Owning an automobile is an expensive proposition. Your ride needs to be cleaned, fueled, and maintained. You need to buy insurance and pay licensing fees. Emissions testing may be required. And unless you’ve invested in a classic car that’s expected to turn a profit (a relatively rare occurrence), your vehicle’s value will decline year after year, especially if used for your regular commute to work.

Fortunately, paying attention to the little things — those ongoing maintenance matters laid out in your owner’s manual — can help you avoid expensive repairs, reduce operational costs, and keep your car running great. Consider the following six suggestions from automobile professionals.

  • Read and follow the owner’s manual. That little booklet has been placed in your glovebox for a reason. The company that built your car knows how to keep it running well. Following the preventive maintenance schedule for fluid changes, timing belt replacement, and brake and tire inspection can save hundreds of dollars over the life of your car. Knowing what’s in the owner’s manual can also provide a “leg up” when dealing with mechanics, some of whom may recommend unnecessary repairs.
  • Find a good mechanic. If your car is under warranty, your dealership is often a great place to go for repairs and routine maintenance. Once the warranty has expired, ask family and friends to suggest an experienced local mechanic. Independent shops generally charge less than licensed dealers because they have access to less expensive aftermarket parts. In addition, a competent mechanic can develop familiarity with the characteristics and quirks of your car.
  • Pay attention to warning signs. Has your gas mileage suddenly dropped? The engine may need analyzing. Is your ride getting rougher? The shocks may need replacing.
  • Maintain a constant speed. Cruise control improves fuel economy.
  • Check your tires. Keeping tires inflated at the proper pressure helps you achieve better gas mileage. The correct PSI (pounds per square inch) can be found on your car’s doorjamb. Rotate tires regularly to distribute wear.
  • Save maintenance receipts. When it’s time to sell your car, a potential buyer will likely ask for service documentation. Keeping that paperwork will show that you’ve been a conscientious car owner, and may put more money in your pocket.