By Emily Kittle
With cars built more reliably than in the past, routine maintenance isn't always at the forefront of our minds - until a problem arises. But vehicles still need the occasional checkup.
"I always tell everybody that it's cheap insurance to have a qualified mechanic look over your vehicle to catch small problems early before they become more involved, expensive problems," says Bruce McCann, owner of McCann's Service Inc. in Dubuque.
Here are three ways to tune up your car to help avoid tapping out your wallet:
No. 1: Get an oil change every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Even though some manufacturers suggest going as long as 7,500 miles between changes, McCann says that's too long for vehicles dealing with Dubuque's hilly roads and climate changes.
Cost: "You're looking at $25 to $30 for an oil change versus $3,000 and up for an engine change if you end up with engine damage from not changing your oil," he says.
No. 2: Replace your engine's antifreeze and flush the cooling system every 50,000 miles. "Cooling systems get neglected so much," McCann says. "We get a lot in our shop that are really nasty just from neglect, with rust and corrosion in the system."
Cost: Depending on the vehicle, it costs between $80 and $120 to replace your engine's antifreeze and flush the system. When the cooling system hasn't been serviced, repairing a damaged water pump and radiator can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to $600.
No. 3: Change your transmission fluid every 30,000 to 50,000 miles to keep your transmission happy.
Cost: It costs $120 to $150 to change the transmission fluid and filter. Skipping this can eventually require a new transmission, which can cost you anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000.