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By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Americans are holding on to their cars longer than ever and that means more, often expensive maintenance over the life of your vehicle.

The average car is now 11-years-old and car repair costs are on the rise, up 10-percent from last year. So you’ll want to be a proactive owner, starting with the basics.

The experts at Edmunds.com recommend you check your tire pressure once a month and inflate if necessary.

This will improve your gas mileage, the overall life of your tires and ensure your car can respond efficiently in an emergency.

Rotating your tires helps them wear at the same rate.

You can extend the life of your engine and get more miles out of every tank by changing your air filter every year or 12,000 miles and keep up with routine oil changes.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the check engine light.

Car MD says that light could simply be telling you to check your gas cap or it could be more serious.

If your oxygen sensor is faulty, ignoring it could add up to an additional $900 a year in gas.

Bad spark plugs or ignition coils will also eat into gas mileage and could damage your catalytic converter and that’s a part you really don’t want to ignore. The cost to replace a catalytic converter could easily top $1,000.

Taking steps to maintain your car may cost a bit of time and money but it could save big bucks down the road.

By the way, if you want to save a trip to the mechanic and diagnosis a problem yourself, there are a number of engine light code readers available for purchase online.

If you do go to an auto repair shop, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.

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