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How to save money on vehicle maintenance

By Liana Reiners  March 28, 2017

Buying a vehicle – new or used – is not a decision to be taken lightly. For prospective buyers, one of the major considerations is the purchase price. However, another important factor to consider is how much it will cost you to maintain that vehicle. Here are the steps you can take to keep your vehicle maintenance costs as low as possible, whether you are servicing an old vehicle or a new car that is no longer under warranty.

Research before you buyFirst and foremost, it is important that you do your research before you make a purchase decision. The cheapest vehicles aren’t necessarily the most affordable to maintain. In fact, the added cost of ownership could come as quite an unpleasant surprise.

Fortunately, here in South Africa, there is the annual Kinsey Report on parts pricing, which provides vehicle owners and prospective buyers with a guide to some of the costs involved in servicing and maintaining vehicles. Visit www.kinseyreport.co.za to read or download the full report.

Read the manualThis is an important step in getting to know your vehicle. The manual contains valuable information on the maintenance schedule and stipulates which service parts need to be replaced when. Armed with this knowledge you will not only be able to ensure that your vehicle is maintained properly but also that no unnecessary work is done on it. Remember that servicing your car regularly is in itself a cost saver as a poorly maintained vehicle could result in costly repairs further down the line.

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the manufacturer will have guidelines on when it will need to undergo a minor or major service. There is a significant difference between the two, as detailed in the handbook.

Minor service
The word minor doesn’t imply that it is of less importance, only that the actual service will not take too long to complete. The goal is to prevent unnecessary wear and tear and damage or failure to the vehicle’s parts. Minor services need to be done more frequently than major services and while they can vary between different makes and models, the following will be done:

  • Oil and oil filter will be changed
  • Brake, clutch and power steering fluid, coolant, filters, belts and hoses will be checked and topped up or replaced if necessary
  • Brakes will be checked and serviced if necessary
  • Tyres will be checked and rotated as per manufacturer recommendations

Major service
As the name implies, a major service is more thorough than a minor service. In addition to the items mentioned for a minor service, the following will be inspected and/or replaced:

  • Spark plugs
  • Cambelt
  • Ignition, fuel injection, the exhaust system, emission control and the transmission

Do preventative maintenanceWith very little effort you can identify and address small problems with your vehicle before they become major issues which could be expensive to fix. You should do regular vehicle inspections to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape.

  • Pay attention to warning lights, which could be an indication of a serious and costly problem.
  • Check the tyres (including the spare) regularly and ensure that the tread depth complies with legal requirements.
  • Be aware of irregular wearing of tyres which could mean that the vehicle’s wheels need to be balanced.
  • Checked the battery regularly to ensure that the clamps and terminals are clean.

Do some things yourselfApart from the points mentioned above, there are certain aspects of your vehicle’s service that you can handle yourself, particularly if the vehicle isn’t new.

Even with very little skill you should, at the very least, be able to check and top up fluids. More skilled owners could even replace fuel and air filters, brake pads and oil. There are plenty of DIY tutorials on the internet and once you have the hang of it, you’ll be surprised how easy it is and how much money you save.

It might even be worth your while to attend a short course on basic vehicle knowledge and maintenance, as presented by the AA. Visit the AA for additional information.

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Find a reputable and trustworthy workshopWhen the time comes to take your vehicle for a professional service, avoid being taken for a ride and find a reputable workshop or a trustworthy mechanic who is familiar with your brand and make of vehicle.
If you own a new vehicle you will have it serviced and maintained through a dealership, but you are under no obligation to use the same dealership you bought it from. To find a reputable dealership, check online for customer complaints and compliments, or get recommendations from family members and acquaintances.

For older vehicles, the choice becomes much wider. You could still use a dealership, but there are also plenty of nationwide chains that offer great service. And don’t forget to check with private workshops and mechanics in your area.

It would be wise to have your vehicle serviced by someone who is accredited by the Retail Motor Industry (RMI), as this will give you recourse in the event of a complaint. Visit www.rmi.org.za for a full list of accredited members.

Remember that prices differ, not only in terms of parts but labour too, so get quotes from a few establishments before you book a service.

Once you have found a workshop or mechanic you are comfortable with, stick to that place or person for maintenance work to your vehicle. This way they will get to know you and your vehicle and you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you are dealing with someone you can trust.

In conclusionAt the end of the day it’s a case of fortune favouring the informed. If you know your vehicle, are aware of the manufacturer’s specifications in terms of the servicing and maintenance and don’t skip any of the prescribed services, you should enjoy many hassle-free kilometres and it needn’t cost you an arm or a leg.

Sources: The Kinsey Report, The AA, RMI

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.

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