Taking care of your car is one of the most important things you can do, not only from a financial standpoint but also from a safety standpoint.
For example, we often hear horror stories about large trucks on the roadways. Of the fatal crashes, big commercial trucks are involved in each year, 5% had at least one mechanical issue.
That doesn’t even account for the regular vehicles involved in fatal accidents with mechanical issues.
Along with the safety element, cars are expensive. When you make such a big purchase and typically you’re financing it and taking on debt for three to five years, you want to make sure you get the most out of it.
So much of what we do in terms of maintenance but also day-to-day driving habits can affect how long our vehicle lasts and how much value we get out of it.
The following is a guide to extending the life of your vehicle, whether it’s currently new or not.
Go Over the Owner’s Manual
You’ve perhaps never looked at an owner’s manual when you’ve gotten a new vehicle, but you should.
Your owner’s manual will tell you the important things you need to know about maintaining your car because the recommendations aren’t always the same across all vehicles.
Your owner’s manual will provide you with a recommended maintenance schedule, and will let you know how things work, and when you should change filters and fluids.
Keep Up with Oil and Fluid Changes
We’re all busy, and sometimes we can let seemingly minor tasks go undone. For example, getting a regular oil change may not be something you always do, but it can help keep your car operating in peak condition for longer.
Oil helps lubricate and also cool the components of your engine.
When you don’t get regular oil changes as well as filter changes, it can cause sludge to build-up, which erodes metal. Other effects of forgetting or overlooking oil changes include reduced efficiency and, eventually, engine failure.
The recommendation is getting an oil change every 3,000 miles unless otherwise recommended by your car’s manufacturer.
There are also other fluids aside from oil that you need to make sure you periodically check and change when necessary.
Some of these fluids are:
- Transmission fluid
- Radiator coolant
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
If you have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle, you also have to keep an eye on differential and transfer case fluid.
You should learn how to check your own fluid levels between your official services, and this will help you spot leaks and other problems too.
The recommendation for fluids is to check them every few weeks.
With oil, as much as regular changes are important, so is using the right oil. Every car engine is associated with specific viscosity. Figuring out the right viscosity is yet another reason to make sure you go over your owner’s manual.
Once you figure out the right type of oil, make sure you are consistent in its use.
Your filters are responsible for clearing dust and dirt in the air, and then there are fuel and oil filters that capture sediments that could be abrasive.
Usually, you need a new oil filter every time you get an oil change. For air filters, how often you should change them depends on the climate and area where you most frequently drive.
When your filters are dirty or damaged, it can cause performance issues because these filters are responsible for blocking out all of the bad things you don’t want to get into your car’s system.
How you behave when you’re behind the wheel impacts the overall health of your vehicle.
For example, if you’re frequently accelerating and then braking, it increases the level of strain on all of its components. That strain then wears the components out faster.
Store Your Vehicle in a Garage If Possible
There’s a reason people often seek out a home with a garage—putting your car in a garage protects it and extends its life.
When your car is in the garage, it protects it from the sun, and snow if you live in a colder place.
If you don’t have a garage, try to park your car in the shade when it’s sunny.
In the winter and particularly if you live somewhere with harsh winters, wash your car often. This will keep the salt and sand from roadways from building up on your undercarriage and your paint.
Keep It Clean
You may not think it’s important, but there is value in keeping your car clean. When you have your car washed, it can help remove exterior pollution and road salt.
Keeping the interior clean can help you maintain the resell value of your car if that’s something you may explore in the future.
Give Your Car Time to Warm Up
If you live in a cold climate or it’s winter, it’s important to give your car enough time to warm up before you drive it. The oil in your car doesn’t lubricate as well when it’s cold, and if you begin driving as soon as you start the engine, it can put a lot of stress on your car.
Slow Down for Speed Bumps
Just like your engine’s health is important for the longevity of your car, so are the other systems and components like the wheel alignment, shocks, and suspension.
When you hit a speed bump or pothole too fast, it can wreak havoc on them.
You might put more stress on your car is necessary, and you can cost yourself a lot of money if you have to replace your shocks or suspension system.
Finally, if you notice you’re low on gas, fill up. When you wait until your tank is close to empty before you do so, it can cause issues with your engine and fuel pump eventually. The fuel in your gas tank acts as a coolant to your engine and fuel pump.