To begin with, it was smooth sailing.
The car was packed, the radio was tuned, the baby was buckled up safe and sound.
Despite this being an unexpected trip, we’d done the right thing and kept the service on our car up to date, so we were all set.
So far, so good.
But as we started climbing the winding mountain pass, the temperature gauge climbed too. And before we’d even made it to the border, the car had packed it in.
It’s Sunday afternoon.
We’re stuck in the back of beyond, sitting in the patchy shade of an old Ghost Gum, shooing flies and flicking black ants away from the baby. Except for the occasional caw of a lone crow in the distance, the silence was heavy in the afternoon heat.
Grieving. Because I was on the way to my dad’s funeral.
And we were stuck there because of a worn radiator hose.
Let’s rewind the story a little, back to our last car service.
Mr Mechanic said we needed to replace the worn radiator hose and clean the cooling system.
Mr Mechanic said: “it’s not urgent, but it does need doing. And that will be an extra $150.”
We took a gamble. We didn’t have any long trips planned, so we figured we could wait until next service. And that was our undoing.
By postponing that $150 expense, we ended up spending $860 on towing, extra accommodation and travel costs that blew our emergency fund.
Moral to the story:
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
13 Essential Regular Car Maintenance Tasks
This inconvenience could have been avoided if we’d listened to Mr Mechanic and had the repairs done when they were due.
Keep your car in tip-top condition and avoid the same mistake we made with these 13 tips (or make sure your mechanic does these things):
- Check tire pressure regularly (monthly or at every fuel fill up).
- Check oil regularly (monthly or more frequently for older cars).
- Check water or coolant levels in the radiator regularly.
- Check windscreen wipers (to make sure they’re not cracked and hardened) and wiper fluid.
- Check automatic transmission and power steering fluid.
- Check battery fluid.
- Give it a regular wash (particularly if you live on the coast as salt build up will cause rust).
- Check that lights and indicators are working properly.
- Check tires for baldness and replace when necessary. Consider wheel alignments if necessary.
- Get your car serviced regularly as recommended by your mechanic or warranty.
- Ensure that the oil and oil filter is changed, that the brakes are checked and that hoses and wiring are checked (and replace the hoses if the mechanic recommends it!)
- When driving keep an eye on the indicator lights, watch the gauges for overheating, oil pressure etc., listen for unusual noises, feel for unusual vibrations or the tendency for the car to wander or steer to one side or abnormal when braking. If you notice any of these things get a service, don’t leave it until something breaks down.
- Apart from regular servicing, take your car to be serviced if it uses more fuel than usual, is difficult to start, runs rough, leaves oil or coolant on the driveway or blows smoke.
Read further: How to use Google Calendar to schedule regular maintenance.
It is well worth the money and effort to keep your car well maintained.
Regular preventative maintenance prolongs the life of mechanical components, decreasing the risk of breakdowns and expensive repairs. Regular maintenance will also help maintain economical running and fuel efficiency.
But most importantly, a well-maintained car will keep you and your family safer on the road.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.