Pay Little Now or Pay BIG Later

Earlier, we discussed why finding a good mechanic is like finding gold. Now, we’re going to discuss where the “gold” comes from – not having to pay for expensive repairs with roots in small problems that you overlooked.

I know – most of us have so many balls in the air that it’s impossible to keep track of every one simultaneously. Family, friends, career, errands, bills, worries – they all can be a load on your mind. Unless your car is showing crystal-clear signs of trouble (engine light on, rough starting, lack of acceleration, flat tire(s), etc.), it’s so easy to take its health for granted.

That’s a bad idea.

Small problems – some of them invisible unless you open the hood or look under the car – have an unfortunate habit of getting bigger and bigger until you have to pay attention. (Like small problems everywhere else.)

How do you know where to find these small problems? Here is a list of the most likely ones:

  1. If something bumps into your car (or vice versa), a little bit of paint may scratch off. That tiny patch of uncovered frame will get rusty over time, and, if left untended, that rust could spread throughout the rest of the car, threatening its structural integrity.
  2. Underinflated tires. If your tires don’t have enough air in them, it not only makes your fuel mileage worse (because it makes your tires flatter and slower, akin to dragging your feet on the ground), it also increases the chances of a sudden blowout – and if you’re driving fast when that happens, it can be a disaster.
  3. Fluid levels. Engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, windshield wiping fluid, brake fluid. Read your owner’s manuals to find out the suggested replacement schedule. And speaking of brakes…
  4. Brake pads and rotors. Your brake pads touch the rotors every time you stop your car. Brake pads are made of softer material than the heavier metal of the rotors, making wearing out a certainty. When the brake pads go, the rotors get scratched and worn down, making the brakes weaker and less effective – and you don’t want weak brakes, ever.
  5. Windshield wipers. This may sound like a small thing, but when it starts raining (and even in California, it will happen), worn wipers don’t work as well – and if you can’t see outside your window, you are at risk for a catastrophic accident.
  6. Timing and serpentine belts. These don’t need to be checked until the 40,000 mile mark for most vehicles, but when you get there, don’t forget. If these break, your car not only won’t go, they could cause damage to other parts of the car.
  7. Spark plugs. Worn spark plugs (they need to be replaced every 30,000 miles or so if they are the typical copper kind), can affect fuel mileage, and in the worst-case scenario they can cause a breakdown.
  8. Engine air filter. This filter prevents contaminants from getting to the engine and spark plugs, which can affect gas mileage, acceleration, and emissions. Changing this on time will make your engine – the heart of your car – last much longer.
  9. Next to the engine, the transmission is one of the most expensive items to replace in a car. To keep your transmission healthy, keep its fluid fresh and watch out for overheating, which causes oxidization of the fluid, hardening and breakage of the rubber seals, and burning out of the clutches, which effectively kills the transmission.
  10. Fuel lines. Watch these for leaks. If your fuel lines are leaking, your car can catch on fire – and I can’t think of anything scarier than a burning car.

Now that you know the little seeds that can grow into big, nasty, costly car problems, what will you do now?

A good place to start is We have a long list of mechanics who can be your partners in car maintenance. Our customers rate them, so you can easily decide which one is best for you.

You depend on your car – and your car depends on you. You and your car can depend on for the best care around.

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