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Car owners say routine oil changes reduce costly repairs; mechanics agree

December 1, 2009

SEATTLE – Washington drivers know the key step in preventing costly auto repairs, but they may be overlooking other crucial maintenance to prevent long-term engine damage, according to a PEMCO Insurance poll released today.

More than half of the drivers polled (53 percent) correctly identified regularly changing the engine oil and filter as the No. 1 way to avoid expensive vehicle repairs. Respondents chose oil changes as the single most important maintenance action over other routine practices such as regular tune-ups, changing air filters, and servicing the vehicle’s transmission.

PEMCO Insurance says mechanics agree. “Our network of local top-rated auto shops agrees that regularly changing your car’s engine oil and filter is the most effective way to prevent costly auto repairs,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.

Not a single poll respondent identified regularly servicing a vehicle’s transmission as the most important way to prevent costly auto repairs. Though not as crucial as regular oil checks, servicing your transmission is a critical part of extending your car’s longevity and shouldn’t be overlooked, according to Jeff Odom, owner of Evergreen Autoworks.

"People are aware of it but don’t completely buy into the idea of changing the transmission fluid. They don’t believe in the seriousness of it or don’t think they’re going to keep the car that long. But the cost versus the possible benefit is well worth the investment,” Odom said.

Now more than ever, with the average driver waiting about 100,000 miles between tune-ups, oil and filter changes are critical to keep a car running smoothly, according to Dave DeMontigny of Car People, a Northwest agency specializing in automotive-related occupation and employment services.

Kerry Triboulet, owner of Special Interest Auto Body in Everett, agrees. “If you change the oil every 3,000 miles, the inside of the engine will remain like new. You won’t have engine oil leaks or other issues like a damaging build-up of carbon. The internal parts of the engine will last longer.”

PEMCO also recommends following these additional guidelines from AAA to maintain vehicles and keep them in their prime:

Check tire pressure
Drivers should check their vehicle’s tire pressure about once a month to ensure it follows owner’s manual specifications. Over-inflated tires can cause premature wear on the center tread. Under-inflated tires can decrease fuel economy or, worse, cause blowouts at high speeds.

Change engine air filters
This should be checked every six months or 7,500 miles. Air filters that are dirty or clogged can restrict airflow and reduce engine performance and fuel economy. A congested air filter also can lead to increased exhaust emissions.

Battery cables/clamps/terminals
Corroded or loose battery cables/clamps/terminals can restrict power to a vehicle’s electrical system, hamper other systems, and even keep the engine from starting.

“Simple maintenance like changing fluids and filters can prevent breakdowns and costly repairs. The key is to do those things regularly and not dismiss them or procrastinate for the sake of convenience,” Osterberg added.

To learn more about PEMCO’s poll and to view a summary of the results, visit poll.pemco.com. Visitors to the site can take an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle earlier this year. 

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 601 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4.1 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents.  PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.

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