Automobiles in general are pretty amazing, and we often take them for granted. What else could get you to your destination with climate control, a radio, relative peace, and reliability? Cars are the workhorse of America and if you want to keep that horse a thoroughbred, there are some simple things you can do to keep it running smoothly, and for a longer time than without. Here are some of our go-to tips to keep your car in shape and lower potential repair costs, and remember, always keep those receipts!
It’s a simple fact: the more you baby your car, the longer it will provide for you. If you go all willy-nilly on the accelerator pedal like you’re stomping grapes, the engine, transmission, and other vital components will just not last as long. The more you can do to sedately get yourself from A to B, the better chance you have of your car lasting more years than you would otherwise. We know it’s hard to not get the eye of the tiger when sitting in traffic on the 405 and you see the gap, but remember, you’ll only save seconds when babying your car could give you years.
Changing oil is in its own category (see below), but you have to look out for your other fluids as well: brake fluid, clutch fluid, transmission fluid, and so on. If you’re car is under warranty and/or has regularly scheduled services covered, then this is a no brainer and should be covered. If not, you can do most of these at home with some tools and elbow grease. However, if you’re not a DIY’er it’s definitely recommended you read the owner’s manual and stick to the service intervals, or if you have to, read owner forums to see what recommendations others might have. A little knowledge goes a long way.
Yes, cars can go longer without changing your oil than ever before, but you don’t want to neglect your ownership duty longer than necessary. The combustion chamber is a violent place with oil protecting the critical engine components from destruction. Metal flakes get collected by the oil and are filtered through, but there comes a time when they can only do so much. Much like leaving your sink clogged with lettuce, rice, fruit pits, and other soggy nastiness, your oil filter will become less effective the more it collects. Also remember that some cars burn oil at faster rates so be judicious with that dipstick. And that’s not us being dirty.
Salt, animal droppings, mud, oils, etc. can all eat away at your car’s paint, bodywork, and chassis. Make sure to get rid of them as quickly as you can. A day or two is probably fine, but don’t let it sit for weeks or months, especially places underneath the car that might not get as much attention and could suffer neglect. Cars have come a long way with sealants and rust proofing, but by doing your due diligence you’ll have a car that will last way beyond. When in doubt, spray it out.
Other than increasing safety (you would be shocked (or maybe not) by the amount of drivers who have no clue their tires are improperly inflated), tires will increase gas mileage, put less stress on other components, give you a better ride, and will help you avoid accidents thanks to better handling. Get a reliable air-pressure gauge, and even if you don’t have a compressor or air pump, you will have the peace of mind about having a dependable tire pressure. Don’t trust those gas station readouts one bit.
When the car is bopping up and down, or comes to a halt with the grace of a bug hitting a windshield, it’s time to replace your shocks. Shocks, like tires, can affect how other components wear out over time, so giving your car a smooth ride is putting icing on the cake. Plus, who wants to ride around in your jalopy when the next day they’re at the chiropractor?
The more strain you put on your motor, the tougher it has to work, which means it won’t last as long in the end. Granted, a dirty air filter isn’t the end of the world, but it won’t help either. There are also some options for aftermarket filters (and intake systems) that improve performance—often giving you an increase in horsepower and fuel economy—and can be easily removed and washed, giving you the added benefit of reusability.
Years ago, this may have been tougher than it sounds. Now, however, with platforms like Yelp, Angie’s List, and others, technicians—especially independent ones—have to be committed to providing great costumer service and trustful, reliable work or they likely won’t flourish. Luckily, it’s 2016 and there are multiple ways to find someone to become your knight in shining armor should something go awry. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still a good idea to have your mechanic look the car over at least twice a year.
Currently the full-time Editorial Director and Content Manager for RxSpeed.com, & contributing writer for Scout.com. He also loves photography, videography, his Shiba Inu Mia and driving sports cars.