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Their automobile, truck or SUV represents the second-largest purchase they will ever make, behind only their house in cost.

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Auto Technician Survey Confirms Importance of Vehicle Maintenance

For most people, their automobile, truck or SUV represents the second-largest purchase they will ever make, behind only their house in cost. So it makes good sense to protect that investment through regular maintenance, right?

As sensible and commonplace as this advice is, many of us are having trouble following it, according to a survey of ASE-certified automotive technicians. It's not because the auto technicians aren't trying. Just as doctors’ warnings about the dangers of a poor diet and no exercise often fall on deaf ears, these doctors of motors dispense good advice, but it is often ignored.

Virtually one half (48 percent) of ASE-certified technicians polled indicated that they "always" tell their customers about the importance of vehicle maintenance, while these same technicians report that only two percent of motorists "always" follow their advice. Admittedly some of us backslide from time to time, so maybe "always" sets too high a standard. Adding in the responses for "usually," the results are not much better. Eight-four percent of technicians said they "always" or "usually" explain the importance of maintenance, while only 29 percent of motorists "always" or "usually" follow technicians' advice.

"Considering the costs and complexity of today's vehicles, consumers are being penny-wise and dollar-foolish if they neglect routine maintenance," notes ASE President Ronald H. Weiner. Almost two-thirds of the technicians surveyed felt that consumers could take care of their maintenance and repair needs for $500 or less annually. Not a huge amount, considering the average cost of a new vehicle or the return on investment.

So what items specifically are consumers neglecting? The old-fashioned oil change tops the list, followed by transmissions, tires, cooling systems, brakes, belts and tune-ups/engine performance. The downside of all this neglect is shortened vehicle life, compromised safety, poor gasoline mileage and the specter of minor repairs ballooning into big-ticket overhauls.

As vehicles become more complex and packed with computers, conventional wisdom might suggest that younger people, at ease with today's high-tech gadgets, would be a bit more likely to keep up with repairs than the older generations. Not so. The ASE-certified technicians polled indicated that middle-aged people took the best care of the vehicles (48 percent), followed closely by the elderly (42 percent). Young people placed dead last, at one percent.

For those who do take their vehicles in for routine maintenance and service, there’s payoff, according to the surveyed techs. A majority of technicians said motorists could extend vehicle life by 50 percent or more.

Mind you, the foregoing isn't the opinion of your back-yard mechanic brother-in-law. Participants in the straw poll, ASE-certified technicians, are among the best in the industry, having taken and passed independent national certification exams. Slightly over a third (36 percent) of the participants were college graduates, another third (37 percent) had graduated from a technical school. Ninety percent use a computer on the job; 86 percent use one at home.

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