Don’t Get Optional Stuff During Maintenance (43/365)

Whenever I get an oil change at one of those typical oil change places (think JiffyLube or something similar), I’m inundated by requests for tons of optional things. They say things like “you need a new air filter” or “you need a sealant on your windshield” or “you need transmission fluid” and they try very hard to make it sound like it’s a desperate crisis.

Every time I’m there, I overhear people falling for these tactics. They buy some overpriced transmission fluid or a completely unnecessary air filter.

Why do these sales tactics work? They work on people who have no idea what their car maintenance schedule actually looks like. They work on people who have no real idea what’s going into their cars. Instead of having to spend thirty seconds reading the manual every once in a while and noting what you’re putting in there and what you should be doing at each mileage level, they just throw money at their oil change place to give them some peace of mind.

Don't Get Optional Stuff During Maintenance (43/365)

I’m not suggesting that you start doing all of your own maintenance, though it is far cheaper to do all of these things yourself and there’s also the reward of having a much greater understanding of how your car works. The drawback here is time – many people don’t want to spend a significant portion of a Saturday once every few months to do the maintenance on their car when they could just stop at the quick oil change place after work.

Instead, just spend the time you’re waiting on that oil change understanding what’s going into your car and what you need at the next oil change.

What do you do? When you get your next oil change, take your manual with you and do the best job you can filling in that maintenance schedule. Note what’s actually in your car right now if you can.

Then, figure out exactly what you need to get at your next maintenance. This should be five thousand miles down the road (if you’re driving a typical car). Use that maintenance schedule to figure out exactly what you’re going to need maintained at that point.

When you reach that mileage marker, only get those things maintained. Ignore the other suggestions they give you.

Every time there’s a “major” maintenance that needs to happen, such as a belt replacement or brake pad replacement, get your full maintenance done at your preferred auto shop.

If you do these things, then there’s no reason to say “yes” to the optional nonsense when you just need your oil changed. You’re not stuck paying their high prices for incidental things like this, and that savings goes straight to your pocket.

A couple more tips:

Save your maintenance history. Every time you get maintenance done, note the mileage and what services were done in your manual and save the receipt. This can help repairmen when you need to have something looked at in your car, and perhaps more importantly, it can boost the resale value of your car significantly.

Know the specifics of any product you put into your car. What’s the right oil for your car? What type of oil are you putting in? What’s the estimated mileage for that oil? You should know this for every fluid and item that goes into your car during maintenance stops. Don’t just trust what they’re telling you. Read the packages yourself and know what you’re putting in there.

These tactics will save you money over the long run. They’ll make your car worth more when you sell it and they’ll help you avoid unnecessary expenses during maintenance time.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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