In addition to having tires rotated, check to make sure tires are properly inflated at the pressure specified in the owner's manual. This prevents unnecessary wear and helps extend tire life.
"It costs barely anything to make sure your tires are properly inflated, and air is practically free," says Steven Eppinger, president and CEO of Ownersite.com, a Web site that helps car owners track their maintenance histories. "Your car will be safer, your tires will last longer and you will get better gas mileage. You get all of this for just taking a couple of minutes each week to check tire pressure. With gas prices close to $4 a gallon in some places, that kind of savings can add up quickly."
The Car Care Council also recommends getting your tires aligned once a year. A tire alignment adjusts your vehicle's steering and suspension so that it's in line with your car manufacturer's specifications.
Cost of skipping: Excessive tire wear and poor gas mileage.
3. Replace timing belt at recommended intervals
Not all vehicles use timing belts, but many of today's engines do. Your car manual will tell you whether your car has one, and if so, when it needs to be replaced.
If the timing belt fails, the engine will cut off and the car will slow down until it stops, according to the Car Care Council. A lucky car will only require a belt repair. An unlucky car could suffer severe engine damage.
"I'm dealing with a situation where a customer drove their car for 90,000 miles without ever having the timing belt replaced, even though the car manufacturer suggested changing it at the 60,000 mile mark," says Eric Currin, a mechanic in Georgia.
"The timing belt slipped in three places. The car cut off. When the customer tried to restart the car, they bent several valves. So what would have been a $600 job to replace the timing belt has turned out to be a $2,000 job to replace the belt, valves and other related parts."
Cost of skipping: Damaged valves and pistons.
4. Annual brake checkup
Brake disc pads and shoes eventually wear down. Checking your brakes annually allows you to plan ahead and know when it's time to replace them. By contrast, neglecting regular brake work could eventually lead to more costly rotor or drum replacements.
"If you ignore your brakes, then you'll just continue to wear down your discs (the friction part of the brakes that wear with normal driving)," says Reed. "If the discs go down metal-to-metal, you could gouge your rotors. Then, what would have been a $150 brake job (to replace discs) could turn into a $300 brake job to replace rotors."
Brake inspections can also help a technician identify a problem that doesn't involve brake disc pads at all.
"There could be a lack of brake fluid or a leak in the master cylinder that's under the hood," says Sclar.
You might never know unless you have the brakes checked.
Cost of skipping: Expensive rotor or drum replacement.