In tough economic times like these, most people cut back on major purchases and try to make what they already own last longer. One sure way to make certain the family vehicle gives you reliable service is to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, note the experts at the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). In fact, a survey of ASE-certified master automotive technicians indicated that motorists could expect a well-maintained vehicle to last up to twice as long as one that’s neglected.

“Putting off maintenance and service or, worse — neglecting ongoing problems, is penny-wise and dollar foolish,” says ASE’s Editorial Director, Martin Lawson. “Today’s vehicles are designed for years and years of reliable service.”

Among the items motorists frequently neglect are oil changes, tire and brake service, wheel alignment, and air and fuel filters. Some even ignore engine lights and warnings, which, if left unattended can cause a relatively minor problem, such as a problem with the air and fuel mixture, doing damage to more expensive components.

To help consumers choose a repair shop that fits their needs, ASE offers the following checklist advice:

• Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.

• Look for a courteous staff, with a service consultant willing to answer all of your questions.

• Look for policies regarding estimated repair costs, diagnostic fees, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.

• Ask if the repair facility specializes or if it usually handles your type of repair work.

• Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic, community, or customer service awards.

• Look for evidence of qualified technicians: trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and certification by ASE.

• Look for the ASE sign or logo; it means the shop employs certified technicians.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was founded in 1972 as a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact areas of certification. Their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign. Visit for seasonal car care advice and more. (MS)

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