Affordable motoring is, in large part, a maintenance issue. The better the maintenance, the less the chance of mechanical and systems failures occurring – which can prove rather costly.

At this time of year the call goes out nationally for people to have their cars checked before tackling roads to holiday destinations. But, says Des Fenner, General Manager of Datsun South Africa, this should not be isolated to holiday periods only, and is something that should be considered all year-round. Owners who regularly maintain their cars will have no need to find extra cash for repairs at one of the most costly times of year.

Keeping a car maintained by following the service schedules in the owner’s manual is one of the most effective ways of making sure that a vehicle is always in top condition. The car that has been regularly maintained will tackle a long holiday road with ease, run smoother and be more reliable than a car that has been neglected for most of the year.

Things to check on your car as part of a regular maintenance schedule should include:

  • Following the manufacturer’s advice on oil and air filters. Often forgotten by drivers who prefer to bypass services, the basics of ignoring the need for new oil and filters could be costly. Oil loses its effectiveness as a lubricant over time. The longer it takes to be replaced, the higher the possibility of the engine’s moving parts not being effectively lubricated, and the higher the chance of engine temperatures rising above recommended operating limits - both events that can result in engine damage.
  • Air, oil and fuel filters prevent debris from entering the engine and causing harm.
  • When it comes to economy, a car with dirty filters uses more fuel as the car is deprived of air to aid fuel combustion. The car will also not run as smoothly and lose some power - something to be avoided on the long holiday road.
  • Keeping the car correctly tuned. Various studies published internationally estimate that a car that is not properly tuned can use between 25% and 33% more fuel on an annual basis than a correctly tuned vehicle. At South African prices, correct tuning can result in savings that could cover the cost of at least one service.
  • Rotating tyres. If this is not included in a dealer’s service schedule, owners should request it. Front tyres always wear faster than rear tyres, as they carry the weight of the engine and are used to turn right or left. Rotating tyres at service time ensures that wear patterns on tyres are also changed. This, in turn, means more even wear across all tyres, tyres that last longer and also deliver a smoother ride.
  • It is also very important that tyre pressures are correct. Getting tyres balanced and aligned once a year, will also pay benefits by making a ride smoother and improving vehicle control and handling.

“What also has to be considered in these tough economic times, is that a well maintained car with a full service history will always attract a higher price when being sold as a pre-owned vehicle. The same applies to trade-in values - the fuller the service history of the car, the more likely that a higher trade in price will be offered by a dealer.”

“If your New Year plans include buying a new or used vehicle, then investigate maintenance costs and repairs as part of your homework. Dealers can advise on the cost and scope of maintenance and services. You could also look to independent surveys like the Kinsey Report which can provide a breakdown of the costs of service and replacement parts.”

“Taking the time to do the research could be the difference between having a car that is affordable and well maintained all year round, or having to cut corners and face large bills just before holiday time,” says Mr Fenner.