While living in the SF Bay Area my husband Willie ran a multi-million dollar automotive repair shop. He has more than twenty years of experience with auto repair and intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of the business.
During the time he was a Service Advisor he came to discover that many people were misguided, largely by the media and advertising, on how to care for their vehicles. Many of us do not know a lot about our vehicles and how they work. This causes us to rely on the professionals to tell us what we need to do. However, sometimes these professionals have their own best interest at heart and not ours!
Daily Willie dealt with customers who believed that they needed to change their oil every 3,000 miles or every 3 months. What does your vehicle’s manual say? (Don’t have a manual for your vehicle-buy one! It will be an invaluable reference in saving you money over time!) Likely your owner’s manual suggests changing your oil every 5.000 to 7,000 miles and has no reference to time. What should the time matter? Your car knows how far it has gone, how much it has been driven, but does it function differently if it has not gone for a couple weeks?
Think about the “every 3 month” rule for a minute. Why every 3 months if you do not drive much? Could it be that the trusted professional auto mechanics want your money on a regular basis, not because you need “fresh” oil? Think about that for a minute…
Willie would often tell stories of how he used to have these cute elderly ladies come into the shop and demand an oil change because it had been three months since their last one. They would check and usually find that while it had been three months time since their last change, they had only driven 500 miles! The ads on TV for the quick-change places had convinced them that they needed to change that oil every 3 months or 3,000 miles or something bad was going to happen to their cars.
Willie also advises that you should never have to pay more than $25 for an oil change. (More frugal would be to change it yourself, but if you need it done for you know what it should cost.) Watch for coupons in the newspaper and make sure you have used the mileage necessary to need that change.
Another common misconception is that you need to change your air filter with every oil change. For most cars and trucks the owner’s manual suggested mileage interval is every 30,000 miles. The first thing the trusted, professional, quick oil change places try to add on to your bill is a new air filter. Why is that? Because they charge you twice what the filter would cost at the local Wal-Mart and convince you that you need 9 more of them in 30,000 miles than you actually do!
Many of the national tire chain stores offer free brake inspections. Call your local shops and find one that does. Make an appointment and take you vehicle in for a break inspection and ask that when they put your tires back on that they rotate them for you. This free appointment provides you with security of knowing your breaks are safe and also gives you a free tire rotation in the process! I suggest doing this every 5,000 miles or so to both check-up on your breaks and to make your tires last longer on your vehicle.
Willie advises that everyone get to know at least a tiny bit about your vehicle and that you learn what the reasonable costs should be to fix and maintain your vehicle. Also, always think about the motivation of someone who is selling you something. Do they have your best interests at heart or their own?