Let it get to that point, and you'll realize -- there's a reason it's called an idiot light. After all, the first step to successful car maintenance is simple: do it. The second is even easier: do it exactly as you're told to by technicians and in your owners manual.
Simple. Easy. Yet for many people, it's an ongoing challenge, for two reasons. Admit it: you don't have the time and forget to get it done, or you're intimidated about dealing with technicians. So you put it off and create the scenario you most dread - a major repair costing thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, fear and loathing is to be expected: we've all had at least one experience with price gouging and unnecessary repairs.
It's enough to make you learn how to change your own oil. But you don't have to get dirty to get a fair price and keep your car in top shape. According to Michael Rose of Autobytel, formerly an Certified Master Technician with BMW, the two most important things a car owner should do is keep his or her car serviced as per recommended service intervals, find a technician they can trust - and stick to them. "It's important to follow the automaker's service schedule, because it is a good way to discover potential manufacturing defects," said Rose. "Part of the factory scheduled service is designed to help keep a car running correctly."