Car Talk with PJ

Vehicle Maintenance

Vehicle Maintenance

In order for any machine to work well and be reliable, it needs regular vehicle maintenance. This is why companies are such sticklers about maintaining their equipment and machinery. A machine that breaks down and stops production costs them big money.  However, the average motorist pays little attention to this cost saving strategy employed by businesses. Many defer auto repair because they “don’t have the money right now”. This is delusional thinking. Money is saved over the long term by putting the car on a regular vehicle maintenance or repair plan and taking care of needed repairs before they lead to bigger problems. Believe it or not this concept is kind of abstract.

A car is an integral part of almost everyone’s life because we don’t have very good public transportation in the U.S. Without a car we don’t get to work, or the grocery store, or engage in our favorite forms of entertainment. Yet, for some perverse reason, we believe this complex machine will run forever with no auto repair or maintenance. Then the day of reckoning arrives and now the car is a “piece of junk and I am getting rid of it” because it needs a couple of thousand dollars in auto repairs and deferred vehicle maintenance. Deferring maintenance and repairs almost always leads to higher cost of operation over the long term. The long term doesn’t just involve the car, but also a number of other factors. What is the cost of being late for work, or worse yet not getting to work, angering your boss and co-workers? What is the cost of being late for your kid’s soccer event or school play or missing them altogether? What is the cost of having the car break down before or on that vacation you have been looking forward to for months?

Our attitude toward vehicle maintenance is driven by perceived risk. Some people will not fly in an airplane, which is statistically much safer than driving, but they perceive that the risk is greater in an airplane when reality states otherwise. Humans are not driven by logic. Logic says to maintain the machine, but our hearts want that new iPad. So we rationalize that the machine will just keep running. We perceive its possibility of failure as low. Just as illogically, we decide we aren’t going to put any more money in this “piece of junk”, but will go out and buy another used car, on which the previous owner deferred maintenance. After all, who would meticulously maintain a car and then sell it? That’s lunacy. So we buy somebody else’s problem child, have no idea how the car was used, and spend thousands of dollars fixing it. Is this rational behavior? After we get caught in this trap, we rationalize that we were tired of the old bucket of bolts anyway. As crazy as it sounds, I’ve observed this behavior over and over in my 40 years in the auto repair business. I’ve recommended to folks that they get rid of a car because I know the thing is just going to be a money pit. Some cars are like that. Yet, they will hang on even when I show them the numbers going forward. On the flip side, I have seen really good cars with deferred auto repair issues, but the owner would rather sell it and get something else in the belief that it will be cheaper, only to find himself caught in the same maintenance and repair issues as the old car. Sometimes worse.

Bottom line. Get an honest opinion about the vehicle you now have and make an objective evaluation about the vehicle maintenance plan or lack thereof that you have been doing. If your car is going to require a fair amount of money to make it reliable and increase its longevity, compare that to the purchase price of another car plus the unknowns of deferred maintenance or structural issues. If your car is paid off, the cost of maintenance and repairs is like buying a used car, but at a steep discount. You don’t have the problem of unknowns with your own car. Ask Robert’s Automotive about how you can keep your car happy and healthy before serious repairs is needed. Happy Motoring!