In a tough economy and with budgets as tight as they are, we naturally look for ways to cut expenses. The first ones to go are those that we consider to be unnecessary, like routine maintenance on our cars.

Surely we can get by occasionally without that inspection or run a little longer between fluid changes, right? Not so fast.

While it may be true that cars and trucks are designed to run longer between oil changes and are very reliable overall, the greatest value in routine servicing goes beyond those inexpensive items you’re skipping.

The importance of maintenance is that by taking care of those small things, you can avoid them turning into bigger, and much more expensive repairs. Modern cars are more complex than in years past, requiring tighter tolerances in the components and fluids that keep them running. For instance, motor oils today have a much higher percentage of additives than the oil your Dad used on his old car.

But when your car isn’t serviced on schedule, needed repairs tend to go unnoticed until they become bigger repairs. Saving a few bucks by topping off your engine coolant instead of flushing the radiator and adding new coolant, for instance, could cost you a new radiator when all of the anti-corrosion additives are gone out of the coolant.

In the long run, the strategy of frugality with your car’s maintenance, as well meaning as it is, ends up costing you money rather than saving it.