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Why don't we maintain our cars and what we can do to change that.

Updated on February 20, 2015

We Don't Maintain Our Vehicles

Confidence abounds among the majority of American car owners. An overwhelming nine in ten (90%) assert that most of the time, they do everything they should to properly maintain their vehicles. Yet study after study shows we aren't as conscientious we we thought

The results of vehicle inspections held at community car care events across the country during Car Care Months in April and October 2012 reveal that 77 percent of vehicles need service or parts.

In terms of money, the cost is over 2 billion dollars each year due to neglect (not performing preventive maintenance).

Of all motor vehicle accidents 5.2% can be attributed to mechanical defects due to neglected vehicle maintenance that translates to eleven people injured every hour and one person dies every three hours due to accidents that could have been prevented.

Why Don't We Maintain Our Vehicles?

The three most repeated reasons that owners do not follow recommended scheduled maintenance on the cars are

  1. I can't afford it
  2. I don't have a mechanic I can trust
  3. My cars running fine. Preventive maintenance, means that parts are replaced before any problem is observed, many vehicle owners do not understand why the expense is necessary
  4. Owners do not know at what intervals the maintenance should be done

A Few Examples Of The Cost Of Scheduled Maintenance Vs. The Cost Of Repair

The classic Fram Oil Filter commercial engrained "Pay me now or pay me later" (A lot more later) in our lexicon. It still makes sense.

Fluids, spark plugs, filters, belts & hoses, brakes and your transmission all need routine maintenance. "If you don't maintain your car, you're taking a vehicle that might have been driven for 200,000 miles over its life, and you're knocking it down to maybe 150,000 miles," says Philip Reed, author of "Strategies for Smart Car Buyers" at

Forgoing recommended scheduled maintenance because you can't afford it is very short sided. If you can't afford to maintain your car, to be blunt take the bus. You may save a few dollars today at a great cost later

Oil Changes - Cost of skipping: Potential engine failure. Cost for a lifetime of oil changes would be about $1,125 overall. If you were to go without an oil change during that period, your engine would likely flood with contaminants and eventually seize. The result, an engine replacement that hovers around $4,000. Not to mention the 1%-2% gas mileage improvement

Spark plugs and filters -Cost of skipping: Damaged catalytic converter, failed emissions test, poor performance, engine misfires during acceleration, hard starting and the mother of all undesirables lousy gas mileage. If you drive 12,000 miles per year and lose 1.5 miles per gallon (a 7.5% loss at 20 MPG) it would cost you over $350.00 in additional fuel cost. Replacing a catalytic converter upwards of $800.00

Wheel Alignment – Cost of skipping: fuel efficiency, tire wear,strain on your steering and suspension including the shock absorbers and struts. All told the damages (tires, fuel economy, suspension) from running your vehicle with misaligned wheels for a year could be $369.50 per year or $30.80 per month. `If you had your wheel alignment checked and your wheels properly aligned the savings would more than cover all the costs for all the other scheduled maintenance items for the year vs buying new tires and the extra gas consumed

And last one we never think about - Replacing Timing Belt at recommended intervals - Cost of skipping: Damaged valves and pistons. The death of many older or high mileage cars is nothing other than a failure of the timing belt. With little space between the valves and pistons, a slip or break in the belt can send a piston flying into an open valve. When this happens, it is similar to the engine self-destructing, for many the result, an engine replacement that hovers around $5,000.

I Don't Have A Repair Shop I Trust

I recently read the results of a poll with the question: "Do you trust your mechanic?" And I was surprised to see that 46% of those who responded said no, they don't. If you don't trust your mechanic, why would you bring your car back to him when you car breaks down? The answer may because I don't know where else to take it.

Here are some of the most mentioned methods to find a repair shop that you can build a long term relationship with.

  1. Word of Mouth – ask your friends and family Use their experiences to locate a reputable shop
  2. Use Online reviews like
    – be wary of crowdsourced review sites as more often people will only write reviews when they are unhappy or of sites like Yelp that list some reviews as ”not recommended” and make it difficult for you to see.
  3. Use certificating sites like RepairPal is the #1 website and app for locating a trusted repair shop in your area and verifying you are being charged a fair price for repairs!
  4. Look for a shop that has been around a long time under the same ownership. For example American Auto Air in Reno, NV has been in business since 1976 and has been owed/operated by the same family since the beginning. Shops can not stay in business that long if they don't provide great customer service at a fair price.
  5. What warranties are offered? Look for at least 12 months/12,000 miles and the availability of a nationwide warranty to protect you while you traveling
  6. Take your vehicle in for minor routine maintenance and see how you feel about the people and the shop itself. Test the shop before you need it.
  7. How does the service writer present the mechanic's recommendations for additional services that may be needed? Does he categorize each repair as to how important it is for safety, drivability, further damage, economy and comfort. Allowing you to make an informed decision as to which repairs you want to have done and which can wait
  8. The shop completes the work with fully trained technicians under the supervision of ASE Master Certified Technician Shop Foreman.

Do you have a Partnership to keep your car running longer for less?

Do you have a trusted shop to partner with to keep the cost of driving as low as possible

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My Car's Running Fine

Dave Skaien, a technician with AAA has been quoted as saying "When a motorist drives their car in for service or repairs in Southern California (slightly lower here in Reno), they spend about $450 on the average visit. If they let their car break down, and they get towed into a repair shop, the average visit goes up to about $725, said Dave Skaien, a technician with AAA.

Some things work till they break. Some things get worse over time but don't show anything until its too late. The timing belt is an example of good till done, wheel alignment and brakes are examples of the gradual destruction. By the time you hear the brakes squeal you need serious repairs. By the time you notice uneven wear on your tires from misalignment the damage can not re reversed.

When you do need to go in for service or do decide to do some preventative maintenance, it is critical that you use a full service shop because lots of systems and their components need to be inspected and confirmed that they’re working right. It is your auto mechanic’s responsibility to look for everything that is not up to standard in your car.

What intervals should the maintenance be done

There is a lot of confusion about how often each preventative maintenance item. If you have any doubt check your owners manual and at least here in northern Nevada always use the Severe Service Schedule which always has shorter recommended intervals between fluid changes

The severe Service Schedule applies if any of the following are true:

  • Most trips are less than 10 miles (16 km). This is particularly important when outside temperatures are below freezing.
  • Most trips include extensive idling (such as frequent driving in stop-and-go traffic).
  • The vehicle is frequently driven in dusty areas, or on dirt or gravel roads.
  • The vehicle is frequently used for towing a trailer or using a carrier on top, both of which place extra demands on the engine.

Coolant Flushes and Oil Changes may be the exception to the rule many experts agree that the manufactures may be stretching those intervals to reduce the "published maintenance costs" for their vehicles. For most consumers using the manufactures recommendations will be an improvement and will help keep your car running longer with a lower total cost of ownership.

Learn More About American Auto Air & Repair

American Auto Air & Repair

American Auto Air & Repair has been family owned and operated in Reno since 1976. We are a full service auto repair facility located at 795 E Moana Lane one block west of 395/I-580. From routine maintenance and repairs to complete engine overhauls we do it all. We have ASE Certified Master Technicians to insure that the work recommended and completed on your vehicle is only what is required with quality parts and is done right the first time. Our technicians are more than mechanics – they are highly trained, certified professionals. We supply an estimate, with a full explanation of services to be provided, complete all authorized services and provide a one year warranty on parts and labor. We make sure that your auto repairs will keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.


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