Budget-friendly tips for car maintenance

Posted at 08/11/2014 3:08 PM | Updated as of 08/12/2014 11:18 AM

MANILA, Philippines - If you own or drive a vehicle, its operating and maintenance expenses can cost you a tidy sum. That’s because we spend a good part of our day on the road, and in traffic-choked cities like Metro Manila, this could mean more driving hours, which translate to higher fuel costs.

While there’s not much you can do about the cost of fuel, there are some ways that you can lower your car operating and maintenance costs.

There are three areas you can focus on: your choice of vehicle, maintenance, and your driving behavior. Taken together, your driving decisions will have a real impact on your motoring related costs.

Here are some practical ways to help you manage your car-related expenses:

Choice of vehicle:

Before getting a vehicle, consider what you are getting this for.

If this will be for personal use, consider your lifestyle so that you can pick the car that is most appropriate for your needs. For instance, if you will largely be using your car for city driving, you have no need for a very powerful engine. If you have a small family, you don’t really need a large truck that could fit many. Familiarize yourself with the different models, paying particular focus on fuel consumption and maintenance costs.

A second hand car?

Buying one can save you a big sum, but if you don’t know what you’re getting, a second hand car with issues may also mean higher maintenance costs. Before getting a second hand car, consult with a mechanic so that you have a good idea of the car’s real state.

Look beyond upfront costs when deciding on a vehicle and consider fuel efficiency.

One of the most basic decisions is the engine type. For this, you will have three choices: gasoline, diesel, or hybrid vehicles (which are not yet commercially available in the Philippines). When making your decision, compare diesel and gasoline prices. Also compare associated maintenance costs – some diesel engines may require more maintenance than gasoline-fed engines, for instance. Also look at the new technologies or gadgets that may have been used to bring down fuel consumption or make it more efficient.

Don’t forego insurance.

Considering the high incidence of road-related incidents, having a comprehensive insurance coverage will definitely help a long way in the event your vehicle is involved in any incident.

Maintenance:

Do preventive maintenance checks.

Regular tune-ups, change oil checks, and check-ups will definitely have an impact on your costs. A dirty engine increases fuel consumption. Start by changing worn out spark plugs and reduce consumption by up to 5%. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve fuel economy by up to 10%. Also look at the oils and additives being used on your car as these can affect fuel efficiency by 1-2%.

Check your tires regularly.

If your tires are under inflated by just 1psi, fuel efficiency can be reduced by up to 3%. Check tires once a week or whenever you fill up. Also make sure your fuel cap is properly screwed on after every fill up. This prevents fuel, and effectively your money, from evaporating.

Don’t carry unnecessary baggage in your car.

Accessories such as roof racks and bicycle racks may look good, but they create a drag and reduce your fuel economy by as much as 5%. For every extra 100 lbs (45kg) you carry in your car, your fuel efficiency can drop by 1-2%.

Driving habits:

Plan your trips.

Make it a habit to know which routes to take and plan your day accordingly. Try to combine small trips so that you would spend less time on the road and consume less fuel. For instance, you can schedule a trip to the mall and a friend’s house if they happen to be in the same vicinity.

Keep windows closed.

Driving with your window open is not only unsafe, but it also slows you down. Because this creates a drag on the vehicle, you end up using more fuel in the process.

Drive smoothly and avoid high speeds.

Don’t drive aggressively. Again, this is unsafe and it also consumes more fuel. Try not to brake or accelerate too hard and keep your steering as even as possible. Remember that the faster you go, the more wind resistance you encounter. This forces your car to consume more fuel just to maintain speed. Industry experts estimate that going faster by 12 kmph can affect fuel economy by up to 23%.

Use higher gears.

Driving slowly in a higher gear burns less fuel. It’s best to change up a gear whenever you can. Avoid over-revving, which also brings up your fuel consumption. Change geasr only when you pull away or when you are accelerating.

Avoid excess idling.

Turn off your engine when you have to wait for more than 10 minutes. Idling wastes fuel and is also very environment unfriendly.

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