Early in my career, I worked as an automotive technician and as a service adviser.
Both of those jobs were gratifying and helped me to appreciate the vital role that proper maintenance plays in the safety and performance of automobiles.
Unfortunately, many car owners neglect regular auto maintenance, which can negatively affect a vehicle’s safety, performance and trade-in value.
Whether you are buying (or leasing) a new or a pre-owned vehicle, maintenance should be a priority while you own and operate a vehicle.
It’s easy to ignore regular oil changes, brake inspections, tire rotations and tune-ups. But I’ve seen too many instances where motorists have failed to have these services performed and these decisions ended up costing them dearly in the end.
The benefits of regular automotive maintenance are obvious but worth repeating.
First, there is the safety consideration. If you drive with worn out tires, brakes, windshield wipers, headlights/tail lights and/or poor alignment, it poses a serious threat to the safety of the occupants inside your vehicle, and to others. Why take that risk?
Second, fuel economy. It’s a widely known fact that bad spark plugs and fuel injectors can lead to bad gas mileage, and improperly inflated tires can cause tires to wear out 25 per cent faster than tires that are properly inflated. Plus, underinflated tires cause the engine to work harder, which results in poor fuel economy.
Thirdly, the value of a vehicle is determined by the level of care and attention it receives. A well-maintained vehicle will command a higher trade-in (or selling) price than a vehicle that is run down and neglected.
If in doubt about the maintenance requirements on your vehicle, consult your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule.
Auto leasing is a popular ownership option for many Canadians, and all standard auto lease agreements obligate lessees to maintain their vehicles to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications.
Regular maintenance usually includes changing the oil and filter, inspecting the brakes, belts and hoses, maintaining fluid levels and tire rotation.
Ultimately, it’s the lessee’s responsibility to maintain their vehicle. Leasing companies will sometimes forgive normal wear and tear, but if a vehicle has been largely neglected throughout the term of the lease agreement, the dealership has little choice but to charge for the repairs.
One of the realities of maintaining a vehicle (leased or owned) is that there are costs associated with this amenity. But it’s important to know that when vehicles break down due to lack of maintenance or neglect, the costs can be much higher than the cost of performing regular maintenance.
In situations where a new-vehicle limited warranty has expired, car owners can purchase an extended warranty or service plan to protect against unexpected repair costs.
Most automakers offer extended service plans, which can be purchased at new car dealerships either before or after a vehicle has been purchased.
Extended service plans differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Parts and labour coverage on thousands of parts, North American-wide coverage, vehicle rental benefits and 24/7 roadside assistance are some of the services offered on extended service plans.
Consumers should understand the terms of any extended warranty or service contract before purchasing one. With some plans, you will need to pay a deductible for covered repairs, and some plans only cover specific components.
With pre-owned vehicles with low mileage, a vehicle may be covered by the manufacturer’s original limited warranty, which can be transferred to the new owner. In this case, an extended warranty probably would not be necessary.
The bottom line on automotive maintenance is that it’s an important part of vehicle ownership. A vehicle that is in good running condition will operate more safely and more efficiently, and will hold its value in the long run.
This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. Write to [email protected] or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the TADA and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.