There's nothing quite like the nagging feeling that creeps up on car owners when they first notice an issue with their vehicle.
Be it a squeaky belt, a slightly slippery brake, a just off-centered alignment or, of course, the dreaded check engine light, the reaction is nearly universal: "The car is driving just fine, maybe it's just a temporary thing." But even when the problem doesn't subside in a few days, drivers keep a stubborn grip. Most continue to use the vehicle despite being well aware that the longer they ignore the problem the more likely they'll eventually be faced with a costly repair.
With that in mind, the makers of CarMD - a device that plugs into your car then transfers a detailed report of any lingering problems to a personal computer - surveyed their staff of ASE-certified technicians for a list of 10 issues that result in the costliest repairs.
1. Putting off recommended or scheduled maintenance
"When consumers fail to properly maintain their vehicles, the resulting repair costs dwarf the money that could have been budgeted to maintain their car," said Art Jacobsen, vice president of CarMD.com.
2. Ignoring the "check engine" light
The most common reason the light comes on is a faulty oxygen sensor.
3. Not changing the oil, or not having it changed on time
CarMD's technicians said not getting an oil change is by far the single most damaging car maintenance item that their customers neglect. Dirty oil ruins today’s high-tech engines. Most experts still recommend getting an oil change every 3,000 miles, but you may be able to stretch that to as much as 7,500 miles if your car is a 2002 model or newer and depending on your driving conditions.
4. Not checking tire pressure
Some experts suggest checking tire pressure once a month, as under-inflated tires can drastically reduce gas mileage and cause uneven wear on tire tread.
5. Neglecting coolant, brake, transmission and other fluids
Brake fluid, for example, should be changed every 25,000 miles or so, according to the Car Care Council, as it takes on 1 to 2 percent of its body weight in water every year. Excess moisture can result in premature boiling of the fluid, eventually causing brake failure.
6. Continuing to drive when the vehicle is overheating
If you don't monitor your vehicle's engine temperature, the consequences can obviously be severe.
7. Not changing fuel and air filters
A dirty air filter ($20 repair) can result in an oxygen sensor failure ($250 repair), according to CarMD, which can in turn result in substantial gas mileage reduction and eventually result in the need for an expensive catalytic converter replacement ($1,000 repair).
8. Having unqualified shops service your vehicle
Like the use of generic auto parts, using unqualified service centers may save money in the near-term. But it can also significantly raise the risk that your car will need pricey repairs down the line.
9. Using generic aftermarket parts instead of original equipment manufacturer (OEM)-quality parts
This short-term cost-saver could se you up for much more costly repairs..
10. Trying to service your own high-tech vehicle
Cars and their engines are becoming increasingly complicated as mechanical systems are replaced with electrical and computerized ones. If you're a novice trying to save money, consider bringing the car into a shop first to make get a proper diagnosis and, perhaps, pointers on how to make the fix on your own.