Golden Rule: preventative maintenance ALWAYS costs less than repairs.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a problem. I own free and clear a 1988 Nissan Sentra that has 80,000 miles on it, and I've never done anything to it except replace its four tires, keep it oiled and lubed, and put gas in it. I just paid it off, so I want to finally do some preventive maintenance with what used to be my monthly payment money. But my husband gave me a big, loud "NOT!" He reasons that since nothing is wrong with it, we shouldn't speculate on what may go wrong in the future. Should we just save our money and fix things as they break?

TOM: Gee, Kris, it's tough living with a world class cheap skate, isn't it? My wife has the same problem. But what your husband doesn't understand is that you can actually SAVE money by spending money on preventive maintenance. Skipping regular maintenance is one of the things we discuss in our new pamphlet, "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining your Car Without Even Knowing It" (by the way, if you don't have a copy yet, you can get one by sending $3 to.... ).

RAY: Here are a few examples of how this works. If you're driving with brake pads that are worn down to a gnat's eyelash, you can easily ruin the discs. The maintenance cost of new brake pads is about $100. The repair cost of brake pads AND new discs is twice that or more.

TOM: Here's another example. If you have a small tear in one of your Constant Velocity (CV) boots, the grease could leak out and ruin the CV joint inside. The maintenance cost of replacing a torn boot is only about $80. Replacing the whole CV joint after the torn boot ruins it will cost you $300-$400.

RAY: And think about this one. Your timing belt is supposed to be replaced at 60,000 miles, for a cost of about $150. If you don't replace it and it breaks, you'll bend the valves and maybe even ruin the cylinder head, which could cost you $1,000 to fix.

TOM: You get the point? Maintenance costs money, but it can save a lot more money down the road. So at the very least, I'd have the timing belt changed. And if it were my car...

RAY: He'd get rid of it first chance he gets.

TOM: Well sure. But if I were Kris, and I wanted to keep this car for a few more years, I'd have a mechanic check out the whole car as if I were buying it. Have him fix anything that could lead to further damage.

RAY: And next time, Kris, get started on the preventive maintenance before 80,000 miles. What you're doing is kind of like starting to brush your teeth at age 60!

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