It’s tax time once again here in the United States, which means many of us receive a nice chunk of change back in the form of tax returns. This year, the average returns as of early February are around 2,200, though it’s of course based on your income and tax bracket. Regardless, this time of year usually means a few extra bucks in our pocket that go towards repairs, upgrades, or possibly new project cars for this season. In this edition of Tuned In Weekly, we’re going to focus on the maintenance side of things and look at a few suggestions for how to spend that tax return wisely by knocking out major maintenance services while you have the funds on hand.
All the filters
Ok, so you’re a good vehicle owner and enthusiast, you change your oil filter every 5,000 miles. Maybe even more frequently, depending on your oil change preference. But what about your cabin air filter? Fuel filter? DSG filter? Engine air filter? These need to be changed at some point, though not as often as your oil filter, but often nonetheless. Filter replacements take minutes, at most, an hour or two to replace all of them at once. They’re inexpensive and keep your engine operating at peak efficiency, particles out of your gearboxes, and fresh air in your cabin. At a few bucks per filter, you should just go ahead and grab the lot of them if you can’t remember the last time you changed any of them.
Whether you’re on stock suspension or coilovers, when was the last time you checked all the surrounding components? At 100k miles, most bushings and ball joints are at the end of their lifespan. When your car starts riding like an old farm truck, most folks swap out the shocks and struts, maybe the upper mounts, and leave it at that. But much of your ride quality and handling performance can actually be attributed to the control arm bushings, ball joints, end links, and other wearable suspension components that go overlooked. With your tax return, replacing all the suspension bushings and ball joints is entirely affordable, and excellent use of that money as an investment in your transportation.
We mentioned filters that are often forgotten, now it’s time to talk about your transmission and differential fluids. It can be argued that most modern drivetrains have ‘lifetime’ fluids and rarely need to be replaced. However, lifetime doesn’t mean ‘forever,’ it means the ‘expected operational lifespan’ of the part or entire vehicle. If you’re like me, then your car is likely well past its intended lifespan. For little money and effort, you can add a drivetrain fluid service to your list of tax return maintenance and ensure your gears will stay happy and healthy long past their expected life.
A helpful tool for this service is our Schwaben fluid suction and refill tool. Many drivetrain fluids, like LIQUI MOLY’s gear oil, come with spouts that allow you to pump the fluid in, but if your fill port is in a tough spot, you might not be able to reach it. Our suction and fill pump is just what you need to ensure you fill your transmission or differential to the proper level.
Clutch / Flywheel
Are you planning some upgrades that will exceed your clutch’s torque specs? What about driving on the factory clutch some 200k miles later? Clutch replacements are time-consuming and somewhat costly, especially for upgraded discs, pressure plates, and flywheels. Your tax return is a great way to cover the cost of this infrequent and expensive necessary service. Plus, with the cold weather, it’s not like you’ll be driving your fun car any time soon. Take the remaining winter weeks and knock out your clutch service so you don’t have to worry about it again for a long time.
Tools / Equipment
We already mentioned our fluid suction and refill tool, but there are some other handy shop tools to make your life easier that we often pass over when we don’t have the extra cash to justify them. With some tax return cash, it’s a great chance to grab tools like our engine support bar, high-lift low-profile floor jack, European brake bleeder, or coolant purge/refill tool so you can add more in-depth maintenance services to your list of capabilities at home. For a few hundred bucks, you can ensure you’ll never have to take your car somewhere else for most major services. Adding tools to your shop is one of the best ways to develop independence when it comes to your car ownership, and we can’t think of anything better to spend a tax return on if you don’t need to repair or maintain anything on your car at the moment.
Whatever your tax return is, this is pretty much the best opportunity you have all year to knock out some critical maintenance or bolster your tool collection without dipping into your normal budget. Remember, you can either spend that money, save it, or invest it. When it comes to maintaining your transportation, that’s an investment in your ability to make it to and from your job! No better way to allocate the extra funds, if you ask us.