By Damon Poeter
When money’s tight, it can be tough to keep up with car maintenance and repairs. The good news is that you can learn how to maintain a car to get more life out of it without spending much.
Treating your car well is smart for several reasons. First, if you’re like a lot of folks, you need it to run reliably to get to work, pick up the kids, go shopping and more. Second, your car will be safer to drive if you keep it in peak condition. And lastly, when it comes time to sell it, you’ll get a better return on your initial investment if your car is in good shape.
Tips to Extend the Life of Your Vehicle
1. Examine Your Car Once a Week
Take a few minutes once a week to look under the hood of your car and under the carriage, checking for things like a buildup of oil sludge, corrosion on your battery terminals and fluid on the ground under your car that may have leaked out. While you’re driving, listen and smell for sounds and odors that seem unusual. If you make this a habit, you may just detect some car trouble early and save yourself money on more costly repairs down the road.
2. Keep Your Car Clean
A clean car won’t necessarily run longer than a dirty one, but it’ll certainly be more pleasant to drive around in and if you live in a place where they salt the roads, cleaning off that salt can help your car last longer. What’s more, if you regularly clean the exterior and interior of your car yourself, you’ll be more likely to catch problems like leaks, cracks and rust that could lead to expensive repairs in the future.
3. Reduce Your Short Driving Trips
When your car’s engine doesn’t reach its operating temperature before you turn it off again, water can mix with oil and fuel to produce a damaging sludge in your crankcase instead of boiling off. To avoid this, try to cut down on the number of times you hop into your car and drive less than 10 minutes or about five miles in warm weather and less than 20 minutes or about 10 miles in cold weather.
4. Change Your Fluids Regularly
If you already keep tabs on fluid levels in your engine, radiator and brake system, that’s great. But simply topping up motor oil and brake fluid, etc. isn’t enough to keep your car running at its peak level. If you’re having to do it frequently, something is probably wrong with your car. Don’t ignore the alerts that tell you it’s time to change the oil, whether it’s a dashboard display warning, the check engine light or the windshield mileage sticker from your last trip to the mechanic.
5. Use the Fuel and Oil Your Car Was Designed to Take
If you purchased a high-performance car, you probably also signed up for higher prices at the gas station. High-end luxury sedans and sports cars usually run better and last longer using premium fuel and synthetic motor oil. It will cost you more at the pump, but it’s a worthwhile investment.
6. Treat Your Transmission Tenderly
First, let’s dispel a myth. It doesn’t harm your automatic transmission if you park your car and accidently turn it off while it’s in drive or reverse. But, here are some things that can damage your transmission:
• Shifting from park to drive or reverse while the car is moving
• Not using the parking brake while parked on an incline
• Letting your transmission fluid run low
• Not changing out your transmission fluid and filter if they become dirty or worn out
7. Learn to Do Simple Repairs and Part Replacements
You’ll save a lot of money if you learn how to do some surprisingly easy maintenance jobs on your vehicle. These include tasks like rotating and replacing tires, replacing brake pads and accessory belts, changing out fluids and swapping out the battery. Other jobs may be tougher for you to handle yourself, like replacing the timing belt, water pump and the suspension bearings and bushings.
If you drive safely and spend a little time and money on regular maintenance and repairs, you and your car should have a long, beautiful life together.
Safety guidelines are not intended to be all inclusive, but are provided for your consideration. Please use your own judgment to determine what safety features/procedures should be used in each unique situation.
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