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August 15, 2011


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I put fuel injector cleaner in once a year to make sure the injectors are clean.

High octane fuel one a year would be a waste in my opinion.

Definitely make sure to rinse under you car if you live in a cold weather state to get all that salt off.

Cars today are pretty easy to maintain so just change the oil/tires/fluids when the car tells you so and tend to any check engine lights and you are fine.

+1 to Matt. High-octane gas isn't necessarily better at cleaning out your fuel system unless that particular supplier adds additional cleaners to their premium grade compared to their regular grade.

Use the octane recommended in the manual, add a good quality fuel system cleaner every three months or so (or every oil change) if you tend to use the lower tier suppliers, and your fuel system will be fine. I prefer Techron, others may have different views. $200 "fuel system purges" are a waste of money IMHO.

Washing underneath the car is beneficial mostly in areas using large amounts of salt.

take it through a $3 car wash - it will likely square away the bottom

as for high octane fuel - yes i do this 4 times a year. it does make a big difference. car is still running as smooth as brand new. now is the time as fuel prices are relatively lower - get it done!

Alcohol is a primary ingredient of the fuel system treatments. With 10% ethanol already in the gasoline, you don't need additional "cleaners" in your fuel. The only difference between regular and higher octane gasoline is the higher octane gas is less likely to self-ignite (also known as pinging) in high compression engines. High octane gas has no magical properties, it's only less explosive under pressure.

Washing the undercarriage is supposed to remove accumulated dirt/gravel/road salt from pockets in the frame and body cavities where it collects and holds moisture. Moisture against steel equals rust. Squirting a hose under your car is about the same as driving through puddles in the rain. Actually removing the crud out of the areas where it collects is nearly impossible - which why Toyota has been replacing rust-perforated frames on their trucks for the past few years.

I think AAA is assuming the vehicle is driven 12K miles each year and replaced with a new one every 4 years. Depreciation will kill you compared to buying that 4 year old vehicle and driving it until the wheels fall off.

I do most of my own repairs and maintenance on my own vehicles.
My Dad always told me to change the oil every 3 months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. I heard a car talk show with Bobby Likis and he stated that you can go at least 5,000 miles between oil changes with regular oil (non-synthetic) due to the process and technology that goes into motor oils today. Changing every 5k also makes it easier to remember as well just by checking your odometer. On a personal note, stay away from Penzoil motor oils. They use parafins (wax) in their oils and it gums up and creates sludge in your engine.

As far as running a tank of premium gas to clean your engine, instead I put a bottle of fuel injector cleaner in each of my cars when I change the oil.

Like most of the comments above I do use the under carriage wash especially during the winter months when sand and salt are used on the roads when it snows or ices.

I think the 3k oil change interval can be valid, especially on older cars and non-synthetic oil. Synthetic definitely lets you go longer, but an oil change is still a cheap and easy maintenance item that will help flush any harmful items from the engine. Send a sample your used oil out to blackstone labs very 25,000 miles and they can tell you if the copper content is increasing (warn bearings) or other change are occurring.

And while oil technology continues to advance, I think the extended oil change intervals have more to do with "included maintenance" programs when purchasing a new car, then they do with the science of the fluids. Many transmissions and differentials are now "lifetime fill", while just one model year earlier they might have been changed every 20,000-30,000 miles. And if your transmission fails after 100,000 miles? Why, that's just the life of the transmission, and the fluid.

Bottom line, I still think it's better to perform regular maintenance on vehicles, regardless of what the manufacturer wishes to cover as part of their plan, for people who intend to own their car beyond the warranty period.

If the car manufacturer clearly states that premium gasoline is required for your engine it is because the engine has a high compression ratio in order to generate greater horsepower. Using lower octane fuel could cause "pinging" or "knocking" which could increase the forces on the engine bearings and connecting rods and increase wear. Diesel engines need far higher compression ratios than gasoline engines but they are built a lot stronger to handle the higher forces. Even with that, diesel engines are renowned for their pinging and knocking but used to be popular with some manufacturers in the days when diesel fuel was cheaper than gasoline. Both of my older Mercedes require premium gasoline and that's all I ever use. I also add a container of fuel injector cleaner to a full tank of gas once or twice/year depending upon how much driving I do since the injectors have very tiny orifices to spray the gasoline into the cylinder heads and you don't want them to get clogged or allow residues to build up.

I have read on some car blogs that it is beneficial to run a tank of E85 (if you have a flex fuel vehicle) at least once every ten fill ups. The benefit of running the E85 is that is has a higher octance and helps to clean the fuel system. It makes sense to me that a higher octane fuel would help to clean the fuel system.

I always think estimates like .59/mile are way too high. Example:

Say you buy a $25,000 car brand new, and drive it 120,000 miles. Just for an example lets say the car gets 25 mpg, and gas is $4/gallon, and you get a $30 oil change every 3,000 miles.

Car: $25,000
Gas: $19,200
Oil: $1,200
Other Maintenance: ???

Total: $45,400 + ???

.59/mile estimate cost: 70,800

You are really telling me that $25,400 is normal for maintenance over this period? I can't imagine routine maintenance being more than a few thousand on average here. Certainly well less than $25,400. There would be even more breathing room if you bought a cheaper car with better gas mileage. Of course super-expensive cars with super-expensive maintenace might be included in that average driving it up, but for the average person with the average car .59/mile seems super-inflated.

Proper tire maintenance is important. Ensure your tires are properly inflated every 2 - 4 weeks. Tire inflation is a major factor in tire wear, gas mileage, and safety.

Tires should be rotated on a regular schedule. Rotating every other oil change is a good system, and easy to remember. Front and rear tires wear are different rates depending on your vehicle and driving habits. Rotation will even out the differences and ensure your getting maximum life out of your tires. Tires should be rotated front to back, and back to front. Most modern tires, cannot and should not be cross rotated.

One of the nicest cars I've ever seen (a sports car) had its undercarriage sprayed with what seemed to be rhino lining after a pressure wash.

If it's good enough for that car...


You forgot to include the cost of insurance as the article stated that is part of the $.59 estimate.

A basic car maintenance night course at the local community college can be a big help, even though computers are putting a lot of things beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. Comparing it to the bill from when I last had it done for me, the course paid for itself the first time I changed my own headlight bulbs.

@Eric, good point. Say it takes 8 years to put on 120,000 miles, and insurance is ~1,000 year, that would still leave ~17,400 for maintenance, and my estimates have been pretty conservative on the side of .59/mile so far, not against.

Also, I did not include the resale value of the car (there would still be some value there), and like I said, my estimates were pretty conservative using $4/gas for the entire estimate and using lower gas mileage (only 25 mpg) as it is easy to find better than that if it is a concern.

I agree with Josh. All his calculations are pretty conservative, values for my car would all be higher and I still wouldn't hit the .59/mile

Only way I see it getting close is if you factor in the people with absurd finance rates that pay them off for years.

...don't forget that the article is also estimating DEPRECIATION in the costs.

@Josh. Your analysis shows actual average costs.

It seems AAA conflated what people spend with what it costs to own a car. Many people, smart FMF readers included, spend far more than the actual cost for a number of goods and services. PT Barnum wasn't kidding. Just like with housing and higher education, a significant number of people over-pay.

In my personal expample of over-paying: the cost for a lifetime of haircuts for me is $10 for the scissors I use to cut my own hair. My actual expense for haircuts over the years is many multiples of that $10 pair of scissors, because I have paid others to do it.

I change the oil every 3000 miles. Since I average about 6000 miles per year, I don't think a longer interval is a good idea, no matter what the experts on a Yahoo video recommend.

Catherine - my manual says 3k mile changes (or every 3 months) if you do a lot a start and stop driving like I do in my small town. When I drive lots of highway miles, which I did for 18 years, I had oil changes every 7-10k miles and that was usually 3 months for me, so I came out even on the lower mileage. And my car is a 2000 and just hit 194k. It has lots of run time left.

I had 2 cars that ended up with 363k and 316k. They all had mainly highway miles.

I talked to a friend one time who said an old mechanic told him we waste far too much oil on oil changes. He said what should be changed every 3k miles is the oil filter. What mechanic will do that for you now? I can't do it myself. He said if you keep the oil clean and viscous, it is good to go. If it feels thin, change it right away. It has overheated and needs to be chanaged.

Since I have an E85 car, I may do as Tato says. I do notice that my mph has dropped a little. In my loaded station wagon, I get 23-26 mph at home and 27-35 on highway miles. It might help and couldn't hurt.

Each and every car driver should have basic car maintenance tips or they should read or learn about those basic car maintenance tips to keep have safe driving

Defensive Driving

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