A focus on car maintenance is key to a healthy vehicle. Keeping our car going for as long as possible is often likely to save us the most money. So how can we maintain our car most efficiently, while still being safe and legal? There are three main avenues that we’ll delve into.
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Try Independent Dealers
Some assume that the standard of service for the car will be higher at main dealers. While there are some truly excellent main dealers around, why not try an independent dealer? We may pay less for the name and the fancy showroom tea and coffee that I’ve never seen anyone drink. Our money instead goes towards keeping our car safe on the road. As it should be. There are too many cases where we pay for the name rather than the product. One of the main money saving rules is to focus on what service we are actually getting. It will pay if we concentrate on this, rather than who the service is coming from (within reason).
I serviced my Focus at the main dealer when I first bought it as I didn’t know any better. We naturally trust the bigger brands and rest assured that our car is being taken care of. However, I started to notice that some (admittedly minor) jobs were being missed. I had used independent garages before when I had my old BMW 320i. I have actually found some independent dealers to be more knowledgeable. This is especially true if we are lucky enough to find an independent dealer who specialises in the car that we have. This is certainly worth an internet search and could save us a lot of money and peace of mind. I would argue that both can be equally important.
Another advantage is that we often have more influence over what jobs we want done (and not done) on the car. There were a number of occasions for me where working car parts had been replaced at main dealers, even when they were far from life-expired. Nobody is suggesting that we only replace parts when they’re about to fail, as this is unwise and unsafe. However, replacing parts prematurely can be expensive and wasteful. Servicing the car at independent garages can give us the choice to select what parts actually go on. This has saved me a great deal of money. In any case, there will always be tea and biscuits when I get home. I personally use a great garage near where I live in North West London, and can’t recommend them highly enough, especially for MOTs. And cups of tea!
Get The Parts
If and when we find out what work the car really needs, we can save even more money by getting the parts ourselves. If we pay for the parts and labour from a garage, how do we know they will get the best deal? Note, I use the phrase ‘getting the best deal’ not ‘buying the cheapest parts’. We don’t always want the cheapest parts either, because they may be faulty or lower quality, and therefore need replacing more often. I’ve found this out the hard way.
There are plenty of stores that will sell parts for cars. They aren’t unnecessarily cheap for a given reason. I know a few car mechanics who buy the parts from these stores and then add them onto the service. This is convenient, but not always the best value. A little bit of homework, plus a short internet search could save us plenty. This is a good return on investment that I would encourage more of us to get involved in. There are even applications that can help out with this, for those of us who are a bit more ‘down with the kids’. Which I’m very much am. I think.
Getting parts ourselves means we have more control over what goes on to our motor. In future I may provide links to some of the sites and brands of parts that I use so stay tuned for further updates. I’m helpful like that. Or at least I will be. Good to have a plan in any case. I personally always insist on buying parts myself, as this gives me more control. I like control. Almost as much as I like to focus on car maintenance, if not as much as I like tea and biscuits.
A slight caveat needs to be mentioned. If the car has a problem, unless we are sure what the problem is, it’s probably best to take the car to a garage and let them diagnose. I’ve seen so much money wasted by people who thought they knew the cause of a problem, bought the parts, directed the garage as such, and then the problem turned out to be something else. Obviously, it’s good to take initiative and if you’re sure about what to tackle, then go ahead. But, as with most of these things, proceed with caution.
If we want to earn even more service points, why not have a go at changing the parts ourselves? It’s our vehicle after all. All we really need to remember that the last item removed should be the first one put back on. I change my own spark plugs, gaskets and filters. I only don’t do the oil change because I don’t have a jack (that I trust). A main dealer once asked me for £120 to change a gasket on the top of the engine. This was to address a slow oil leak. I bought the gasket for £10 and did the job myself within 40 minutes. The leak has not returned since. Nowadays, I will personally change anything on a car that doesn’t require me to get underneath it. Not always easy, but very satisfying.
If we are patient (and can hold a screwdriver), it may be surprising just how much we can do ourselves. A lot of the jobs we may need to do don’t require that many tools or skills. For my engine, a spark plug change needs one tool. It’s the same story for the air filter or engine coolant. Changing the HT leads requires no tools at all! Grab those biscuits and some tea, watch the odd online video and then crack on. Start with the simple jobs (air filter for example), and then work from there. Have confidence in our abilities. It won’t hurt to have the phone number of the local mechanic handy, just in case.
One piece of equipment that helped me with my DIY is a diagnostic reader. It’s a little device that plugs into the car’s dashboard and tell us what’s wrong with it. This is key for ensuring that no extra expensive work is done without permission or discussion. The reader costs a few quid, and can be teamed up with various mobile phone applications, so can be easily understood. Even by me. Sort of.
Hopefully that has helped us keep a focus on maintenance for the long term health of the car. Now that we’re maintaining the car in a more efficient way, expanding that efficiency into our driving style will also pay dividends. Don’t forget that you can always get in touch for free advice. And if you’re struggling to find a car, stop struggling and let us do the hard work for you. Thanks for reading!