When Do You Maintain, and When Do You Repair?

John Nielsen, director of the American Automobile Association’s Approved Auto Repair Network and Auto Buying Services. He’s here in this video to help viewers make sense of car repair, and more specifically what car owners need to know about repair and maintenance. Why? Because proper use of both of these factors will keep your car running smoothly and will give you peace of mind!


There is a difference between maintenance and repair, and too little of the one can result in more of the other! Maintenance is what you do to protect the investment that you made in your vehicle, and it’s also what keeps you and your family safe while you’re on the road. It has to be done on a regular basis (usually on a schedule determined by the manufacturer) and its goal is to keep your car functioning smoothly and properly.

So what’s included in maintenance? We’re referring to activities like rotating your tires, changing your oil and filters, and all the activities that are on your manufacturer’s maintenance list as well as in your owner’s manual.


Some repairs are covered under your warranty. When you buy a car (or any vehicle) new, the vehicle’s manufacturer provides and usually start around 12,000 miles and generally go up to 100,000 as a standard. What is included under warranty depends on the manufacturer. It could be as simple as tires, it could be something as complicated as an alternator.


If something is not covered by the warranty, and you have components that fail or are damaged, then you are financially responsible

for repairing or replacing the failed component. Now, there are a lot of maintenance services and repairs you can do yourself. Some things should be taken to experts and if you’re concerned about doing something you shouldn’t try it, but if you want, here are some places to start.

Check your tires. Checking your tire pressure once a month is a great way to start: improperly inflated tires are dangerous to drive on. Also take a look at your battery and your battery cables; you don’t want to be stranded somewhere with a battery that needs a jump.

Nielsen says that it’s a good idea to “just get used to opening the hood of your car, checking your oil, and taking a look around, so that when you see something unusual, you may not know what’s actually failed, but you know that something is out of the norm, and it’s time to take it to a shop and get it serviced.”

In some cases, you need an expert. But don’t wait until you need them! Establishing a relationship with an expert that you can trust is essential so that you know you won’t have needless repairs added onto what you already need. Of course, Nielsen advocates always seeking out an AAA-approved shop.

Remember that if you perform routine maintenance regularly according to schedule, you are far less likely to require repairs, which will definitely be less expensive.