Are You Guilty of the Top 10 Worst Car-Maintenance Crimes?

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Are you the type of car owner who dutifully changes the oil every 3,000 miles or the one who ignores the check engine light because you figure the problem most likely is a malfunctioning check engine light?

If you fall into the latter category, you’re not only gambling with the long-term well-being of your vehicle, but you’re almost certain to pay far more for major repairs than if you’d simply followed basic maintenance schedules prescribed in your car’s owner’s manual, according to, a Southern California-based advocacy group. That check engine light could be notifying you of a faulty oxygen sensor, for example, and what might’ve been a $20 air filter replacement could become a $1,000 catalytic converter replacement; likewise, not changing the oil can result in complete engine failure, as dirty oil ruins today’s high-tech engines.

To illustrate the point and help car owners prioritize maintenance activities, surveyed its team of certified master technicians and developed a list of the top 10 worst maintenance mistakes. Infractions include:

  • 10. Trying to service your own high-tech vehicle
  • 9. Using generic aftermarket parts instead of original equipment manufacturer parts
  • 8. Having unqualified shops service your vehicle
  • 7. Not changing fuel and air filters
  • 6. Continuing to drive when the vehicle is overheating
  • 5. Neglecting coolant, brake, transmission and other fluid services
  • 4. Not checking tire pressure
  • 3. Not changing the oil, or not having it changed on time
  • 2. Ignoring the “check engine” light
  • 1. Putting off recommended/scheduled maintenance

CarMD notes that taking car maintenance seriously does not mean wasting money on “gimmicks like injector flushes and nitrogen in the tires.”

“The best rule of thumb is ‘any service other than what is recommended in your owner’s manual is unnecessary,’ ” it said in a statement.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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