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The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Car Maintenance

Besides your house, your car is probably the biggest financial investment you make, so it’s worth looking after. Keeping up with regular maintenance and spotting problems before they start can save you money and extend the life of the car.

Read the Manual
If you’ve just bought a car, or even if you’ve owned it for many years, take an hour or so and read through your car manual. Think of it as your best friend who knows all about your car and can advise you on what to do. It’s also the best place to start when you start hearing something strange in the car.
The manual also gives you a schedule on service maintenance and advices you on things like when to rotate the tires or change the filter etc.
And bookmark your carmaker’s Web site. They often have great tips and you learn more about ways to keep your car in tiptop shape.

Find Someone You Trust
I know for most women, finding a reliable and honest car mechanic is a bit like finding Mr. Right. Once he comes into your life, you want to hang onto him for forever. I used to take my car to the dealership where I bought it. They were great, honest, but then they had a change in management and the service was never the same. My advice is to shop around until you find someone you’re comfortable with, and someone who won’t talk down to you just because you’re female. When you find them, stick with them. You get to know them and they get to know your car. I’ve been taking my car to the same place for seven years and now they remember my car, the make, and year as soon as I call to make an appointment.

Get A Second Opinion
If you can’t find someone you trust and are told your car needs some work, shop around. I know some businesses will try and add more work that’s not really needed or even put another $100 or so on the bill. Get an estimate and then phone around to see what others are charging. And remember companies have to get your permission and signature before they can do any work on your car.

Watch Those Tires
Here’s something I’m really guilty of, not keeping my eye on the pressure in my car tires. Not keeping them properly inflated wastes gas and also wears out the tires more quickly. I recently purchased tire pressure indicator caps that give you a quick color guide. Green the pressure’s okay. Red, it’s time to add some air. I’ll be telling you more about them in an upcoming product review. And when you’re checking your tires, look at the tread. Do they look a little worn? If so, it’s time to shop around for some new ones.

Oil Change
One thing I’m really good about doing is taking the car to the store for an oil change. I make sure once the car has added another 3,000 miles, I immediately make an appointment. The service station where I take my car also gives a free courtesy check of things like belts and hoses, and often throws in a free tire rotation too.

Sites of Interest
Here are a selection of Web sites I’ve found that have some really useful tips

Car Talk
If you ever listen to NPR, you might have caught a show called Car Talk. It’s hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Listeners can call in and ask questions about problems they’re having with their cars. And if you think that sounds boring, it’s not. Tom and Ray present all the information in such an entertaining way, it’s a great way to learn about cars…even for us ladies.

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