Auto repair is one of those things that will instantly make you worry about the possible costs. To keep the price down, though, you have to stay in front of problems. Here are four ways to do that.
Scan the Computer
People hate check engine lights because they often seem to exist more to annoy rather than help you. However, the check engine light tells you that something is going on. Even if the car seems to be running fine, addressing the check engine light is important.
How do you deal with that, though? You will need to scan the computer. If you're lucky, your computer's infotainment system should tell you what the code's about. Many cars don't have that feature, but they do allow you to use an OBD-II scanner to access a diagnostic port. This involves plugging the scanner into the car so you can read the codes, write them down, and check what they mean on the Internet.
If you're not comfortable doing this yourself, most auto services providers offer scans for free or close to it. Many auto parts places offer free scanning, too. Catching a sensor problem before it messes up the fuel mixture and kills the engine may mean spending hundreds of dollars, but it could save you thousands.
Be Paranoid About Vibrations
A car in good condition shouldn't vibrate much. Yes, rough roads can cause some noises, but those should go away quickly once you hit a patch of smooth asphalt. If the car vibrates all the time, it's probably a sign of something wrong with the suspension or steering. For example, losing wheel weight on a tire can cause it to vibrate significantly. In worst-case scenarios, vibrations can seriously damage axles, tires, and other components. Being a little paranoid is better than letting the problem go.
Keep the Car Quiet
You need to be able to listen to your car. Even if an exhaust issue doesn't seem to prevent it from running well, anything that masks a vehicle's sounds is bad. Solve all noisy problems as soon as possible so you can hear what's going on with your car. Hearing a squeal in the brake system and fixing it, for example, will lead to a cheaper auto repair bill than not handling it until it's louder than the exhaust.
Rust destroys metal things, and your car has lots of different metals in it. Spot and eliminate rust as soon as you see it. Replacing the rocker panels for hundreds of dollars is going to be cheaper than replacing the car when the frame fails.