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Waiting until something breaks versus regular maintenance?

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Dear Tom and Ray:


I was going to ask for advice about what car to buy, but I just found one I fell in love with. I just bought a 1983 Toyota Cressida Wagon. It has almost 70,000 miles, but it looks beautiful, seems to have been well cared for, and is generally in good shape. This is the first car I've ever owned that I really like, and I want to take great care of it so it will last a long time. Now, there seem to be two schools of thought among mechanics I've spoken to. One is not to do any repair work until something breaks, and the other is to do maintenance on a schedule whether it looks like it needs it or not. What is your advice?
Gail

TOM: This question calls for one of the CAR TALK Great Unyielding Truths (GUTS): "It's the stingy person who spends the most!" The basic theory of preventive maintenance is that if something is going to be fixed, it's easier and cheaper if you drive the car to the shop rather than have it towed on some dark, foggy night, out on the moor, with snakes crawling around the tires and axe murderers prowling around.

RAY: We don't mean to scare you, Gail, but preventive maintenance is the answer. Check the owners' manual and follow the prescribed schedule for service intervals. Change the oil every 3000 miles, and drive it gently. Of course, if preventive maintenance fails, revert to plan "B" and fix things one at a time as they break. Then write to us in six months when you need advice on buying another car.
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