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Gearheads Feedback: Owners' Most Common Maintenance Mistakes

hiwaysanityhiwaysanity Member Posts: 216
Rotors need replacement at 25k? Engine sludged? Clutch trashed? What are the most common mistakes car owners make that costs them money? What can we do to prolong our vehicle's life, and reduce outrmaintenance cost?


  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    Back in 1992, I bought a very used 1968 Dart 270, with about 253,000 miles on it. Ran beautifully though, as the 318 had just been rebuilt about 10,000 miles before, and the tranny and rear-end had been replaced with used (but not 253K-mile used) components. Mechanically, the only thing wrong with the car was the power steering pump. Basically, the only "power" that thing's steering had was what my triceps put into it!

    That fall, I had the pump sealed, so it would hold the fluid. It worked, but never quite right. Finally, in early '95, it let go again, and sprayed its fluid all over the place...most of it ending up on the exhaust manifold so it would smoke and make a mess. I figured oh well, I drove it without power steering before, so I can do it again. I was pretty broke at the time, and didn't have the money to spend on a "luxury" like that ;-)

    Well, finally, about 3 years and close to 50,000 miles later (somewhere around the 337K mark), I decided to take the plunge and have the pump fixed. Unfortunately, it was too far gone, and by this time, the steering box was shot, as well. Ended up costing me about $300.00 to have them both replaced, with used parts. I have a feeling that if I had just gotten it fixed, 3 years earlier, it would've been a lot less expensive!

    On a similar note, a I used to work with had the same car-buying habits as, old boats. Only his tastes ran a bit more luxurious, like early 80's Fleetwoods and Continentals. Well, he gave the Fleetwood to his son when he got the Continental. The power steering pump went out, and the kid decided he'd just drive it without the power assist, because it was "cool", or he was "man enough", or something like that. Well, that car became undriveable within a few months or so...the whole steering was basically shot. Guess they don't build 'em like they used to.

    So let this be a lesson to everyone out there. If you want non-power steering, get a car without it. If your power assist fails, by all means get it fixed, or you'll end up with worse repairs down the road!
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    I think if you were to randomly pick a parking lot and check the tire pressures only about 10% would have the correct pressures. This resulta in premature tire wear and erratic or dangerous handling, not to mention tire overheat and blowouts.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    ...they re-paved the parking lot at the plaza where I worked when I delivered pizzas. I think every single parking spot has an oil slick in it by now. It's incredible to think that our cars are leaking that much oil and other fluids!
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    Young gear heads always buy those Z rated gumballs at $400 each and run them down to the cords 9,000 miles later, or smoke them off if they have the horsepower.

    Even better is when you spend so much money on the tires that you don't have enough to get the car aligned before you put them on.

    Ask me how I know all this..
  • Here are few more to add to the list:

    1. Not changing the oil and oil filter regularly
    2. Running the brake pads down to metal
    3. Failing to replace the timing belt on schedule (VERY expensive on interference engines)
    4. Putting the wrong fluids in the wrongs places (i.e. auto transmission fluid in the crank case)
    5. Placing the vehicle in Drive or engaging first gear while still rolling backwards (more of a driving habit than maintenance mistake, but still worth noting)
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    1. Change the oil. It is the cheapest insurance you can get for longevity.
    2. Change the antifreeze REGULARLY. Two gallons of antifreeze will run less than $12. Call your mechanic and ask what a radiator or freeze plug replacement costs.
    3. When you hear the brakes squeal, FIX THEM. The alternatives are; High dollar repair, or running over someone when the failure is complete.

    There was a situation in Austin, Tx where a young mother with two kids brought her car to an independent shop to have a noise checked. The owner came out and told her that the brake pads had worn too far down and had damaged the rotors. When given the estimate, the lady sighed and said she couldn't afford it as times were lean, just put it back as best you can and she would pay for the cost of the estimate. The men in the shop got together and gave her some money to go buy the kids an ice cream, then fixed the brakes on her car so she and her family would be safe. No charge, just goodwill.

    In today's rush-about me first world it is refreshing to know that there are still caring folks out there who put kindness and generosity on a higher plane than profit.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    If you change the timing belt (assuming you have one) change the accessory belts as well as teh labor is a one time deal and you are paying for parts only on the belts, accessory belts have to be removed to get to timing belt.
    Consider water pump on transverse engines with timing belt if engine over 100,000 miles, again saves labor cost as they are in the same area and belts have to come off anyway

    Also, if you have the hoses changed at say 4 years (in schedule with a coolant change) or so do the thermostat as well, a $10 part and can cause problems.

    Keep air pressure in tires at 2-3 psi below max, ie: if 35 max use 32-33psi if 44 max use 40-42 psi. Tires wear longer and do not wear out on ourtside treads. Most cars are kept at 7-8 psi under max or 26-28 for a 35psi max.
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    In the 80s I had a pickup that I purchased new. I would take it into the dealer every year for a complete maintenence check. At 100,000 miles the transmission went. After the overhaul I asked the dealer about what he did and he said, well the maintenence schedule said check, and it looked fine then. Well, 5,000 miles later it was dark red and filled with shavings.
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    1. Power Steering. After a pump burned out, (it took 4 repairs to get a good one on) I change the power steering fluid every 60,000 miles, or if it starts to smell burnt.

    2. Transmission fluid. Every 15K for automatic and 30K for manual. Problems on 2 trannies quieted down by adding Lubegard when the fluids changed.

    3. Radiator care: I change yearly, (costs $35-$50)and every 3 I have a specialty shop remove and clean the inside of the radiator and inside the engine. They of course also check the hoses annually. When young I lost a car because of a major radiator leak. Thank goodness it only cost $500.00 to buy.

    4. Brake Fluid: Every 30,000 miles. Good time to have the whole braking system checked to avoid future problems.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    On V-Belt cars over tightening them, causing premature bearing failure on water pumps, P/S pumps, alternators.

    On serpentine cars, not changing them at proper intervals, a snapped belt kills all belt driven accessories, including the water pump. Then trying to limp the car home over heats the engine and warps out the aluminium heads. Now that's a big buck fix!
  • rcarbonircarboni Member Posts: 290
    1. Stop listening/watching TV commercials about oil and automotive products (especially additives!)

    2. Pop the hood and look things over at least once a month. Look for anything rubber with a crack in it. Replace the bad or have them replaced. Likewise, look for any loose wiring or connections. Use wire ties to secure anything flopping around.

    3. Monitor your MPG! Nothing tells more about the internal workings of your engine. If you make the same trip day after day and you see your mileage going down, find out why.

    4. Watch the tailpipe. Modern cars don't smoke - at all. Don't confuse condensation (when it's cold outside) for smoke.

    5. If you feel ambitious, pull the plugs every 6 months or so. Your plugs tell the whole story inside the engine.

    6. Change the air filter regularly. Changing the air filter is much more important than changing the oil, based of course on the quality of oil you use - SO...

    7. Don't use cheap oil! Don't think you're getting a bargain with "Joe's Quality Oil" at .75 a quart. There is a difference. If you do use cheap oil, change it at 1000 miles or less. Now you see why it's not such a bargain? Personally, I don't know why anyone uses petroleum-based oils anymore (vs. synthetics), but that's another topic's argument.

    8. Don't use a cheap oil filter. Same scenario as 7.

    9. If you really want to keep abreast of your engine, have the oil analysed once a year. You should do it at each change, but if you're using Joe's oil, then that could get expensive! ;)
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Good points. Thanks. But I am surprised by the way coolant hoses hold up on some cars. For many years the rate of deterioration of radiator and heater hoses clearly justified replacement after about three years. In recent years, however, many 6+ year-old hoses on some cars (I've noticed Hondas and Mazdas) seem to be in excellent condition. Am I mistaken? Could the Honda & Toyota concept of using the thermostat to regulate inflow of coolant to the engine rather than regulating outflow of the hot coolant be a factor in hose life?
  • moparmadmoparmad Member Posts: 197
    But I think the worst thing the average joe can do for his vehicle is listen to his buddy's about how to take care of it.
  • bushonebushone Member Posts: 39
    Thanks man, I needed a good laugh! Now help me clean the coffee off my keyboard! :):)
  • moparmadmoparmad Member Posts: 197
    Here you can use my heavy duty,426 Hemi powered shop it won't hurt your keyboard. I think you can just put the keys back and tap them in,hey now you can put them in alphebetical order so you know where they are.
This discussion has been closed.