Ignoring the "check engine" light is another example of how putting off repairs on a small problem can escalate to an expensive repair. According to the CarMD Vehicle Health Index, the most common reason for a "check engine" light is a faulty oxygen (O2) sensor. A dirty air filter (<$20 repair) can result in an O2 sensor failure (<$250 repair), which can in turn result in substantial gas mileage reduction, cause the vehicle to misfire and eventually result in the need for an expensive catalytic converter replacement (>$1,000 repair). That's why it's so important to have your car's air filter replaced as recommended by your service manual, and to address "check engine" warnings as soon as possible.
And while these top techs encourage their customers and all drivers to follow a regular maintenance program, they don't want consumers to get lured into spending extra money on unnecessary items. According to CarMD's Master Techs, the best rule of thumb is "any service other than what is recommended in your owner's manual is unnecessary." They recommend servicing your car according to factory requirements, but suggest avoiding gimmicks like injector flushes and nitrogen in the tires, which are a waste of money. CarMD offers its customers "Staying Healthy" reports online with maintenance schedules for their registered vehicles to help know what services their car needs when. CarMD also offers a free online service - available at www.carmd.com/ScoreCard - where anyone can see the most common problems for their own vehicle, as well as how it scores in terms of reliability against other vehicles on the road.
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