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The importance of routine car maintenance

Don't let small car problems turn into costly headaches down the road

Performing routine maintenance can prevent thousands in repair bills.

Yonkers, NY -- A car will usually signal that something isn't right long before it has a major failure, and according to Consumer Reports, that is the time to have it fixed. If early warning signs are ignored, small problems could lead to expensive repairs in the future or even leave you stranded on the side of the road.

As people are keeping their cars longer, maintenance and repairs are becoming a more pressing concern. Nearly half of the respondents to the 2009 Consumer Reports Car Brand Perceptions Survey reported that they have delayed the purchase of a new vehicle.

“Following the recommended maintenance schedule in your vehicle owner's manual is the best way to avert many large problems,” says David Champion, senior director, Consumer Reports Auto Test Center. “But taking immediate action when you hear a noise or feel something wrong can save you thousands of dollars on avoidable repairs.”

Simply putting off a $30 oil change for 11,000 miles or more can be devastating to your car and your wallet. In some cases sludge buildup can lead to failure of the engine, which can cost as much as $6,000 to replace. Similarly, an oil leak caught early can be an inexpensive fix, but ignoring it can lead to a lack of proper engine lubrication and ultimately engine failure.

Timing belt replacement is another routine service that can lead to engine failure. Replacing your car's timing belt on schedule, usually between 60,000 and 100,000 miles, will cost around $600.

Monitoring and repairing other leaks, like transmission fluid, can also save you money. Having your transmission rebuilt can cost $3,000 - as much as 10 times more than repairing the initial leak. Other common fixes that can save car owners cash include:

• Replacing brake pads ($100 to $200). Ignoring squealing brakes can require replacement of the brake rotors, which can cost four times as much.

• Regular tuneups ($300). An engine that is not running properly can overtax the catalytic converter, causing it to fail. Replacement can cost $900.

• Tire rotation (about $20 per rotation - every 6,000 miles). Replacing your tires costs between $250 and $400.

• Repairing windshield cracks (about $60). Over time, chips in the windshield turn into long cracks that require replacement. By repairing a crack, you can save over $350.

Additional information about early automotive fixes is available in the September 2009 issue of Consumer Reports and at

Posted August 5, 2009. .©

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