I drive a 2005 Chevy Aveo that I bought new . In case you have never owned one, they were made with sub-par parts. For example, the thermostat housing was made of plastic. Thermostat housings are near the engine, so within 3 years, it had gotten so hot on and off that it cracked in two. Amazingly, the replacement part was metal. Long story short, I have looked into what problems can be ignored and what problems can’t when it comes to a car like mine. Please keep in mind that I am not an auto professional – I just own a cruddy one and am sharing my experiences.
Editor’s Note/Warning: As frugal as I am, I think you should always try to repair problems as quickly as possible, as small problems have ways of turning into big problems. Proper maintenance and repair will help your car live longer than average, which yields savings in the long run. I do, also, recognize that in these tougher economic times, you may not have the funds to make these minor repairs. If that’s the case, this post hopes to give a little direction on what issues where it might be OK to delay.
Low Tire Warning
Most modern cars have sensors that will warn you if problems pop up on your vehicle. One of the most frequent warning indicators is the low tire pressure warning. My car doesn’t have one but my husband’s Prius does. Some people mistakenly believe that this light means that the tire needs to be replaced. The solution is often much simpler than that. Many times the air pressure in the tire has simply dropped below the manufacturer’s recommended limit. Adding some air to the tire will often make this warning light shut off.
If the thermostat breaks in a car, the indicator will show that engine is not getting warm enough. If you know that your engine is running fine with no major issues with heating and cooling, then you may just have a broken thermostat. Getting the thermostat display fixed is important in the long run, but if you are having a tough month financially, it is one of the repairs that can wait a bit. Just make sure to check your engine regularly for any signs of problems.
My thermostat broke a couple of years ago, but I had it replaced immediately since I had no idea what its significance was. My mechanic actually explained to me that I would have been fine without one for a while since the engine was in good shape. Even though I still prefer to have things fixed immediately, I thought I should mention it.
Check Engine Light
Another indicator light that pops on all the time is the Check Engine Light. Some cars even keep track of how tight the gas cap is on, how much fuel is in the car, and how often you need an oil change with that light. In short, your car’s display may be showing problems with the engine because of a loose gas cap or because it’s been 3000 miles  since your last oil change. I would suggest checking your owner’s manual for simple causes for the check engine light and only take your car in to be looked at after making sure there isn’t a simple, and cheaper, fix.
Small Brake Fluid Leak
Believe me, I thought there was no way that a brake fluid leak should be ignored. Then I owned an Aveo. Apparently, small brake fluid leaks do sometimes occur on badly made vehicles with manual transmissions. My brake light came on and stayed on a few years ago, but when I took it to my mechanic, he spent 2 hours trying to find the leak to no avail.
He finally simply added a little brake fluid into the proper reservoir and explained I probably had a small leak somewhere around the clutch. He suggested I simply add a little bit of brake fluid myself whenever the light stayed on and to look into it further if the light ever came on more frequently than every 6 months. So far, it has been 4 years since the initial light and I’ve only had to add about an inch of brake fluid 5 times. That means I have spent $8 on brake fluid instead of thousands of dollars on finding the insignificant leak.
Have you learned to ignore certain car problems too?
(Photo: kathycat102 )