Tax time seemed to slip by quickly this year. No wonder, with the country on lockdown during a coronavirus pandemic, there have been other concerns on everyone’s minds. While some people took care of their tax filing duties early, before stay-at-home orders were in effect and the IRS postponed the filing deadline due to COVID-19, others have yet to file. Some will even wait right up to the July 15 extended deadline to reckon with Uncle Sam.
But what do you intend to do with your tax refund this year? Online shopping spree? New jet ski or UTV? The trip to Bermuda that you have been dreaming about is certainly off the table. How about investing in your car?
The serious nature of the current national crisis – and all of the extra time for reflection – have revealed that some things are more important than others. And while new clothes, toys, and vacations are a lot of fun, other investments are vital. Like your car.
Even though your vehicle might be sitting idle in your driveway for the time being, it remains your lifeline – to the grocery store or to the bank. Or in case of emergency. And if you are an employee whose job has been deemed “essential”, you understand full well how valuable your vehicle is to get you to your place of employment. Your car is an essential tool. Keeping it in shape and ready for duty should probably not be thrown into the same non-essential category as an extra pair of earrings, a four-wheeler, or a week on a sandy beach.
Funds from your tax return (or from the “Economic Impact Payments” dished out by the federal government) can go a long way toward taking care of your car. With the average tax refund is estimated by the IRS to be more than $3,000, and stimulus checks could total as much as $2,400 or more, you have an opportunity to invest in your vehicle. And that investment is one that will pay dividends over time. Pay attention to your car and it will pay you back.
Here are some rewards you could receive from your car when you invest in a little care.
Lower Price at the Pump
You are probably familiar with strategies to improve your vehicle’s fuel economy: going easy on the gas pedal, using the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer, and avoiding unnecessary idling for long periods of time. But did you know that keeping your car properly maintained will also help you save on fuel costs?
Take the engine air filter, for instance. It is in place to make sure the air that enters through the intake to mix with the fuel does not contain dirt and debris. When the air filter gets clogged, your engine has a hard time breathing and expends more energy trying to take a breath. More energy translates to more fuel.
Likewise, if your tires are underinflated, increased drag causes your engine to work harder. Not only is it hard on your tires (which causes them to wear out faster), but it is harder on your engine – and your pocketbook.
Another maintenance item that affects fuel economy is the oil. Motor oil breaks down over time – it gets thicker and does not lubricate as it should. It is inevitable. When you go too long between oil changes, the friction inside your engine increases, and, like with your tires, excess friction leads to more energy expended.
Other components – the oxygen sensors in your exhaust system, the mass airflow sensor in your engine’s intake, and the spark plugs – each have an impact on fuel economy when they are not operating properly. When you have your vehicle in for a tune-up (or at least assessed during a 21-point inspection), these and other issues can be noted and resolved.
The EPA suggests that maintenance done on an engine that is out of tune enough to notice could be improved by as much as four percent. And if your engine has a severe problem, getting it fixed could mean up to a forty percent boost in fuel efficiency! That is certainly a reward when compounded over time.
Fewer Repair Bills
“A stitch in time saves nine.” That old expression shares the sentiment that, if you take care of business now, you will avoid more work later. And it applies to your car. Vehicle manufacturers supply a list of items on your vehicle that require routine maintenance to continue working as they should. Your new car, truck, or SUV might be all set to go when you drive it out of the dealership lot, but to keep it that way, you need to keep up with its maintenance. So, your vehicle owner’s manual or service schedule informs you of how frequently you should have the oil changed, the tires rotated, your brakes inspected, and a host of other items. Neglect those maintenance recommendations and you will likely run into the need for repairs instead.
For instance, your engine’s oil and filter need to be replaced every 5,000 miles (the shortest interval listed by a manufacturer) or so. While some manufacturers suggest waiting for 10,000 miles or more – because they use synthetic oil rather than conventional oil – the actual time between oil changes for your car could be much shorter.
If you read the fine print in your service schedule, you will notice an exception for vehicles driven in “special conditions”. What might those be? Stop-and-go traffic, extensive idling or driving under 50 MPH, driving on dirt roads, towing or hauling heavy loads, repeated trips of less than five miles in freezing temperatures. For those “special conditions” (that seem an awful lot like normal conditions, really), you should have your oil changed as frequently as every 3,000 miles. Ignore what many consider to be the lifeblood of your engine and the oil will break down and turn to sludge. When that happens, catastrophic engine damage can occur and cost thousands of dollars in repair or replacement.
Another example is the timing belt that coordinates movement inside your engine. The timing belt ties together and synchronizes the camshafts, valves, and other components to make sure they are all where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. If the belt breaks while the engine is running, in many cases, those components collide with one another, resulting, again, in catastrophic engine damage. Replacing the timing belt when the manufacturer says to do so will help you avoid the need for a new engine later on.
The same principle holds true for other systems:
- your brakes need new brake pads (and possibly rotors)
- your steering and brake systems need fresh fluid now and again
- your automatic transmission needs a fluid change or fluid flush
- your tires need to be rotated regularly so they can wear evenly and last longer.
Even the vehicle body – the paint, the rubber seals, and the undercarriage – all require routine maintenance and care – frequent car washing and occasional professional detailing – otherwise contaminants will cause deterioration and corrosion.
So, pay attention to these maintenance items and you will not need to pay for expensive repairs.
Longer Life For Your Vehicle
Another reward for keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape is longer life. The average price of a new passenger vehicle is approaching forty thousand dollars. That is one of the most significant costs atha a family will incur. Fortunately, vehicles today are often capable of dependable service for 200K miles or more. The longer your car is on the road and running right, the longer you can put off the expense of the next vehicle. You can maximize your investment.
But that does not happen without some effort. Without you making a series of small investments along the way. Maintaining your car on a regular basis and scheduling repairs quickly when something does go wrong is key to keeping your car for as long as possible.
Higher Resale Value
Your car’s value is determined, in part, by how old it is and how many miles it has been driven. But the value is also based on its condition. In fact, a vehicle in poor condition can end up worth half that of a car in excellent condition at the time of sale. Granted, only five percent of cars fall into the “excellent” category (most are “good” or “fair”), but why not be one of the five percent and get the best reward you can?
If you want to save money at the pump, save money on repairs, prolong the life of your car (and put off paying for another one), and preserve its value, put that tax refund to work. Invest in repairs and maintenance and watch your investment pay dividends down the road.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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