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How to avoid crying at car repair shop

  • Story Highlights
  • Regular maintenance checks are still a must for trouble-free driving
  • One study shows an 83 percent failure rate in inspection lanes
  • Expert says best advice is to open your car manual for information
  • Biggest problem found in study was engine oil was dirty and/or low
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By Tom Torbjornsen
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(AOL Autos) -- An internal combustion engine relies on regular maintenance of various systems to continue running trouble free.

People are not taking care of their cars, the author says, which leads to more problems than necessary.

People are not taking care of their cars, the author says, which leads to more problems than necessary.

I constantly run across people that brag about the fact that they have gone some ridiculous amount of miles without proper maintenance of their cars. It always seems like their car is on the fritz.

These are the same people that cry when their technician hands them a bill for several hundreds of dollars. Why? Could it be that they were trying to go for the world record for most mileage between oil changes and tune-ups? Or, are they just products of the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?"

They make cars that last longer today. However, regular maintenance checks are still a must for trouble-free driving. Platinum spark plugs under perfect conditions probably can log 100,000 miles before giving up the ghost. But that's in a lab under perfect conditions!

Let's talk real world here. What about the effects of bad fuel injectors and faulty sensors causing improper engine adjustments, thus prematurely fouling out sparkplugs? What about mechanical malfunctions such as bad valve guides and seals or worn pistons and rings causing oil consumption?

Then, of course, we have air and fuel filters which can cause problems when dirty. Oh, I forgot, what about the effects of bad gas? AOL Autos: Top 10 safest small cars

In a perfect world with no dirt, grit, or grime we might realize significant mileage between services. Reality however, presents a completely different set of facts.

Did you know that according to the Car Care Council, National Car Care Month check lanes are showing an 83 percent failure rate? Here's a direct quote from their monthly newsletter: "Statistics from the National Car Care Month inspection campaign (October 1998) continue to underscore the need for consumer education. Statistics show an 83% failure rate in inspection lanes."

Here's a breakdown of problems found within the 83 percent: (the fluids were low and/or dirty!)

a. Engine oil - 28 percent

b. Transmission fluid - 22 percent

c. Power steering fluid - 12 percent

d. Brake fluid - 20 percent

e. Coolant - 32 percent

People are not taking care of their cars! Do the basics! Avoid major breakdowns and expenses! AOL Autos: Best minivans

Recently I was reading a monthly publication from the Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (you might know it as ASE). I came across a section entitled "Auto Advice From Leading Female Experts." One article in particular hit me right between the eyes. The author was a woman, Alyca Palumbo, a Ford Master Drivetrain/ ASE Master Technician at a Ford dealership in Jacksonville, Florida. AOL Autos: Most popular used cars

In Alyca's words, "The best advice I can give the consumer is to read your owner's manual! I'm convinced that 80 percent of car owners never crack it open, and that's a shame because the owner's manual is packed full of information on operation and maintenance."

I am always fielding questions on maintenance. Almost always I refer them to the owner's manual to get the answer. AOL Autos: Five most popular cars

Here's a sampling of questions:

a. What size tires fit on my car and how much air do I put in them?

b. How many quarts of oil does my car hold and what kind should I use

c. How often should I change my oil and transmission fluid?

d. How many quarts of coolant does my car hold?

I could go on and on. Imagine if I listed seven years of these types of questions that have come in via radio, television, The Internet, and print? AOL Autos: Cars with cheapest ownership costs

Perish the thought! The funny part is that the answer to these and most other maintenance related questions are in your owner's manual. If you haven't read your owner's manual yet, I think it's about time. Don't you?

'Til next time ... Keep rollin'

© 2009 AOL, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tom Torbjornsen is a veteran of 37 years in the auto service industry, an automotive journalist registered with IMPA.

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