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Putting aside some money every month to help cover the costs of maintenance is no different than the money you set aside for repairs. Even if you do not have to use it so often, it is good practice to have money set aside in case any maintenance costs suddenly pop up. According to the CAA, you should be spending between $500 and $700 a year to properly maintain your car. Broken down, you may want to put away anywhere from around $42 to $58 per month, or $10 to $15 a week in order to meet this standard. Setting aside a little more than the minimum can also help you be more prepared for any price changes or expensive repairs that arise. In this article we will discuss the typical types of maintenance work you should be getting done on your car, when you should bring your car in for maintenance work, how much you should be spending to maintain your car, and some tips on how you can mitigate these costs.

Use your Owner’s Manual

Check your owner’s manual for any general maintenance tasks that may be specific to your car’s make and model. The manufacturer will list and indicate any specific maintenance needs for your car. The owner’s manual is your guide to your car so do not lose it or disregard what it tells you about maintaining your vehicle. It will also provide a suggested schedule for maintenance check ups and when you should start thinking about replacing certain parts, refill any fluids, or when to get the oil changed.

The importance of visual inspections

Also be sure to give your car regular visual inspections to spot any possible maintenance or repair problems. Check for rust spots, windshield chips or cracks, dents and scrapes, tire tread depth, and that all of your electrical systems, including the lights and turning signals are working properly. Pop the hood of the car to check the cattery and filters and that the engine is working well and that there are no leaks that need to be looked after. If you notice or smell something off then be sure to bring your car in for a check up or inspection with a certified technician.

Maintenance Checklist

  • Oil changes and filters

  • Tire balancing and rotation

  • Wheel alignment

  • Changing brake pads

  • Flushing and changing the transmission fluid

  • Timing belt replacement

  • Replacing the spark plugs

  • Replacing the battery

Oil changes and filters

Your car needs it to be well-oiled in order to keep it running smoothly. Oil lubricates all of your car’s moving parts like the cylinders, gears, pistons, and axles. You should have your oil changed every 6,000 kilometers or so as well as the oil filter. Doing so will add to the longevity of the car by keeping the engine healthy and running smoothly. Oil changes are routine maintenance jobs that generally run between $30 and $90 depending on the quality of

Tire balancing and rotation

Every 5,000 to 7,500 kilometers it is recommended that you also have them properly rotated, and balanced. A good idea is to get this done when you bring your car in for an oil change since they are close enough together. Doing so will extend the life of your tires and improve the handling of your vehicle. Rotating the tires means switching the tires from one position to the other, usually from the back the front and vice versa. By rotating the tires you are evening out the wear on the treads which can help to extend the life of the tires. The cost of rotating and balancing standard sized tires should be about $80 ($20 a tire) depending on local area pricing, provincial sales tax, and the size of the tires.

Wheel alignment

Making sure that your car’s wheels are properly aligned will improve both its handling and the longevity of the tires. You should have your wheels aligned every year, or every 20,000 kilometers, by a certified technician. Anytime you are having tires installed you should have them aligned. You can get them all done at the same time or you can get one set (front and back tires) done at a time if you need to budget the cost. The cost of wheel alignments ranges from $75 to $400 depending on how many tires you are getting aligned.

Changing the brake pads

Brakes are an integral component that ensures you can safely drive your car. When you apply the brakes your brake pads slow down the rotation of your wheels by rubbing against the brake rotors just behind your tires. Every time you press the brakes you are wearing these pads down. You should have your brake pads inspected every 40,000 kilometers to be sure that they are still in good working order. If you are an aggressive breaker then that means your brake pads will wear down much faster than the average driver and you may need to have them replaced more often. There are other indicators that you should also pay attention to when you press the brakes that will signal the need for a change such as a sharp screeching or grinding sound, the steering wheel vibrating or giving you resistance, your warning light coming on, or it is considerably more difficult to come to a full stop. On average a full brake change on a  car will run between $500 and $1000 depending on how many axles are being changed, the make, model, and year of the car as well as the type of brakes. Standard brakes are between $150 and $300 an axle while ceramic brakes can be between $200 and $400 an axle. If you are changing two axles (4 brake pads) then expect the cost will be twice as much.

Flushing and changing the transmission fluid

Your car’s  transmission is a vital part of your car that takes the power generated from the engine to turn the axles and wheels allowing it to shift gears and move. Opinions regarding when you should have your transmission fluid flushed vary. Some argue that you should flush the transmission fluid every year to keep it in working order and to prevent the occurrence of more costly repair issues. While others argue you should do so every few years or every 50,000 to 80,000 kilometers driven for manual transmissions and about every 100,000 kilometers for automatic transmissions. You can get this done at a mechanic’s shop, your dealership or a service center for about $150 to $300 depending on the make, model and year of the car, and of course the type of transmission and fluid used.

Timing belt replacement

The timing belt or chain is what makes sure that the different components of your engine work in synchronization when it is operating. Particularly, the timing belt ensures that the engine’s valves open and close at the right times during each cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes. If a timing belt snaps or breaks the damage to your engine could be catastrophic. Luckily timing belts are durable and only need to be replaced every 5 or 7 years or driving, or every 60,000 to 100,000 kilometers.  It is also one of the more costly maintenance jobs at around $500 to $1000. If you ignore getting your timing belt replaced, it could cost you more than $2000 if there is additional damage.

Replacing the spark plugs

Spark plugs are necessary for your engine’s ignition process, lighting up the fuel which keeps it running. Check your owner’s manual to see when you should be thinking about replacing spark plugs as this varies across makes and models with some suggesting after 30,000 kilometers and others around 70,000 to 80,000 kilometers. Generally spark plugs are not that expensive, however, you will pay anywhere between $50 and $150 to have them replaced, depending on the model and make of your car.

Replacing the battery

Your battery is what starts the car by providing the power for ignition, after which the alternator takes over supplying the power to your electrical system. All batteries diminish in power over time regardless if they are used or not. Usually a car battery will last between 3 and 5 years, after which you should get it replaced with a new one. Although if you see that your lights are dimming or you are having trouble getting the car started, then you should take a look at your battery and maybe get it replaced a little earlier. As mentioned before, you could change your own battery if you want to, but it may be a bit heavy and awkward, especially if you have not done it before. If you are not comfortable with doing this maintenance task you can get your local mechanic to switch up your batter for you at a reasonable cost. Standard car batteries usually cost between $50 to $120 while the more premium batteries will run you anywhere from $90 to $200. If you want to have the battery installed by a professional it can cost anywhere between $120 and $300, depending on the make and model of the car and the battery type.

Hit the road

Regular maintenance is an important part of car ownership and staying on top of it will preserve the value of your vehicle and extend its road life. This article has provided some of the key maintenance concerns that you should be paying attention to but be sure to review your owner’s manual to be aware of any other specific needs your car may have. Remember to visually inspect your car as often as you can to stay on top of any maintenance or repair issues that arise. The sooner that they are dealt with the better as it will save you money and keep you and your car on the road.