When we covered the ways you can save serious money on car repair, more than a few people pointed out that preventive maintenance is probably one of the biggest ways you can save money—not actively, but in the long term. Spending a little money now on these basics will save you from more costly repairs later on:
Do your own inspection. It’s basic, but give your car a once-over periodically so you catch anything that looks out of the ordinary. Make sure all your lights are working. Check the air pressure in your tires every month or so (and buy a cheap tire air pressure gauge and keep it in the glove compartment). Doing so is good for your tires, gets you better mileage, and saves you money in gas if you discover that the pressure is off. Listen for any strange sounds, inside and out. Make sure your tires have enough tread. You can use a penny to do it, or look out for the wear indicators on the tire treads. If anything’s out of the ordinary, don’t ignore it.
Learn to check your fluids. Even if you don’t ever learn how to change your antifreeze, power steering, coolant, or even your wiper fluid (although seriously, don’t let someone charge you to change wiper fluid), you should learn how to check those fluid levels. In some cases, you can see the tank level directly, but most have gauges or dipsticks you can pull out to check current levels against a notch that indicates optimal levels. Even if your owner’s manual doesn’t have much to say about checking your transmission fluid or antifreeze, don’t be afraid to open the hood and see if you can find it. If you’re running low, add more (if you can) or get it changed. Most importantly, never ignore a leak.