A car is often a necessary and (unfortunately) expensive investment. However, this investment can vary widely between vehicle owners over the course of a lifetime. Many drivers burn through their vehicles in a few years’ time, while others can keep their four-wheeled friends working for decades. The difference? A bit of maintenance performed and thousands of dollars saved. If you want to count yourself in the money-saving group of drivers, there’s no time like the present to start maintaining your ride. In this guide, our experts will show you how. Here are 8 quick tips to keep your car going for years to come.
1. Read the Manual
What’s black and white and not read ever? Manuals. For furniture, appliances, automobiles and more — we live in a culture where very few people read the small book or pamphlet included with nearly all of their most-used products. For small, inexpensive, relatively simple things like toasters and electric kettles, you can probably get away with not reading the manual. But for large, complex machines like cars, manuals have pages of important information worth knowing. Topics covered in your car’s manual include: how long your car can run on synthetic oil before it needs an oil change, your car’s specific PSI, your car’s specific towing capacity, what kind of fuel your car takes, and much more. You don’t have to read your manual cover to cover in one sitting, but you should always refer to it before doing anything new with your car.
2. Get Into the Habit of Checking Your Tire Pressure
So, you’ve read your owner’s manual. You now know a few essential facts about your car. Among those is the right PSI (pounds per square inch) of air each of your tires needs. This is your tire pressure. Having the correct tire pressure not only helps your car get optimal miles per gallon (which saves you major money in the long run), but it also helps prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your tires (which also saves you money because your tires last longer). When inflating your tires, you shouldn’t only worry about the wear and tear caused by an underinflated tire, but also the much scarier and more shocking risks of an overinflated tire. An overinflated tire greatly increases the risk of having a tire blowout. Should that blowout happen at high speeds, you and your car may suffer severe damages. Check your tire pressure routinely and inflate to proper PSI levels to avoid underinflated and overinflated tires.
3. Rotate Your Tires Routinely
Speaking of tires, inflation isn’t the only factor you should be considering when trying to maximize your car’s longevity. You should also be rotating your tires periodically. Not sure what rotating your tires means? Here’s a quick explanation. Tire rotation is the practice of moving your tires to different spots on your car (front to back, left to right) so that wear and tear on different parts of the tire is evenly dispersed. Since each section of the car will wear a tire differently than the other sections based on your driving habits, it’s an excellent idea to rotate your tires frequently so that all tires get the same wear. This will not only extend the life of your tires, it will also prevent more serious damage to your car caused by unbalanced tire wear. We recommend going into a shop to get this done quickly and safely. While you’re there, you can check off a few more items on this list.
4. Get Your Oil Changed Regularly
Though you can change your oil yourself, getting it changed at a shop is the fastest and most foolproof way to ensure that your car is lubricated. Ample lubrication ensures that components in your powertrain are working efficiently and aren’t wearing down prematurely, extending your vehicle’s lifetime overall. Don’t ever let your “maintenance required” light be your reminder for getting your next oil change. The “maintenance required” dashboard light means your vehicle has noticed a dip in performance, which can be damaging to your vehicle over every mile you drive. Schedule a tune-up at a reputable auto shop near you. Odds are, you’ll be able to get your tires rotated and your oil changed in one session.
5. Change Your Bad Driving Habits
Increasing your car’s lifespan doesn’t always involve spending money. Here’s a tip that won’t cost you a dollar. Fix your bad driving habits, and your car will last longer. While you might be thinking that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it is surprisingly easy to fix bad driving habits, like that pesky speeding habit you’ve got, not to mention hard breaking and poor turning. To keep your speed in check, start using cruise control when you’re on the highway. Besides speeding (which reduces your fuel efficiency and puts extra stress on your engine), some of the most common bad driving habits include breaking too roughly (which wears down brake pads faster), turning too hard and not slowing down before you approach speed bumps (which both put stress on your suspension), and stomping the gas when accelerating after a stop (which increases revolutions per minute and increases wear and tear on your engine). Think about each of these habits while you drive and they will gradually change. Your car (and your wallet) will thank you.
6. Ship Your Car Long Distances Instead of Driving It
Got a big cross-country move coming up? While the idea of driving your car thousands of miles across the country instead of shipping it might sound like the more cost-effective route, it could end up costing you big in the long run. Shipping your car saves it from the major wear and tear of a lengthy road trip, wear and tear that can take years off of its lifespan. When it comes to your big move, consider shipping everything and having a nice relaxing flight across the country to your new home. When both you and your car have an effortless move, you’ll both be ready to tackle the challenges of your new city.
7. Stay on Top of Engine Coolant
There are certain fluids under the hood that don’t play huge roles in your car’s performance or longevity. (Windshield wiper fluids, for instance.) Engine coolant is not one of those fluids. Integral to your vehicle, engine coolant is responsible for making sure that your engine doesn’t melt down from overheating. Become self-sufficient about checking and maintaining engine coolant: a process that takes mere minutes, even for someone who has never once opened the hood of a vehicle. We recommend watching a highly-rated video on YouTube to familiarize yourself with the process, or going to an auto shop to have it explained to you in person. No matter how you learn to do it, maintaining your engine coolant will help your car’s engine last longer.
8. Check Other Important Fluids
On the topic of other important fluids, coolant isn’t the only liquid that plays a huge role in your vehicle’s longevity and overall performance. Other essential fluids that should be routinely monitored include the transmission fluid, the power steering fluid, and the brake fluid. If you are extra ambitious in your gearhead hobby, you can learn how to check and change all of these fluids yourself. If you’re not, you can get all of these fluids checked and changed during a routine checkup at most auto shops. You can even schedule a full fluid check and change during your oil change and tire rotation to get everything done at once. We recommend taking your vehicle in at least twice a year. Also, be sure to get into the habit of checking underneath your car to see if any fluids (that aren’t just water runoff from the AC) are leaking. If this is the case, take your vehicle into the shop to stop the leaks and keep your engine running optimally.
Keep Your Vehicle Going Longer: Research More Life-Extending Tips
Beyond the 8 tips covered in this post, there are wealth of ways to extend your vehicle’s life. Some steps are simple, others involve more work and know-how. The best way to learn and find the tips that realistically work for you is to do your research. Start by Googling your car’s make and model with keywords like “maintenance tips” and “repairs” to see what you find. Want more advice? Pay your local, trusted auto shop a visit to learn from the pros firsthand. Finally, if you’re moving across the country, be sure to move your vehicle with a reputable car shipping company. Taking these steps will ensure that your ride lasts as long as possible.