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Common matainance gaps that casue early failure of your car

I am giving a little speech for a class of mine, and I need a couple of quote-able quotes from a certified mechanic. (Sort of a ‘personal’ interview if you will).

I am giving an informative speech on how the average person can keep their car running well for as long as possible.

What are common (or the most common) BASIC issues that cause early failure of your car, that can be traced back to owner neglect, forgetfulness, stupidity, ect.

It would be very helpful if you could supply me with a name I can use when I quote you (not your screen-name, please), and your credentials.

If you do not feel comfortable reveling this information on the open forum you can e-mail me at

Please post to the thread before e-mailing me, just so I know I am not just getting everything screened out by my spam filter.

Thank you in advance.

Transmission failure due to owner not hanging fluid. Most car makers don’t have a change interval anymore, offering lifetime fluid; when the transmission fails, that’s the lifetime of the unit.

I assume you mean ‘changing’ fluid?

What is your certification, and how do you want me to refer to you in my citation?

Most important thing is for people to stop driving NOW if that little red oil can light comes on. I really mean NOW, not when it is safe to stop. Second, never operate your car with the temp needle in the red. Maintenance items are way down the list of damaging things people do. The damaging things that people do are continuing to operate their car when it should be turned off.

While I don’t think for one minute that you or your students would do anything out of line there may be an issue with becoming public on the net or doling out names on an email. This can get around and possibly cause problems.

A few months ago my wife made this mistake and now she gets phone calls (multiple ones) every week from someone in NC who wants to yak it up all hours of the day and night.
About 6 years ago (and no idea how it happened) somebody hacked into my eBay account and I discovered that someone overseas had listed almost a 1000 fraudulent auctions under my ID.
I was on the phone on and off for 2 hours with eBay getting these things shut down and it took eBay 2 full days to rid the site of them; in blocks of 25 at a time.
How many people got scammed with the Buy It Now and Paypal thing will never be known to eBay or myself.

However, if you want basic issues that become major headaches I think the most common one is engine oil. Most people will not raise the hood to check the engine oil level; ever.
From the posts on this forum over the last year or two this bad habit is apparently becoming as common as the Bubonic Plague was hundreds of years ago.

Think about this. As you drive by gas stations how often do you see someone with the hood up checking under the hood while the tank is filling? The answer is very close to never.
You would think the law of averages would provide an open engine compartment now and then with someone being curious about what’s under the hood, or not under the hood.

I compleatly understand.

However, I need to have citations of my sources, so just say 40 year cirtified mechanic (if you are, just giving and example), and a name so that I can quote you as a ‘personal interveiw’

I would say leaving broken things unfixed until there are so many unfixed broken things that the car is considered “not worth fixing”.

The reason you see a lot of 50+ year old airplanes still in nearly pristine condition is because the FAA will not allow the owners to neglect their airplanes into a heap of junk.

Change Oil in timely fashion and periodically check it. Ignoring the automatic transmission. Both those equal early vehicle death.

Not sure if directly related to maintenance. However stress NEVER drive a car overheated, otherwise it turns to instant junk.

Other than that the rest of items are mostly repairable at relatively low cost.

Failure of the owner/driver to check the oil level on the dipstick between oil changes. Many drivers seem unaware that it is their responsibility to check the oil level and add oil if needed between oil changes. Failure to raise the hood and do routine fluid checks causes many premature motor failures.

source: retired sales rep., sales mgr. who drove 30+K miles per year in company cars. Total miles driven in cars, trucks, motorcycles exceed 2 million. Never a failure of a motor in any vehicle.

I suggest making it a practice to log your gas mileage. Even if you don’t care about gas mileage, a lot of engine problems reveal themselves first by a sudden reduction of gas mileage.
For example, a thermostat that is stuck open causing the engine to run too cold. This will reduce you gas mileage and your engine’s life and yet not give you a check engine light since a cold engine is normal when the car is first started.

No need for a certified mechanic … these are common sense… First read the owners manual. Then read to schedule of maintenance. Then read general maintenance section. Next, which is going to be the hardest, do the required maintenance checks according to the schedule. Certainly the operative words are “read” and “follow”… as a former University Prof probably these are the hardest concepts students ever learn, if they ever do.

I think that the biggest mistake new cars owners make . . . by far . . . is not reading and following the owners manual and maintenance schedule. I did that with my current driver way back in 1989 and it now has almost 530,000 miles, no major problems, never left me stranded, runs and drives great. The owners manual tells you how to drive your car, and while most people think that they know everything about driving, little things can means a lot. Read it. The schedule of maintenance is really easy to follow and once you’ve done an item once or twice, it’s easy to do (mostly) it again. Oil changes are just the start. Filters, other fluids, plugs, wires, and all the other stuff that the engineers WHO DESIGNED AND BUILT THE CAR figured would need attention at a particular interval, should be addressed. Good luck! Rocketman

I STRONGLY disgree. It is NEVER worth risking your life because of what is a possible problem with your car. Pull over when it is SAFE to do so.

Fix little problems before they become big ones.

So many people don’t take care of themselves, how can we get them to take care of their vehicles?

You want to cite sources ?

The discussion thread titled “your credentials please” will answer all you need to know about these people’s experience.

You will be one paying for a new engine because for some reason you did not think it safe to stop your car. The red oil can light comes on it is shut down engine now,or pay thousands latter. This is why cars are equipped with hazzard lights,traffic can go around you. You must be talking about neighborhoods filled with lions and tigers, those are important to avoid, I agree with you there.

Were they offering good deals? 6 years ago is a lifetime in internet security updates (but people still fall for simple phishing scams,you just can’t fix stupid).Just leave the phone unplugged for a couple of weeks,when this party does not get an answer they will call someone else. Unwanted phone calls have been a problem way before the internet was around.

Red-Tail, my opinion is you are out of line to come on the Internet, and demand people identify themselves for your purposes. While you might want to quote certified experts, that does not mean we have to agree to be quoted.

If you want that, work a little harder. There are mechanics who have URL’s with this information, except you will have to dig it out. Or, visit a local dealer or independent mechanic, and ask for permission. He might look at it as advertising.

Also, it does not take a certified Master Mechanic to know maintenance requirements of cars. There are people here who have been driving and maintaining cars for over 50 years.

I am guessing this class is just a high school or adult ed class, right? Think about what you are asking.

Timing Belt Neglect.

Many cars use timing belts to keep opening and closing combustion chamber valves synchronized with reciprocating pistons. A belt that breaks due to an owner not adhering to the replacement interval can cause the pistons to collide with the valves because the synchroneity is lost.

Timing belt replacement is often neglected because of ignorance or as a money saving attempt by the car’s owner. Replacing a timing belt, typically every 100,000 miles (give-or-take) costs hundreds of dollars, but putting off replacement until it snaps without warning typically costs thousands of dollars in engine damage.

Many cars die an early death and go to their final resting places in the salvage yard, awaiting the crusher, because a timing belt was allowed to snap by a negligent owner.

I am not certified, although I have worked at car dealers and work on my own cars, including, but not limited to timing belt replacements. However, I know enough about cars that every once in a while, I outsmart certified mechanics. Come to think of it, I have taken and passed several mechanic certifications tests. Oh well, I guess I am certified, but what difference does it really make ?

Common Sense is not my real name, by the way, but it’s close enough, and you may use it to quote me.


Stopping in the middle lane on a 75 mph highway is probably what he’s talking about.
You stop your car in that, and you’re most likely going to get rear ended by a 7k lbs SUV doing 90.