Notes from a Car Mechanic: 6 Simple Money-Saving Tips

No, I’m not a car mechanic – I need help filling my car’s gas tank!   This is a guest post from my father-in-law, Tony, who has over 20 years of experience specializing in the maintenance of tractor trailers and cars as a mechanic and shop owner/operator. (He’s also helped me with lots of home improvement projects too — like my hot water heater replacement adventure.)

Thanks, Dad, for filling in for me today!   :-)

by Tony

Cars are expensive.  Not only are they are expensive to buy, but they are expensive to operate and maintain too.  That’s why it is important that you never neglect routine maintenance of your car – otherwise it won’t run as efficiently as it should and this will end up costing you more money than it should in the long run.

Here are several simple but very important tips that will end up minimizing your car operating and maintenance costs in the long run.  Best of all, most of these tasks can be done by the average person at home in their garage or driveway.

Maintain Proper Tire Pressure

To improve gas mileage make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure (measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI).  For every pound your tires are under-inflated, your gas mileage can drop up to one percent.   If you drive with poorly inflated tires, it is not unreasonable to see that checking your tire pressure at least once a month can result in big savings at the gas tank.  Lower tire pressure also causes tire tread to wear out faster and forces premature tire replacement.

For some car models, front and rear tire pressure can be different.  For those who aren’t sure what pressure to inflate their tires to, check your owner’s manual.  Many cars may also have a decal on the driver’s door pillar showing the proper pressure level.  You can purchase an inexpensive tire pressure gauge at your local auto parts store.

Did You Know? You should always check your car’s tire pressure when the tires are cold – that is, in the morning before you take the car out – otherwise you’ll probably get an inaccurate reading.

Rotate Your Tires Regularly

Rotating your tires regularly allows you to get better tire wear, thereby extending the life of your tires.  You should rotate your tires every 6000 miles. High performance tires should be rotated every 4000 miles.

Did You Know? Tire rotation sequence varies, depending on the type of car you drive.   Make sure you check your owner’s manual for the proper rotation sequence – some vehicles rotate front-to-rear on the same side, while others rotate front-to-rear on opposite sides (that is, right-front to left-rear, and left-rear to right-front, left-front to right-rear, right-rear to left-front.)

Clean the Battery Terminals

Alternators are relatively expensive to replace, but by keeping your battery terminals clean and free of corrosion you can save wear and tear on both the battery and the alternator by making it easier to provide your car’s electrical components with the proper operating voltages.  You can find small wire brushes made exclusively for cleaning car battery terminals in your local auto parts store.

Did You Know? A small dab of petroleum jelly will help keep your battery terminals cleaner longer.

Change the Oil and Oil Filter Regularly

Some manufacturers say you can change your oil after as much as 10,000 miles, but I recommend you do it every 3000 miles, or three months – which ever comes first.   By changing your oil and oil filter every 3000 miles you are draining all of the impurities like dirt and condensation from your oil pan, reducing wear and tear on your engine.

If you change the oil yourself, please take the old oil to a recycling center for disposal. In the old days we didn’t think about the environmental impacts of how we disposed of our old oil; we’d simply pour it down catch basins down the street, or put it in containers and dispose of it in the trash. Luckily, those days are gone.

Did You Know? Although I wouldn’t recommend it, especially for today’s newer cars, many frugal people still save their used oil and reuse it.  They place the used oil in a large container and then let it sit.  After a long enough period of time, the dirt, grit and water that contaminates the oil eventually settles to the bottom, leaving clean oil that can be skimmed off the top for reuse.

Change the Air Filter

At the same time you are changing your oil and oil filter, make sure to also check your air filter. That’s because a clean air filter will put more money in your pocket by improving your gas mileage.

Did You Know? Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

Reduce Unnecessary Car Weight

Here is one final tip: If you can avoid it, don’t drive around town with your car loaded with unneeded items like heavy tool boxes – the extra weight reduces your gas mileage.   Take those items and put them in your garage or basement until you need them.   Although I don’t recommend you do this, when driving locally I even leave my spare tire at home – that’s because my Chevy Trailblazer has a full-sized spare tire that probably weighs upwards of 50 pounds.

Did You Know? A common rule of thumb is that you can increase your gas mileage by two percent for every 50 pounds of excess weight removed from your car.

Even if you buy used cars, they’re still expensive to operate.  By faithfully following these simple tips you will minimize your operating costs by helping to keep your car running as efficiently as possible.   More importantly, these tips will reduce your long-term maintenance costs by prolonging the life of some of your car’s most expensive parts.

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  1. 1


    I am most guilty of the last item – at any one time, there’s at least one set of golf clubs, tennis gear, swimming gear, and some things to donate riding around in my trunk.

    There’s just no more room in the house!

    I’m working on getting better at this.

  2. 2


    Wojo! You crack me up, man! You’re an architect, for goodness sake! Can’t you design some cool hidden compartments in your house to hold the contents of your car trunk? LOL

    If you live in a 2-story house like I do, open up a wall under the stairs – tons of extra storage room there! :-)

  3. 3

    Judy P says

    Number 1, Len I love your blog, but I am your Mom so enough said. Tony I loved your “Notes from a Car Mechanic”. Everyone should pay attention to this, it is so true.

    You are right Len there is tons of storage under the stairs, you and the Honey Bee proved that.

  4. 9


    I’m guilty about putting too much weight in my car, I’m not aware about the extra weight reduces gas mileage. Thanks for sharing these information. I’ve learned a lot.

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