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What happens if you skip vehicle maintenance?

We all know it's important to take care of our vehicles. Even with the best of intentions we go beyond the recommended change intervals, ignoring scheduled maintenance. And while you may not notice a change in vehicle performance or see any evidence of engine damage, that doesn't mean a potential problem isn't brewing.

Below are some key maintenance routines not to ignore. Remember, take your vehicle to a qualified service technician if you are unable to perform the work yourself, and for many situations where professional help may be called for:

Suspension and brakes. Squeaking brakes, a low pedal or a bounce in your ride all signal that it's time for some brake or suspension work. This is one area where it's absolutely critical you follow through and make an appointment at your local repair shop. It's not worth jeopardizing your safety.

Oil changes. Oil's job is to lubricate an engine and all of its parts - rods, bearings, pistons. Over time, and the longer you go between oil changes, the more depleted the oil becomes of important additives. Once depleted past a certain point, the oil loses its ability to lubricate your vehicle's engine. An oil filter helps protect your vehicle for the long haul. Filters range from economy models to better-quality versions with 95%-99% efficiency, and there are premium filters that offer up to 16,000 kilometres of protection under normal driving conditions, ideal for motorists who use synthetic motor oil.

Antifreeze/Coolant. Antifreeze/coolant performs three different functions - specifically, it prevents your cooling system from freezing in the winter, boiling in the summer, as well as protecting it from rust and corrosion all year around. (The cooling system consists of many components made from different types of metallic and non-metallic materials, like the radiator, water pump, hoses, fan(s), heater, and thermostat - all kept running efficiently with engine coolant.)

Cooling systems remove excess heat from the engine block and heads, keeping the engine operating at efficient temperatures. If the cooling system fails, multiple engine components can become damaged or fail too. Topping off your cooling system with a good quality coolant could mean the difference between approximately $15 for the jug of antifreeze versus $1,000 or more for a blown head gasket if you are constantly running low.

Spark plugs. Research from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence in the United States shows a misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30%. If you are looking to save money at the pump, changing old, worn or dirty spark plugs and keeping your engine tuned should be a priority.

“Today's already cash-strapped car owners just can't afford to ignore or forget about basic vehicle maintenance,” said Megan Currie, Honeywell Consumer Products Group product manager. “In the long run, $30-$50 for an oil change seems like a pretty small price to pay a few times a year, compared to several thousand for a new engine.”

You can learn more about this topic online at, or

Source: News Canada. Posted Aug. 5, 2009.

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