How’s your horseless carriage running?

Simple suggestions for maintaining your car on a limited budget

By Bailey Toombs
Photo by Glenn Judah

PHOTO CAPTION: Sophomore Dan Pope, a car enhusiast, checks the oil in his ’94 Mazda Niata. Pope will change the oil himself to avoid paying for the service.

A car is a necessity often taken for granted, until it is about to take a huge chunk out of the checkbook.
Is there any hope for the struggling college student? Nick O’jibway, store manager of AutoZone on US-1 thinks so.

“Most of the problems we see in here come from just not keeping up on your car’s maintenance,” O’jibway said.

By keeping up on maintenance car owners can save themselves a lot of cash in the long run. Maintenance includes checking and changing oil, making sure filters work properly and regular tune-ups. Spark plugs and wires should also be checked regularly and changed when needed. Many people also forget to check their tire pressure monthly, which can result in increased tread-wear, or even a complete blow-out.

Each individual car has an owner’s manual that has more information about the specific mileage to take care of repairs. An oil change is usually recommended every 3,000 miles. However, O’jibway said this actually depends on what kind of oil is in the car. Some oils are more expensive, but can last anywhere between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. Several mechanics offer deals on oil changes, such as XPress Lube’s “ladies’ day” where women receive an oil change for the low price of $19.95.

While those deals are less expensive, the mechanic will most likely use the lowest grade oil possible. When using these deals, stick strictly to the every 3,000-mile policy.

Many auto parts stores also offer a few free services. Oftentimes, these stores offer free testing on batteries, starters, alternators and ignition modules. Most will even change windshield wipers, light bulbs and batteries if you purchase each in-store. They are often a good resource for all types of questions, and will tell you exactly which part is needed for a specific car.

Surprisingly, the Internet is also a good resource for car questions. offers message boards where clueless car owners can post questions concerning maintenance and car problems. Most answers provide a wealth of information, but some, as with all message boards, should obviously be taken lightly. If anything, it can be a great starting point for talking to a mechanic about a car’s needs, which will help them better serve your needs.

Car problems are inevitable, but by simply paying attention to and being familiar with your car, anyone can prevent some of the most common issues. A few minutes of checkups every month is a lot less stressful than trying to figure out how to pay for a costly engine repair.

With car expenses checked off the mental list, that’s one less thing the broke college student has to worry about.

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