Taking proper care of a modern automobile can be complicated. It’s easy to spend too much money. It’s also easy to try to save too much money. Well, how do you hit the balance?

Well, first you start out by keeping a log of everything that you do on your automobile. Every job that’s done, you mark it down so that you don’t buy the same thing twice. You also keep a log on fuel economy, because that tells you how your car is running. If the fuel economy goes down, it means you probably need some repairs. And speaking of fuel, unlike the old days when more octane was better, today that couldn’t be farther off the mark. Use the lowest octane that’s allowable for your automobile in the owner’s manual, and buying any more is not good for the car.

Now, speaking of the owner’s manual, in there you’re going to find that there will be a chart for the preventive maintenance that’s recommended on your car. Never go beyond the limits in that owner’s manual. But be careful here. You see, many people do a lot of short trip driving, and when they do this short trip driving, that means that they have to use the severe service schedule in the owner’s manual, not the extended one.

Oh, coolant. That’s another important aspect of taking care of a car these days, and there’s a lot more to coolant than just looking at the color of it and measuring its freeze protection with a hydrometer. If you have anything other than the long life coolants, it should be changed and the cooling system flushed every two years. Along with that, replace the radiator cap every two years. Okay, now oils. Make sure you use only the proper oil for your car, the viscosity and the quality and so on, because thicker oil is not better.

Oh, by the way, timing belts. You know, lots of people try to avoid the expense of a timing belt, and on many engines if the timing belt breaks, it’s goodbye engine or at least major internal engine repairs. Don’t cheat on this one. Look at the owner’s manual. If it doesn’t give you a time or mileage recommendation, do it at 4 years or 60,000 miles.

And if you have a question or a comment, write to me.  The address is:  MotorWeek, Owings Mills, MD, 21117.