It's All About Prevention
It all boils down to common sense, really, and just like when it comes to your own body and health, the best thing to do is to prevent those little things that have the potential to become big (and expensive) issues down the road.
So What Can You Do To Avoid
Expensive Car Repairs?
Well, the list is simple and short, yet effective. And while it may not prevent every single thing from going wrong, it will certainly help you avoid a great number of car problems.
1. Keep your car clean, both inside and out. Yes, this will help you spot visible issues early on and address them immediately. Road grime and salt, for example, can create a lot of issues that can end up costing you time and money. Also, a well-kept car will look better when the time comes to sell it, fetching more money than the alternative, so that in itself should be enough motivation to keep your car washed, vacuumed and waxed on a regular basis.
2. Perform regular maintenance. Change your vehicle's motor oil and oil filter every 4000 to 5000 miles. Whether you do it yourself or have a mechanic or dealer perform the maintenance, make sure all fluid levels are checked and topped off when necessary. Also replace the air cleaner element, or at least have it cleaned, every other oil change. That's an important, easy and affordable DIY project.
3. When finished changing the air filter, take a minute to visually inspect things under the hood. Make sure the belts have enough tension and they look good. Cracks are fairly easy to spot and a sign that the belt should be replaced. That's not a big job, but you may want to have the correct shop manual in order to do to it right. Otherwise, have your local auto shop or dealer take care of that for you. Also make sure the spark plug wires are firmly attached to the plugs, all caps are properly in place, and remove any road debris that might have gotten caught in the engine bay.
4. Check the tires. I do that every time I stop at a gas station, just by walking around my truck. If a tire needs air, that's the time and place to take care of that issue. Keep a good tire air pressure gauge in your glovebox. If the tires look worn, have them replaced. Driving on bald tires is unsafe. If you don't know how to determine when the time has come to replace your tires, go to a tire center and have them check that for you. Those guys are experts and they will gladly do an inspection for you. When you get new tires for your vehicle, make sure they are rotated on a regular basis. I have my truck serviced at the local tire center and they rotate the tires every time I come in for an oil change, so in my case the tires are rotated every 4000 to 5000 miles. Also make sure the tires are balanced so they last for as long as possible.
5. And speaking of tires... make sure your vehicle's alignment is within manufacturer's specs. If, while driving, the car "pulls" to either side, chances are it needs an alignment. Get it done for safety, comfort while driving, and to extend the life of your front tires.
6. Make sure that your windshield wiper blades are working as intended. After a few months, the rubber hardens and debris may damage the blade's edge. This results in an annoying noise every time you turn on the wipers, not to mention that wipers that are not working well will reduce visibility, which is dangerous. On top of that, worn out blades can scratch and damage your windshield. Changing the windshield wiper blades is another easy DIY project, and most auto parts stores will also gladly change them for you, at no extra charge.