Car maintenance is an unavoidable aspect of owning and driving a car. In fact, you may think you’re being smart by avoiding it, but left unchecked, minor issues can snowball over time into major problems that can leave you stranded when you least expect it, or even endanger the lives of yourself, your passengers, and bystanders. So how much does car maintenance cost? Let us answer that question, as well as show you how you can safely minimize maintenance costs by doing specific tasks by yourself in the comfort of your garage or driveway.
How much does car maintenance cost? There’s not only the monetary cost of a diagnostic scan to identify issues, that can range between $30 and $80, and subsequent repair costs that can range from two to four figures: the time you spend in a workshop carries a cost as well, as does the time and fuel spent commuting. Fear not — you can use consumer-grade diagnostic devices and mobile app solutions such as Carly to diagnose your car and detect issues. If you’re capable and competent, you can even perform minor maintenance by yourself.
How Do I Know If My Car Needs Maintenance?
Cars are pretty savvy these days. They have several computer control units connected by miles of wire. They can intelligently monitor and diagnose themselves and indicate errors to you via the multi-information display, infotainment system, or at the most rudimentary level via the Check Engine Lamp (CEL).
However, there are certain issues that may not cause an error message to pop up or the CEL to light up. Such lights may have you asking how much does car maintenance cost mean for you. That’s because manufacturers have defined recommended service intervals, and it’s envisioned that these issues will be detected by competent personnel at this time. That’s why it’s important to have your car serviced on time and ensure that a diagnostic scan is carried out. In fact, the recommended frequency of a diagnostic scan is once every three months for the average motorist, with once every two or even one month recommended for those who rack up high mileages.
How Much Does Car Maintenace Diagnostic Scans Cost?
Diagnostic scans aren’t cheap when you tally them up, and are a key factor in ascertaining how much does car maintenance cost. A typical scan ranges between $30–$80, and that’s before you account for the time cost spent at the workshop, as well as the fuel cost to get there. Fuel costs are at all-time highs these days, meaning that everyone is watching their mileage and endeavoring to optimize MPG. Ironically, poor maintenance on your car is a surefire way to kill your MPG figures, and you won’t likely see a CEL pop up for this.
You might be able to snag a diagnostic scan for free if you agree to perform any repairs that were identified by the scan at the same workshop, or if a workshop is running a car clinic or other promotion. Diagnostic scans done during routine servicing tend to be free on the surface, as the cost is built into the service charge. Plus, if your car is under warranty, you may be eligible for free or discounted scans.
Can I Do a Diagnostic Scan by Myself?
Yes, you can. There are consumer-grade devices that plug into your car’s OBD2 port, which can be found on every car manufactured since 2005. The OBD2 port is a unified port that can be found inside the cabin near the steering wheel. Your car’s owner’s manual will reveal the location. You will then need a suitable device or solution to read the car’s control units via the OBD2 port, and there are three major types.
How much does car maintenance cost when it comes to scanning your car by yourself? You can buy dedicated hand-held OBD scanner devices for as little as $25, going all the way to pro-level gear that is priced over $300. These are stand-alone devices that plug into your car’s OBD2 port via a cable and display information on an in-built screen. These are relatively versatile but can be limited in terms of functions and update ability.
The second type consists of software that you install on your laptop, and use a special cable to connect your vehicle’s OBD2 port to a USB port on your laptop. This avenue offers superb versatility and customizability but can increase how much does car maintenance cost. It also means that you need to take your laptop with you whenever you wish to run a diagnosis.
The third type is the most popular, and it consists of a wireless OBD adapter that plugs into your car’s OBD2 port and communicates with a companion app that’s installed on your smartphone. This is the most versatile solution, as the adapter is small enough to be tucked in a storage pocket when not in use, or can be left plugged in. The app is stored on your smartphone, which is something you have on you pretty much all the time. This is the type that is used by our choice of consumer-grade diagnostic solution, Carly.
Carly is a two-part solution that’s been developed to work together with seamless and swift connectivity. The Carly app lives on your smartphone, and it can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. It wirelessly communicates with the Carly Universal OBD Scanner, which plugs into your car’s OBD2 port. The entire cost for the Carly app and Carly Universal OBD Scanner is under $100, making it tremendous value for money, as you can recoup the purchase cost within two to three diagnostic scans!
What Can Carly Do?
Carly can read out the error memories from your car’s computerized control units and present the errors detected to you in an easy-to-read manner, with a red/orange/green system that indicates if a problem is critical, moderate, or can be ignored for now. This enables you to plan out your maintenance, saving significant costs, as you can pick and choose which issues require immediate attention and which can be addressed later, based on Carly’s advice.
Carly can also allow you to perform coding on your car, which is an exciting avenue for customizing certain aspects of it. The feature set varies for different car makes and models, but common areas for customization include the behavior of the lights, alarm system, disabling engine auto start-stop, and setting the climate control to default to recirculate mode on start-up, and more. Coding can cost you $100 or more at a workshop, so you’ve automatically saved that cost with Carly.
Carly’s Used Car Check is invaluable when you’re going to check out a used car, as it can query all control units and detect mileage discrepancies. Mileage tampering on used cars is a serious problem and can be hard to detect by traditional means, but Carly sniffs it out, alerting you if things aren’t all they appear to be.
Carly’s maintenance features are also extremely helpful, as they allow you to perform maintenance tasks such as oil and filter changes, battery replacements and sensor calibrations by yourself. This drastically cuts down your maintenance costs, as you do not need to pay for labor and workshop fees, and the only charges incurred are for parts. Once you’ve done the jobs, you can use Carly to re-initialize the battery, reset the oil change interval, calibrate newly installed sensors, and more.