Your car is one of your biggest investments and something on which you depend heavily. Nowadays, many people are keeping their older cars longer before trading them in or upgrading. It is more important than ever to maintain your car properly to maximize its lifespan and minimize repairs. Here are 10 easy tips to extend the life of your car.
1. Keep up with Scheduled Car Maintenance Services
Read your vehicle's owner manual to find out when your car's recommended maintenance services should be scheduled. Keeping up with scheduled oil changes can increase the longevity of your engine. Changing brake pads can prevent damage to rotors and calipers. Tune-ups can keep your electrical system in tip-top shape.
Preventative maintenance can save you money, improve your safety and prevent inconveniences. Some of the problems that can be avoided by staying on schedule include the battery dying after being parked too long, heat and AC cutting off, power windows locking up, or the engine overheating and being stranded roadside.
2. Don't Skip Oil Changes
Oil changes are essential to keep your car's engine running safely. When oil is grimy or old, it creates added friction between moving parts that can lead to unnecessary wear and tear to the engine over time. Using old or dirty oil is one of the most common causes of damage to a car's engine.
Make sure to have your oil changed regularly according to the schedule recommended by your owner manual-usually every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
3. Keep it Clean
Allowing dust and debris to collect on and inside your car can cause undue wear to your car's surfaces. Regularly wash and wax your car to keep your paint job pristine. Use cleaning products that are designed for auto interiors to keep the inside in good condition, which can prevent issues like cracked leather or scratched dashes.
4. Check Your Tire Pressure
Keeping your tires inflated to your car's recommended pressures is an important element of tire maintenance. Tires containing the recommended amount of air pressure will last longer and contribute to overall vehicle safety.
Tires that are under inflated may provide less responsive steering and affect braking distances. This can be dangerous when an emergency stop or sudden maneuver is necessary to avoid a collision. Low tire pressures can allow tire sidewalls to flex excessively and generate heat. Moderate heat will accelerate tire tread wear. High heat can lead to loss of tread segments or even blowouts.
To maintain safe tire pressure, check your tires regularly. Once a week is best, preferably no less than once a month and right before any long road trip. Check the pressure with a quality pressure gauge and follow the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressures, not the pressure molded into the tire sidewall.
5. Get Your Car's Fluids Checked
There are 6 essential fluids you should check at least monthly. Keeping fluids up to date will reduce long-term maintenance costs and keep your car running well. If you have to top off the fluids more often than what's recommended in your owner's manual, you should have the car checked to see if there is a leak.
- Engine Oil - The most important fluid on this list! It lubricates the moving engine parts. Without proper levels of oil, your engine may eventually quit working. Check the oil at least one time in between oil changes. Adding a quart of oil a few times a year in between oil changes in not uncommon for higher mileage cars. Adding more than that could be a sign of a problem.
- Automatic Transmission Fluid - Some cars have lifetime transmission fluid that won't need replacing for 100,000 miles or more. But it is still worth checking once a year to make sure the level is where it should be. If your car doesn't have a dipstick, ask your Tune Tech technician to check it for you.
- Engine Coolant - Also known as antifreeze, coolant keeps your car running in hot or cold weather. The antifreeze level should be checked twice a year before hot or cold season starts. On many cars, you can check the level by looking at the clear plastic coolant reservoir under the hood. In older cars, you may need to remove the radiator cap when the car is cold. Some caps have a small dipstick to show you the level.
- Brake Fluid - While you check the coolant level, the brake fluid can easily be checked as well. You will usually find it in a clear plastic container on top of the master cylinder mounted to the firewall in front of the steering wheel. Brake fluid should be checked at every oil change or at least once a year.
- Power Steering Fluid - The power steering fluid reservoir is usually near the brake fluid reservoir. If the reservoir is clear, you can see the fluid level inside. If you have to open the reservoir to check the fluid level, wipe the lid off with a rag so dirt does not fall into the fluid when you take the cap off. The power steering fluid should be checked at least once a year.
- Windshield Washer Fluid - You might use windshield wipers more often than you realize, so check the fluid level once a month. You can add additional fluid yourself as needed. Check the fluid levels often during rainy and winter seasons, and before you go on a long drive.
6. Replace Your Wiper Blades
Windshield wiper maintenance is critical to maintaining the visibility necessary to drive safely. While you might not always have to deal with snow, everyone has to drive through rainy or hazardous conditions at times. Your wipers work hard during these times to keep your windshield clear so you can safely reach your destination. All this work means the wipers will start to wear down and leave smudges or streaks on your windshield which can make visibility even worse.
As the wipers deteriorate, they can lose the rubber on their blades and scratch your windshield. Between regular use and the sun beaming down on them, the rubber on your wipers will eventually deteriorate. It is best to not wait until you are driving in the rain to discover your wipers need to be replaced. Every few months, lift the wipers from the windshield and run your finger along the edge. If you feel any bumps or tears in the rubber, it is time to replace your blades.
7. Replace Engine Air Filters
An air filter might not seem like an important component to regularly check, but they are an important part of maintaining your car's performance. Filters prevent small particles from entering the engine and causing damage. A particle as small as a grain of sand can get through a damaged air filter and damage internal engine parts, such as cylinders and pistons. A clean air filter will capture dirt and debris from the outside air and prevent it from reaching the combustion chamber, reducing the likelihood of needing expensive repairs.
Regularly replacing air filters also leads to increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. A dirty or damaged filter limits the amount of air flowing into your car's engine, which makes it work harder and need more fuel. The reduced airflow to your engine can also pollute spark plugs, increase engine depositions and cause the 'Service Engine' light to come on. The air-fuel imbalance impacts your car's exhaust emissions, which contributes to the pollution of your environment.
8. Perform a Weekly Inspection
Every time we get into our car, we make a few checks without even realizing it. We check the fuel level, make sure our seatbelt is fastened, and that mirrors are aligned. By adding on a few other easy checks, you can better ensure your vehicle's safety. It is recommended to do an inspection once a week or before a long road trip. These are some of the items that should be regularly inspected:
- Brakes - The brake pads should be inspected and replaced regularly. Periodically inspect the rotors and calipers to ensure working order.
- Engine - Listen for any weird noises and look for signs of corrosion.
- Fluids and Filters - Check your oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and other key fluids depending on your vehicle. Check air filters for signs of damage.
- Tires - Check the tire pressure and tread depth. Make sure to check the pressure while the tires are cold.
- Horn - Any vehicle that goes on the road needs a working horn. Test to make sure its working so you can safely warn others of your presence.
- Lights - Make sure exterior and interior lights are working. Exterior lights are necessary for you to see clearly and be seen in low-light situations.
- Windshield Wipers - Check to make sure your wiper blades in sufficient shape to clear your windshield.
9. Tend to Minor Repairs in a Timely Manner
Whether you've noticed a slight hum when you turn on the air conditioning or your car is pulling to one side, these little issues can become big problems if left unattended. Take care of minor problems at your earliest convenience to prevent further damage and costly repairs to your car down the road. Performing your weekly inspection should alert you to any needed repairs.
10. Drive Responsibly
Even if you might fantasize about tearing up the race track, don't drive like you're a racing star. Sudden starts and stops, high speeds, and sharp corners put undue stress on your car's parts. Excessive speed forces your engine to work harder, forcing pistons and other moving parts to work at a higher speed than is optimal. Keeping your speed as low as possible while maintaining a safe velocity is an easy way to cut back on wear and tear on your engine.
If you notice anything wrong while performing your list of maintenance tips to extend the life of your car, our staff at Tune Tech Automotive can help. We are dedicated to helping drivers extend the life of their vehicles and ensure safety both on and off the road. Give us a call at (303)327-9176 or schedule an appointment online today to learn more about maintaining your vehicle to extend its lifespan.