These are not a few of my favorite things! It seems whenever I write about a topic I end up living it out in real life (except for that lottery story… ). No sooner had I learned what a maypop was and written this for the Pocono Record when my husband Bill informed me that I had not just two maypops on my Chevy but four. And how could I argue about putting off the purchase after that?
Three Gifts that Save You Money
Although a necessity in our suburban corner of the world, cars also have a tendency to be a drain on our finances. In the spirit of holiday gift giving, here are three gifts you can give your vehicle that will save you money, and some you can skip. A big thank you to the car enthusiast guys in my family who gave me these ideas- Josh, Andy, Bill, and of course my most trusted advisor, my dad.
Maintain and Gain
My dad always told me the best way to keep your car in good working condition is to not skimp on regular maintenance: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The guys agree. Josh, a technician for Ray Price Honda, suggests regular wheel alignments for keeping your tires in shape, getting better gas mileage, and keeping other parts of your car from being damaged by the pressure of misalignment. You will also preserve your tire warranty with regular alignments. Rotate your tires regularly as well for better wear and safety.
Bill changes the oil in our cars like clockwork, because he says the oil is the lubricant between moving parts in your engine, which breaks down over time and becomes contaminated. Changing the oil on a regular basis keeps that protection at its best. Even though it costs money to buy the oil and oil filter, in the end your engine will last longer and perform more efficiently. You’ll want to follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual as far as frequency and whether to use regular oil or synthetic.
Andy, an Air Force vehicle maintenance specialist, recommends keeping an eye out for “maypops.” You don’t want to drive on maypops- bald tires, that may pop (I had no idea what they were either). Riding around on bald tires may allow you to prolong the financial pain of buying new ones, but there’s a good chance you’ll have a blow out or a wreck, which will naturally cost more than the new tires- and you’ll need to get those new tires now anyway.
Keep an ear out too for noisy brakes. If you change your brake pads according to the maintenance schedule you should not ever hear that awful metal scraping noise. But if you do, Andy says not to turn up the radio, have it checked out before more damage is done. Getting those pads changed on schedule will save you money on other parts like rotors and drums.
Your Mileage May Vary
Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage, something we’re all interested in these days. According to fueleconomy.gov, you lose .3% miles per gallon for every one pound of PSI your tires are low. Another tip from Dad: aside from hurting your gas mileage, underinflated tires lead to tire failure and accidents, all which cost money and lives. Checking your air pressure doesn’t take long but has a big payback.
In older cars with carburetors, replacing your air filter provides an increase in gas mileage; newer cars will enjoy better acceleration but not better mileage. And again, proper wheel alignment will help too.
Is the dreaded “check engine” light on in your car? No one likes to go in for a repair when the car appears to be working fine, but the underlying problem causing the light to come on could also be reducing your mileage by 40%.
I have a bad habit of leaving too much stuff in my trunk, especially the boxes of cat litter I’m too tired to carry in at the end of a grocery shopping trip. But keeping excess weight in your car is a drag on your mileage too. Lighten your load and lighten your gasoline use.
The way you drive has an impact on your gas mileage as well. Sudden stops and starts reduce your mileage, so smooth sailing is the way to go. Fueleconomy.gov says that every 5 miles per hour you drive over 60 is like paying an additional 24 cents a gallon. That can add up quick!
Cleanliness, next to Godliness
Who knew that cleaning your car could actually save you money? Washing your car regularly helps preserve your paint job and allows you to see scratches and take care of them before they develop rust. While you’re at it, vacuuming the inside can keep your interior in good shape for your enjoyment as well as better resale value later.
If you can’t garage your car, whether because you don’t have one or your garage is otherwise occupied, investing in a good cover can preserve your finish as well as protect it from hail damage, things that not only matter now but at resale. When it does come time to sell, little things like new floor mats go a long way.
Don’t Waste Your Money on These
Unless your particular car requires premium gas, using higher octane fuel won’t improve your performance; it will only drain your wallet faster. On the other hand, if your car does require premium, don’t skimp to buy the regular. It may cause serious damage. Switching back and forth between grades can cause problems as well.
Quick Fixes and Home Remedies
Duct tape and wire hangers will only get you so far. If you’re going to use temporary fixes until you can get to the garage, make sure they are safe and won’t cause more damage. Get it on good authority that something like cracking an egg in your radiator won’t make things worse before actually trying it.
Don’t waste your money on so-called gas saving gadgets and additives, or nitrogen in your tires either. If they sound too good to be true… well, you know the rest.