Small car repairs now can prevent big bills later
Published Monday, January 4, 2016 10:18AM EST
There’s nothing more annoying for drivers than a “Service Engine” light going off, or a new rattling sound we can’t explain. But while car repairs are seldom cheap, ignoring those warnings could cost you plenty more.
Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com says many drivers ignore indicator lights telling them they need an oil change. But she says drivers really shouldn’t push off that fix, especially if their car is newer and still under warranty.
“Oftentimes, you might violate your warranty if you don’t do it, so that’s something to think about,” she told CTV’s Canada AM.
Even worse, if you ignore the oil light for too long, the old oil could damage your engine so badly, you need to replace it completely.
“If you don’t get it done, oil and dirt can grind up in your engine and cause your whole engine to seize,” she said.
That repair would end up costing thousands more than the oil change you didn’t bother with.
Another easy fix is replacing windshield wiper blades. Those should be replaced at least twice a year, Thomas said, particularly before winter slush starts hitting your windshield.
“It’s one of the cheapest and easiest maintenance jobs you can do,” she said.
Putting off replacing wiper blades or not keeping the windshield washer fluid topped up could seriously impair your ability to see out the windshield. And if your inability to see the road leads to an accident, you could find yourself paying for that for years.
Many drivers don’t realize that under the highway traffic acts of most provinces, drivers are legally required to have a clear view out their windows. That means all the snow has to be brushed off, and the windshield has to be clear.
Skip those steps and you can find yourself with a ticket for driving with an obstructed view, which would lead to an increase in car insurance premiums.
So Thomas recommends learning how to quickly change your wiper blades and keeping extra ones in your trunk, along with an extra jug of windshield washer fluid.
Winter tires are crucial for Canadian drivers, as is a regular tire rotation at every change. As well, she suggests receiving an annual inspection of your brake pads and replacing them when your mechanic recommends doing so.
Replacing the pads costs only a couple hundred dollars, but putting off the repair could cost hundreds more.
“If you leave those brake pads until you need new rotors and drums, you’re looking at hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” she said.
How often the pads need replacing depends on how – and how much -- you drive. Someone who lives in the city will be braking much more often than someone who drives mostly rural roads and highways, for example.
Thomas says if you get into a collision and police are able to determine your worn-out brakes prevented your from stopping quickly enough, they will likely find you at fault.
An at-fault collision could add about 30 per cent to your car insurance premiums – and perhaps even higher if this is not your first driving ticket.
So Thomas says the bottom line is to take care of small issues early before they become big issues, and pay attention when your vehicle tries to signal to you that it needs maintenance.
“Our cars have lights on the dashboard and they make noises – it’s their way of communicating with us,” she said.