5 Tips to a Healthy Car This Spring


NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- On any car owner's to-do list this spring should be a five-point checklist to keep your vehicle running on all cylinders – literally.

Ignore the list, or any other comprehensive plan to keep your vehicle operating in an effective, efficient manner, and you’re risking a big payday – to the guys down at the garage.

That’s not going to help the household financial picture, which is already fraying at the edges in a downbeat economy. According to AAA, one in four Americans could not afford to pay a car repair bill of $2,000, and one in eight would have trouble paying a car repair bill of just $1,000.

Additionally, 25% of U.S. drivers say they have “neglected” maintenance and repairs on their cars and trucks, mainly for budget reasons.

"Economic conditions have taken their toll on many Americans resulting in them neglecting their cars and leaving them at increased risk for very expensive car repair bills," explains Marshall L. Doney, AAA vice president of automotive and financial services. "Many Americans rely on their cars for their livelihood and losing access to them could be financially devastating during an already troubling economic time."

"It's important for drivers to not only continue to maintain their vehicles, but also have a financial emergency plan in place should they be faced with a sudden unexpected auto repair bill," Doney says.

Auto services chain The Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack (Stock Quote: PBY) is out to help, with a five-point checklist of car maintenance tasks that owners just can’t afford to avoid this spring.

Each should be a part of a thorough vehicle inspection that’s especially important come spring, even after unseasonably warm weather like most of the U.S. experienced in early 2012.

Here is what’s on the Pep Boys list:

Check the battery. Make sure you vehicle’s battery has a full charge, and have your battery connections checked for signs of corrosion. A dirty battery can lead to problems with your vehicles ignition system, and could stop your engine from kicking over.

Rotate your tires. Have your tires look at, rotated and inflated, Pep Boys says. Any excessive wear and tear can lead to accidents, so this one is non-negotiable. If you want a safe vehicle, have your tires checked out.

Clean your filters. You may not realize it, but cars “breathe” in their own way, too. A dirty filter and old oil can clog up that breathing process, and can really crimp engine performance. In addition to clean filters and oil, make sure to inspect your car’s in-cabin air filter. Springtime pollen can adversely impact occupants of your car if the air filter isn’t doing its job, but a clean filter means a clean air-conditioning system.

Watch for dull blades. Pep Boys advises changing your wiper blades every six months. Streaking or skipping blades are a safety issue, and springtime is an ideal time to make a switch. Blades aren’t all that expensive (about $25 for a good, reliable set) and they can mean all the difference in avoiding serious accidents.

Feed the fluids. Take a good look at your windshield washer coolant and brake fluids and make sure they’re regularly refilled. Pep Boys advises having the coolant system flushed and restocked with new coolant. If you do this task yourself, refill the coolant system with a 50% mix of both new coolant and water.

Most auto garages will be happy to check all five points as part of a regular oil change and/or tune-up. In most cases, that shouldn’t cost you more than $100 – money well spent in keeping your vehicle in top condition this spring.

Want a car that will last a long time and require little maintenance? Check out our list of 2012’s most dependable cars.

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