Here's a quick and handy guide to cheap and easy maintenance anyone can handle

I don’t know why the Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps track of these things, but this month, the federal agency reported that Americans are holding onto their cars longer than ever before.

In 2008, the average was 10.1 years. In 2012, it stretched to 11.3 years — even though household income grew from $63,091 per year to $65,596.

Perhaps one reason is that there’s no shortage of do-it-yourself repair and maintenance advice available online and over the air —from the venerable Car Talk radio program to an auto repair reality show that follows a female mechanic.

Which is wonderful. But what if you’re an idiot like me? I had my 1966 Thunderbird explode because it ran out of oil while I was tooling down the I-10 highway at 75 mph. And it’s apparently genetic: My brother drank brake fluid when he was a toddler and had to get his stomach pumped, and my father poured antifreeze into the brake reservoir.

So the chart below is really handy if you want to keep your car longer. Released yesterday by a nationwide chain called Autoparts Warehouse, it gives both time and cost estimates, along with degree of difficulty…

DIY Tips to Extend the Life of Your Vehicle
Repair/Service/Driving HabitShop CostYour Cost/Time DifficultyResults
1. Avoid aggressive driving, such as jack rabbit starts, and hard brakingN/A$0very easyExtends the life of the engine, transmission, suspension/tires, brakes
 2. Avoid driving short distances and stop-and-go city traffic N/A $0very easy Extends the life of the engine, transmission, and brakes
3. Keep exterior paint clean with regular washing and waxing$20-$50$5-$10
< 1 hour
very easyRemoves road salt, sludge, and pollution, preventing rust/corrosion
4. Keep interior clean and protect it by conditioning leather seats, adding seat covers and floor mats$20-$300$5-$10
< 1 hour
very easy Extends life of interior by preventing wear and tear
 5. Rotate and keep tires properly inflated$0-$60$0
< 1 hour
easy to moderate Proven to add thousands of miles to the life of your tires
6. Change engine oil & filter at recommended service intervals (usually every 5,000 miles)$30-$80 $20-$40  < 1 houreasy to moderateProven to add years and thousands of miles to the life of the engine
7. Change engine coolant and replace thermostat $80-$200 $25-$50  < 2 hoursmoderatePrevents overheating, extends life of engine and cooling system
8. Change transmission fluid & filter at service intervals (usually 30,000- 60,000 miles) $80-$200 $40-$70 / < 2 hoursmoderateExtends life of your automobile’s transmission
9. Replace spark plugs, drive belts, and air filter (engine tune-up)$100-$400$50-$100 < 3 hoursmoderateImproves performance and mpg, adds life to engine and exhaust
10. Replace timing belt and water pump (60,000-100,000 miles or 10 years)$400-$800$100-$300 3-5 hoursadvancedPrevents overheating and potential damage to internal engine parts

Needless to say, Autoparts Warehouse’s chart ends with this sentence: “Always consult your vehicle service manual before attempting any repair.”

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Michael Koretzky

Michael Koretzky

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Koretzky is a PFE-certified debt management professional and the editor of Debt.com.

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auto repair, car buying

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Article last modified on October 14, 2016. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: How to keep your vehicle running for years — even if you’re an auto idiot - AMP.