With the current economic recession, many budgets get tight, which means that many people are tempted to cut back on regular car maintenance. But that can lead to serious repair problems and even larger bills down the road. We’ve found that you can extend the life of your vehicle, get the most for your money on your next trade in, and save a lot of money on maintenance by following our 24 helpful tips:
1) Check the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual to see what services are recommended and how often. Follow this carefully for as long as you own the car. There are usually different schedules for normal and severe driving conditions; the normal one should be sufficient for most drivers. Mark your calendar with estimated dates for services such as oil changes, tire rotations, and fluid flushes.
2) Change your oil every 3,000-5,000 miles, depending on your owner’s manual. You may need to also factor in how much and how often you drive.
3) Every other oil change you should have your tires rotated. Check your tire pressure often and between rotations by using a tire gauge. This will help with your gas mileage, especially with constant temperature changes in the Midwest!
4) At least once a month, check the levels of the car’s fluids, such as oil, coolant, and brake fluid. The owner’s manual usually has instructions that are quite specific and easy to follow. When you get your oil changed, have the dealership or service station also check each of your fluids to make sure everything is running properly.
5) Change automatic transmission fluid and filter after the first 5,000 miles and after every 25,000 miles or two years thereafter, or as recommended in your owner’s manual.
6) Don’t forget the filters! There are several filters (the main filters are oil, fuel, transmission, and air) that are important in preserving your car engine, and they should be changed according to the schedule in your owner’s manual or as follows:
- Change the oil filter at least at every other oil change.
- Check the air filter every two months and replace if needed.
- Change fuel filters once per year. A clogged fuel filter will cause poor engine performance.
7) Every 12 months, have the exhaust checked for any leaks or unusual noises.
8 ) Wash your engine at least every year or two. This will ensure that your engine will runner cooler and you’ll be able to perform other maintenance checks without the mess. Remember to protect sensitive engine components- including the air intake, distributor, and electrical parts, before cleaning.
9) To keep your car’s AC system fit for next spring, run it a few times throughout the winter. This will prevent moving parts in the compressor from stopping and circulating the refrigerant will keep the seals soft and pliant.
10) Check your battery regularly to extend its full life and avoid being stranded with a dead battery. Keep your battery clean , inspect for damages such as cracks or bulges, which are signs that the battery needs to be replaced.
11) Check underneath the car for any rust spots and if you find any of the areas treated immediately.
12) New noises are not normal. If you hear something odd when accelerating, braking, or turning, have it checked by a mechanic.
13) Did you know that when a tanker is filling the tanks at a gas station, the turbulence of the fuel being pumped in can stir up sediment? So, if you happen to need gas and drive by a station where the tanker is filling the tanks, move on to the next station because sediment in your gas can clog fuel filters and fuel injectors, causing poor performance and possibly necessitating repairs.
14) To keep the inside of your car clean, vacuum often. If after vacuuming floor interior carpeting, there are still some resistant stains, apply foam rug cleaner as directed by the maker. Work the foam into a few square feet at a time, using a wet sponge or brush. Vacuum again when dry.
15) Use floor mats to protect carpeting, especially in colder months. The best types of floor mats for eliminating salt, slush, and mud in winter months are rubber mats. These stay in place and don’t allow water to seep through. They are also each to clean. Shake, vacuum and wash as needed.
16) After a few years, wear and tear on leather may become apparent. The best thing to do is to use leather cleaner and apply a protecting sealant. Choose a protectant that includes conditioners to keep your leather supple.
17) If a garage is not an option, minimize interior damage and wearing from UV sunlight and heat by parking in the shade. If this isn’t an option, purchase and use a shade to help minimize the sun’s impact.
18) Did you know that having too many keys on your keychain can actually damage your ignition? The weight, combined with bouncing while you drive, can wear out the tumblers inside the ignition and eventually lead to ignition switch failure. So instead, purchase a lightweight key chain that allows you to separate your ignition key from the others and drive only with the ignition key in your ignition.
19) The sunlight can also damage the exterior by causing the paint to fade. Make sure to park in the shade or in a garage whenever possible. If this is not possible, think about investing in a cover for your vehicle if you park outside for longer periods of time. It will not only help against UV rays, but also with any minor bumps and bruises to your exterior.
20) Replace your wiper blades every 4-6 months to ensure that you have clear visibility with any weather conditions such as rain and snow.
21) Touch up any chips that are on your vehicle to prevent your vehicle from rusting.
22) Car wax preserves paint by slowing oxidation and forming a barrier against bird droppings, sap, and pollution. There’s still no beating paste wax for the hardest, longest-lasting finish. Look for paste with a high carnauba wax content. Apply a thin, even coat of wax to the car’s surfaces with a damp sponge. Avoid applying too much, or it will be difficult to remove and some residue will inevitably mar your finish. To avoid fine scratches, use a clean, soft cotton or microfiber cloth to remove wax once it has dried. Apply an extra coat of wax to the nose and hood. The wax film in these areas wears away quickly.
23) Avoid driving at high speeds or accelerating quickly, especially in very cold or hot weather. This could result in more frequent repairs.
24) Avoid holding the steering wheel in an extreme right or left angles for more than a few seconds when turning, as this may damage the power-steering pump.