owner's manual. Know what fluids are required for your car, and when having your car serviced, be sure and question beforehand to make sure the service center you are using is familiar with your car's needs. In my friends case, he went to the Mercedes dealer and paid almost $200 for the correct fluid, and the place that put in the wrong fluid re-did the labor for free. However, they did continue to maintain the cheap fluid they used was compatible with his car. Funny that when the correct fluid was put back in his transmission, it no longer acted "funny."
What's the cost of such a screw up? Hopefully, my friend was very lucky - replacing the improper fluid seemed to take care of his problem - or at least for now. A rebuilt transmission for his Mercedes would cost in the neighborhood of $5000-$6000. Even a rebuilt transmission for a late model Ford or Chrysler can be as much as $3000-$4000. A transmission for an Audi A8 is $8000-$9000. A used automatic transmission for a 1998 & later VW can be $1800 or more from a salvage yard.
Let's talk more about your transmission. Most cars that use these high dollar complex transmission fluids supposedly never need servicing. One man told me he went to a Ford dealer with his late model Ford to have it serviced, and he told the service manager to go ahead and change the transmission fluid and filter. The service manager told him the transmission in his car had "lifetime" fluid and did not require servicing. The man quickly said, "oh - that means my transmission is guaranteed for life?" Obviously, the red faced service manager started stammering and back peddling at that point.
Audi is one of the many car makers back in the late 90's that stated their automatic transmission does not ever need servicing. Their top of the line car, the A8, made in the late 90's, has had an unusually high rate of transmission failures, many happening before the 100,000 mile mark. A dealer I know has bought and sold a lot of the A8's, and he said when he pulls the transmission and pan where he can see the filter, it looks very clean. However, he took one out several years ago, cut it in half, and the inside was full of trash and goo.
The moral of the story? Unless your car warranty says your transmission is warranted for life, have your transmission fluid and filter changed every 60-70,000 miles.
A few other quick points concerning your car. First off, your antifreeze is not permanent. Also, once again, you should use the antifreeze your owner's manual specifies, and change it at the interval required by the manufacturer. The maximum life of any antifreeze is five years.
Secondly, one of the most overlooked things on a car is the fuel filter. Many people are very faithful in changing their oil and air filter, but often neglect their fuel filter. The unfortunate thing is when a clogged fuel filter becomes symptomatic, damage has usually already occurred to the fuel pump or injectors, both of which are very expensive. Running out of gas can also damage the fuel pump as it is cooled by the gas running through it.
Thirdly, your brake fluid needs to be flushed and changed every three to five years. Over a period of time, brake fluid accumulates moisture which can wreak havoc on expensive master cylinders and calipers. Also, a Dot 4 brake fluid is higher quality and more moisture resistant than the common Dot 3 fluid.
Finally, the least expensive thing you can do to save money is check your tire pressures regularly. A common misconception is your tires should be inflated to the pressure that is stated on the tire itself. That is wrong! The pressure stated on the tire is the "maximum pressure", not necessarily what needs to be in the tire on your particular car. Once again, your owner's manual will tell you what your pressure should be. Also, many cars have a tire pressure label under the gas cap door as well. It is always best to check your pressure when your tire is cold, as pressure increases as your tire heats up. Keeping the proper pressure in your tires gives your car optimum handling, as well as adding many more miles of service to your tires.
Today's cars last longer than ever before, but are also much more expensive to repair when something breaks. Preventative maintenance is the very best thing you can do to prevent very costly repairs down the road.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish every one of my readers (even the ones who disagree with me) A very happy new year!