for vehicle owners to regularly maintain their vehicles? What are the benefits?

Robert: Well, the whole purpose of maintaining your vehicle is so that you get those small little maintenance items done so that the bigger repairs are kept farther at bay.

Let’s say if you’re talking about a fluid, let’s say coolant, engine coolant, one of the reasons why you wanna keep that coolant as clean as possible is because any kind of dirt, or debris, or gunk that goes through the cooling system get’s clogged in the radiator. Radiators are expensive. You know, there’s no need to replace them when if you flush your fluid every two years, or as often as you see that there’s a problem, if it’s clean, those radiators will last such a long time.

Host: So really just through preventative maintenance, you can lower your overall cost. So it never makes sense to put off maintenance, is that correct?

Flush Engine Coolant

Robert: Correct. And one of the things that we see is that not necessarily the coolant will get dirty, but it’ll lose its ability to work, due to its mixture. There’s a 50/50 mixture between water and the actual coolant, which is ethylene glycol. Now, that ethylene glycol, what that chemical does is it changes the boiling point and the freezing point.

Not only that, it inhibits rust. Rust is one of those things where the inside of the engine block, if it starts to rust, it’s a cascading effect that it’ll just eat away the inside of the motor and little flecks of metal will come off,and again, clog the radiator or clog the heater core, which are very expensive repairs.

Change Engine and Transmission Oil

There’s other things that we can look at like the engine oil. Everyone has been so good about changing their engine oil that they forget other things like the transmission. Your transmission gets you from point A to point B, but there’s a lot of heat that’s created and the oil only lasts so long. So if you imagine, you replace your engine oil every 3,000 to 7,500 miles, your transmission fluid really needs to be done every 60,000 miles or as often as your manufacturer recommends.

When the fluid…when the transmission fluid that should be a reddish/pinkish color, when it starts to get brown or dark in any way, those little bits of metal or seals you don’t want recirculating through the transmission, you want outta there because the longer you keep that transmission clean, the longer it’s going to last. And transmission…the cost of transmissions range anywhere from $4,000 to I’ve seen up to $7,000 or $8,000.

Host: And at that point you might be looking at a new vehicle.

Robert: Yeah, that’s the cost of changing the vehicle.

Host: So letting maintenance go, particularly some of these critical components like the engine coolant, engine oil, transmission oil could make the difference between having a vehicle run for a very long time and run well, or completely collapse and you’re looking at a new car at some point.

Robert: Yeah. Well if you imagine the cost of a transmission fluid flush is roughly anywhere from $200 to $250. The cost of replacing the transmission is anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000 or $8,000. So that’s a large gap for such a…

Host: That’s a big risk.

Robert: It’s a big risk…

Host: Yeah.

Robert: That you shouldn’t take.

Before That Long Road Trip

Host: What about long car trips? Do you recommend that vehicle owners come to Doctor of Motors before they take a long trip to see what the status of the vehicle is in terms of maintenance?

Robert: Definitely. Any time you’re going to go on a long trip, you wanna know if your vehicle’s ready for that trip. So when you come in to Doctor of Motors, we change your oil, we perform an inspection, we check and top off all your fluids, and we’ll let you know if there’s something going on that’s going to give you a problem on your trip, we’ll let you know. If there’s something that can wait till later on, we’ll let you know that, too.

Host: Perhaps like the coolant is getting dirty?

Robert: Correct.

Host: Not necessarily something that has to be done immediately…

Robert: Correct.

Host: …but should be done when you come back.

Robert: Correct.

Do You Need a Tune-up?

Host: What about a tune-up? We hear a lot about tune-ups. Does that have much meaning with modern cars? When I think of tune-ups, I think of a 1965 Mustang or something like where you really did have to go in and fool around with the carburetor and carefully gap the spark plugs and… Where are we now? What does a tune-up mean today?

Robert: Well, these days we don’t…longer…we no longer have distributors, distributor caps, rotors, and most cars are even getting rid of spark plug wires. They have the coil directly sitting on top of the spark plug.

Host: Integrated with the spark plug?

Robert: Correct. So what needs to be done for a tune-up, every car is different and the manufacturer gives different recommendations for each car, but roughly around the standard is going to be 100,000 miles, which means they put a lot of heavier metals and more expensive pieces in that spark plug to make it last 100,000 miles. So they’re no longer as inexpensive as they used to be, but there’s other pieces that don’t need to be replaced.

Host: So what’s the difference, Robert, between a tune-up and regular maintenance that you would have done, at say, 50,000 miles or 25,000?

Robert: A tune-up would consist of replacing the spark plugs and cleaning the throttle body of carbon buildup. The reason why that…

Cleaning the Throttle Body

Host: What’s the throttle body?

Robert: The throttle body is the portion, when you step on the gas pedal, it no longer adds gas. Back in the olden days when we had carburetors, when you stepped on the gas pedal, it literally added gas. These days it adds air. And there is a big flap or a metal flap that when you step on that pedal, that flaps turns vertical and allows air to come through depending on how hard you step on the gas.

What happens is carbon or a black soot starts to buildup in there. And it gets on the sensors, it gets on the air control motor, which is the motor that actually controls and stabilizes your car at an idle. And if that carbon builds up too much, it’ll damage those pieces. So it’s a good idea to get that cleaned out.

Host: Sounds like it could lead to a “Check Engine” light situation again.

Robert: That’s how we find it.

Host: Okay. So everything’s related to everything else, it turns out?

Robert: It’s all intertwined, and the vehicle driving down the road is a harmony of many things working together.

Host: So you mentioned spark plugs and the throttle body, is there anything else that’s done during a tune-up that you’d like to tell us about?

Robert: Not really. I mean, those are the two main things other than maybe you’re changing your engine oil. But we really don’t put those two things together. changing the oil and a tune-up. It would be I need my oil changed and a tune-up.

Do Batteries Require Maintenance?

Host: What about car batteries? Do they still require maintenance? Is it necessary to come in and have your car battery checked, or is it, again, just a “Check Engine” light situation where it indicates that it might be…might have a problem, or is it just a matter of watching the calendar?

Robert: Batteries typically last anywhere from four to five years. Now, more wear happens on the battery or the battery gets more abuse living in a colder climate or a hot climate. So if you lived in an area that was constantly 75 degrees, your battery would probably last 9 years, but we don’t live anywhere in those areas. We live in Chico where it’s sometimes 110 degrees.

Host: We just imagine it’s 75.

Robert: And sometimes it freezes at night. So because of that, the standard for our area here in Butte County, Chico, is you’re looking at, you know, four to five years.

Host: Okay.

Robert: And what happens is when we replace them, these cars are so computer controlled these days that it’s not…you don’t just disconnect two cables and you’re done. We put an alternative power source connected up to your car so you don’t lose the computer’s memory. That’s a key component or else you’re going to have drivability issues, it’s going to shift funny. It’ll get back to normal after a little while, after maybe, you know, 20 or 30 miles of driving, but it is a little scary.

Host: So there’s a process to changing the battery?

Robert: There is.

Host: How do you know the battery’s going out?

Robert: One of the key signs is when you go to crank it over in the morning, does it sound a little slower than it used to be? If it does, then that is a telltale sign. Go to an auto repair shop, have it checked out. That way you can get it replaced before it leaves you stuck in a parking lot or stuck at home when you need to get to work.

Slow Cranking Could Mean a Failing Battery or Alternator

Host: But it could also indicate other problems, right? It could be a charging issue, an alternator issue conceivably…

Robert: It could.

Host: …if the battery is still good. Do you see that happening much or is it typically just the battery goes out?

Robert: Usually what I see is that a battery that’s low or weak. And if you imagine a weak battery, a weak battery I like to think of a bucket, a bucket that has a hole halfway through it. So the level is never able to get past 50%. Now the alternator, its purpose is to fill that batter up tippy top, and so it’ll constantly fill it up, fill it up, fill it up, fill it up until it just burns itself out. So when I see that a battery’s been neglected, an alternator’s not too far behind.

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. I like that you mentioned how each car needs to be constantly maintained but it will be different depending on the make and the model. My brother is looking to get some engine repair because he didn’t keep up on the maintenance for his car. I think I will talk to him about keeping up on it to avoid big repairs in the future.

  2. Thanks for this info. I think my transmission is not only unclean but also needs to be repaired. I am now looking up at some auto services to help with it.

  3. Preventive maintenance is better way to keep your vehicle far away from the risk of getting breakdown. You need to do proper maintenance by keeping all the functional part in working condition. It is very much essential to keep your car free from overheat so that you should flush the coolant which is a mixture between water and actual coolant. Change the engine oil every 3,000 miles to 7,500 miles where as change transmission oil every 60,000 miles or recommended by the manufacturer. Do a total tune up your vehicle by doing replacing the spark plugs and cleaning the throttle body of carbon buildup. Instead of doing it yourself take the help of a car mechanic to fixes these issues.

  4. I’ve been looking for a good mechanic to take care of my son’s car, but I think it would be good for him to realize that preventive maintenance is much better than waiting until something breaks. I’m glad you shared the story about the road trip and how you should check things before you go. I think that being able to have my son read this would be good, and hopefully he’ll be more preventive in the future after we get his diff repairs done!

  5. Great content you’ve here. I always plan to take my car for maintenance services but keep procrastinating. I think this is one of my worst habits. I once came to a sudden halt after knocking and rumbling sounds from the engine. I had assumed prior indicative oil smell from the cabin and even the dark and heavy exhaust smoke the previous week. I had to manually look for a mechanic who ripped me off due to my negligent and don’t care behavior. From then I started taking my car for maintenance every month especially after a long mileage, but this did not last any good. This article just gave me a flashback.

  6. I like that you mentioned that all of the inspections and maintenance prevent the need for bigger and more costly repairs. I just bought a used car, and I want to make sure it stays in great shape so I can use it for a long time. Thanks for the information-I’ll be sure to keep in mind that these little things should be done regularly.

  7. The car is a huge investment and needs maintenance at a regular interval in order to maximize its lifespan. Some people ignore the importance of battery and provide a little or no maintenance. Battery plays a key role by providing the required amount of electrical energy to start the engine and needs maintenance at a regular interval. Extreme cold or hot temperature could affect on the battery and needs maintenance at a regular interval. The alternator should be checked at a regular interval and if damaged should be replaced. Before leaving for a long road trip, the car should be properly inspected by a trusted mechanic in order to prevent any types of major damage during the road trip.

  8. Tips given in this article is very helpful and provides us in-depth information about the winter maintenance of the car. I agree with the fact that during winter season tire pressure reduces due to the decrease in the atmospheric temperature. Hence, tire pressure should be inspected on a daily basis and should be properly inflated. Tire tread depth also plays an important role and also needs inspection and if tread depth is lesser than normal, then it should be replaced immediately with winter tire to get better grip.

  9. It was interesting to learn from your article that carbon can build up in your engine, so preventative maintenance is really beneficial. Is this something that can be done at home? Or would you suggest getting it done professionally? I’d like to keep my car’s engine in as good of shape as possible, so I’d be curious to know.

  10. Thanks for discussing the long-term benefits of preventive maintenance. My brother bought a car and it’s now running like how it used to. My dad suggested bringing it to an auto repair shop and shared this article with him.

  11. It’s interesting how you said that a battery will take more wear and tear it if lives in hotter or colder climate. We just moved into an area that has pretty extreme weather because of its classification as a desert. Getting some auto repair done regularly would probably be good for the battery. That way it won’t give out when we least expect it and cause us problems when driving.

  12. I like that you mentioned the price difference in flushing a transmission and replacing one. There is no doubt you can save money with proper maintenance, but it makes it more real when you actually see the numbers. I will be sure and remember to have my cars looked at this month.

  13. I’m glad you mentioned that if the transmission fluid starts to get brown or dark in any way you should get the transmission cleaned. I didn’t know that when the transmission fluid gets like that, that there are little bits of metal or seals that are inside. I will have to make sure that I keep my car transmission fluid clean. Thank you for all the tips!

  14. I had no idea that engine coolant is a 50/50 mixture of water and ethylene glycol. I can see how having your engine maintained with good coolant helps fight against internal rust! My wife is potentially going to buy a Mercedes for work, and we’ll make sure we get good preventive care so our car is running smoothly!

  15. My wife and I are planning a trip soon, so we are looking into getting our car serviced beforehand. I like your point about checking the fluids and coolant before a trip. We’ll be sure to do this soon so that there are no problems on the road.

  16. Thanks for explaining some benefits for preventative maintenance for a car. It’s good to know that you should replace your transmission fluid especially to save a lot of money. It sounds like it could be beneficial to keep track of how many miles you driven so that you are very aware of when you should do your transmission fluid.

  17. I am thinking about taking my vehicle to an auto repair shop. I have a few questions about other points of maintenance including the batteries of a vehicle. It was helpful to read that batteries can last anywhere from four to five years.

  18. It’s great that you mentioned that batteries typically last four to five year, and that more severe climates can shorten that. I recently bought a new car for myself, so I’ll definitely keep these preventative maintenance tips in mind.

  19. I had no idea that you could flush the fluid to prevent needing to replace your radiator. I’ve had problems with past cars’ radiators and to know that it could have all been prevented is a big surprise. This is definitely something that I will start doing so that I can avoid this problem in the future. Thank you so much for explaining this.

  20. Thanks for explaining how engine coolant will eventually lose its ability to work and can cause rust if it’s not regularly flushed. Since this is the case, getting regular maintenance to ensure that all the parts of your vehicle are working and in good condition would be important. In order to get regular vehicle maintenance, it would probably be important to research the local auto shops in your area to find one that has the skills, knowledge, and experience to check your car and make any necessary repairs in order for it to stay in good condition.

  21. That’s good to know batteries last around 5 years that’s pretty efficient. I just got a used car, so I should check the age of my battery to be sure though.

  22. I was very surprised to learn just how much it costs to fix a transmission, with values ranging from 4,000 dollars to even 8,000 dollars! I recently got my son a new car for his birthday, and the car salesman warned me to check on the transmission to see if it needs any repairs or services. I will be sure to make that a top priority, and if it doesn’t need any repairs, I will be replacing the fluid no matter what!

  23. This is some really good information about auto repair. I liked that you explained that you need to maintain a 50/50 split with water and coolant in your car’s engine. That is a good thing for me to know that because I am about to get my first car this summer.

  24. I really like what you said about making sure your vehicle is ready for a long trip when you begin to plan one. My husband and I want to take our kids on a road trip to see my mom and I’m worried that our car isn’t up to the long drive. Thank you for the information about getting the car checked out and topped off on all fluids with an oil change.

  25. I am looking to have my motor repaired after blowing it out, and I want to think ahead for the future as well. I want to take preventative measures for my motor so I don’t have it break on me again. I didn’t know how important it was to flush the engine coolant, and that the coolant inhibits rust. This is something I am going to have to look into sometime.

  26. I never knew that a way to take care of a car’s engine is to flush the engine coolant in order to avoid rust and replace it with a new one in order to not lose its ability to work. My son has two cars and I want to make sure that both are in tip-top shape so that he can glide on the road and keep himself safe. I will have both looked at by an expert mechanic in order to not only extend their lives but also for him to learn more about cars and driving.

  27. Great article, I especially liked what you had to say about the throttle body. I did not realize how it worked. This information will be helpful in finding an auto mechanic.

  28. It’s good to know that preventative maintenance will keep bigger repairs further at bay. My brother-in-law drives a lot for work and needs to keep his car in good working order. I’ll pass this information about the benefits of maintenance along to him.

  29. I thought that it was interesting when you explained that you should be taking your car to a mechanic for check-ups routinely, but especially before a long road trip. I would imagine that taking your car on a long road trip would be straining on the vehicle. In order to ensure that your vehicle will work properly during the entirety of the trip, I would take my car to the mechanic first to be checked.

  30. I like the point Robert made when he said: “the whole purpose of maintaining your vehicle is so that you get those small little maintenance items done so that the bigger repairs are kept farther at bay.” I’ve been wanting to make my car last a long time so I can get the most out of it. Taking my car to a car repair shop sounds like a great idea to make sure the little problems don’t turn into big problems.

  31. I love your auto body tips. My wife and I are wanting to take a long road trip. We’ll have to take the car into the shop to make sure it is ready for the road.

  32. I like that you mentioned any time you’re going to go on a long trip, you wanna know if your vehicle’s ready for that trip. I have been planning a road trip but I forgot about how taxing that can be on your vehicle sometimes. I would love to get my car in for auto repair services to make sure it’s up to the task of a long drive.

  33. It was interesting to learn about if batteries require maintenance. My brother drives a really old car that needs repairs. It could be nice if he could get it repaired by a professional.

  34. I thought that it made sense when you explained that normal vehicle usage will increase wear and tear which makes maintenance necessary. I have been thinking about buying a car but I have been worried that I would end up needing to pay for expensive repairs. I will be sure to consider hiring a professional for routine maintenance in order to avoid major wear and tear and to maintain a well-functioning vehicle.

  35. Thank you for explaining how preventative maintenance can help you avoid big repairs. My wife and I recently bought a car and are looking into the best practices of car ownership. Your information will be really useful as we attempt to increase the life of our vehicle.

  36. hi!,I really like your writing very so much! proportion we be in contact more
    approximately your post on AOL? I require an expert in this house to solve my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Looking forward to hear from you.

  37. It’s good that you point out that regular maintenance on your automobile can keep things from going wrong with it. I just bought a used car, and I am considering taking it to an auto repair shop for a tune-up to keep it running smoothly. I’m going to look for a reputable auto repair shop in Chico, California. Looks like I found Doctor of Motors

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