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How often you need to think about maintaining your car

A car is an expensive machine, but it's also one that people often neglect. To keep it running well, you need to do your maintenance. This often comes with a set schedule.

On many newer cars, the computer just tells you when to do things like changing the oil or checking the tires. While the rule of thumb used to be every 3,000 miles for oil, the reality is that many new cars get at least twice that. In addition to oil, you also want to think about checking other fluid levels, putting air in the tires, checking any other monitoring systems on the computer, rotating the tires, check the air filters, testing your battery and watching for when you need to replace the brake pads.

There is another side to this equation, though: What if you're running into maintenance issues far too often?

Even if you do change the oil every 3,000 miles, how often is that? Many people drive about 12,000 miles over the course of a year, which would be four oil changes. If you get twice that -- 6,000 miles per change -- it may mean just two. You shouldn't have to change the brake pads before about 40,000 miles -- and maybe much more if you're easy on them.

If you're doing all of the normal maintenance on a brand-new car and it's still in the shop every other month with the same problems, that's not normal. That's not what you should expect. It could mean that your car is a lemon that will never work well, no matter how dedicated you are to the jobs noted above. If so, be sure you know what legal options you have.

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