Does your car really need checked out every year? Keeping up on your automobile’s maintenance may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, learning a few basics and getting on a regular schedule will go a long way towards keeping your car in tip-top shape, and making sure you’re not blindsided by major, expensive repairs.
Your Automobile: The Big Picture:
For most major areas of auto maintenance (tires, fluids, brakes, etc.), it’s generally recommended that you get something done or at least looked at every three to six months. However, depending on the make and model of your car, as well as the kind of driving you do, these guidelines can vary quite a bit. Crack open your owner’s manual and check out the specific recommendations for your vehicle. This could potentially save you a lot of money over the life of your vehicle.
Oil and fluids:
How often do you really need an oil change? Probably not as often as you think. There are several things to consider, including how often you drive, the type of driving you do, and under what conditions. But in general, if your car was manufactured in the last 15 years, you can probably go around 5,000 (or more, in some cases) between oil changes. If you have a car with an electronic service reminder system, go with the flashing light; or check your owner’s manual for the best guidance. When you do take in your vehicle, go for the full-service option and have your other fluids checked, too.
How quickly your brakes wear out depends more on how you drive than how much you drive. If your car gets light wear or you don’t drive that much, you may be able to go up to 70,000 miles before your brake pads need to be replaced. If you drive regularly in a lot of stop and go traffic, on the other hand, your brakes probably won’t last as long. Pay attention to any screeching or grinding noises, increased stopping time, or most obviously an illuminated brake light. Because your tires need to be removed in order for an auto technician to get a good look at the brakes, it makes sense to have your brakes inspected when you get your tires rotated or replaced, at least once a year as long as they feel OK otherwise.
Modern tires are designed to last for approximately 50,000-60,000 miles; but weather, driving conditions, and other factors can reduce the life of your tires, so it’s important to be able to recognize when your tires become damaged. Learn how to visually inspect your tire tread to check for wear and tear. If the grooves are strong and deep, your tires probably have some life left; if they’re faded or, worse, completely gone, your tires should be replaced right away. An auto technician can also check your tread with a tire gauge, or you can learn to do it yourself with a quarter. In addition, if you notice any wobbling or vibrating while driving, reduce your speed and have your tires checked right away. Tires should also be balanced and rotated every six months, for safety and to preserve the life of the tires for as long as possible.
Belts, batteries and other critical details:
It’s also a good idea to regularly replace your air filters, inspect your battery and keep it clean, and have your belts looked at every once in a while, or if you suspect a problem. Tending to these things will keep your car running smoothly and prevent major safety issues down the line.
Do You Have Enough Life Insurance?
Many people get a certain amount of group term life insurance through their employers, often free of charge. Typically, that coverage is based on your salary. For example, many employers offer life insurance that is equal to one or two times your annual earnings. While that amount will certainly cover your burial expenses, it likely won’t support your family for very long.
In fact, according to the American Council of Life Insurers, experts often suggest that policyholders have life insurance equal to seven to 10 times their annual income.
If your employer-provided insurance falls short of that, then you may want to purchase supplemental life insurance to fill the gap.
How Supplemental Life Insurance Works
In addition to the basic insurance coverage you receive at work, your employer may offer you the option to purchase additional coverage at your own expense. If you belong to a union or other membership organization, then you may also have group insurance benefits and the opportunity to increase them if you wish.
This supplemental insurance may not require a medical exam, as most individual policies would. If you’re buying it through your employer, you may also be able to pay for it with convenient payroll deductions.
If Your Employer Doesn’t Offer Supplemental Life Insurance
Not all employers offer the option to purchase supplemental life insurance, however. Also, depending on your age and other factors, the supplemental coverage that you could get through work might be more expensive than an individual life insurance policy that you could buy on your own.
So if you need additional coverage, it’s worth finding out what your employer’s plan would charge you for it and then shopping around.
There are two main types of individual policies to consider: term life and permanent life.
With term life insurance, you get coverage for a defined period of time, such as 10, 20, or 30 years. If you die during the policy’s term, then your beneficiaries will receive the death benefit. But if you die after the policy’s term, then they receive nothing.
Your employer-provided coverage at work is most likely term insurance. However, unlike your employer’s insurance, which ends if you leave your job, a term policy that you purchase on your own is portable.
Because term life insurance simply provides a death benefit and doesn’t build up any cash value, it’s typically less expensive than permanent life insurance—often much less.
Permanent life insurance can provide coverage for your lifetime. As long as you pay your premiums, you are covered, and your family will receive a death benefit if you die.
Permanent life insurance plans can also accumulate cash value. Over time, you can tap into the cash value to pay your premiums, take out a loan, or buy more coverage. Permanent life insurance comes in several different forms, including whole life, universal life, and variable life.