It doesn’t take much for a minor car issue to turn into a major headache. Avoid the hassle and save yourself time and money by taking care of your car now, while it’s still at the top if its game. We talked to auto experts to find out what you can do to add extra years (and miles) to the life of your ride.
How long has that oil light been on, lady? Matt Degen, senior associate editor for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com, says that’s one quick fix that shouldn’t be put off. “Oil is truly the lifeblood of the engine, so it's vital that it's changed regularly,” he says.
Thankfully, this service isn’t needed as frequently as it used to be. If your car was built within the last decade, you can probably wait longer than the 3,000 miles you’re used to hearing about. If your car is older or has already logged a lot of miles, it’ll need to be checked more frequently. Check your owner’s manual to see how often your car should be serviced.
Don’t stop with the oil. While you’re at it, check the levels of your other fluids, too. “Whether it's the radiator, brakes, transmission, or even the differential, they all need their own fluids and lubricants to operate properly,” adds Degen.
Michael Miller, owner of Miller’s Arlington Car Care says anyone can check their car’s fluids. “Your owner’s manual will explain the proper levels and in most cases, it will already be listed on the receptacles in the vehicle,” he said.
Great brakes have probably saved you from a bad situation on more than one occasion, right? Whether you have the habit of spacing out behind the wheel, or you have the unfortunate luck of ending up behind someone who does, you need to be able to stop on a dime. Greg Gunter, the Technical Team Leader for the Ford Accelerated Credential Training (FACT) Program at Universal Technical Institute’s Exton campus says, “Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.”
You’ll find that brake maintenance tends to be cheaper the sooner you catch it, so it’s worth the effort to stay ahead of the game where they’re concerned.
Curb that road rage and lighten that lead foot. Those bad driving habits aren’t just annoying to fellow travelers — they’ll take years off the life of your car. “Regularly slamming your car's brakes and stepping hard on the gas pedal is not only tough on the brakes, but it is also a way to inefficiently burn fuel, says Heather Sumpter, director of Smyth Automotive.
Be honest. How long has it really been since you’ve seen the inside of a car wash? Sumpter says keeping your car’s exterior shiny and clean isn’t just for looks. A regular clean-and-wax will also go a long way toward protecting it from the elements.
OK, so the condition of your car’s interior doesn’t really affect how long your car will last. It does, however, affect how long you’ll actually enjoy your vehicle, since it’s where you log your time with it. Sumpter says it’s just as important to take care of the inside of your car as it is the outside. “Like the exterior, the interior is easily damaged by natural elements such as sun and dirt,” she adds. “Regularly vacuuming and cleaning the interior with products that contain ingredients that protect from sun damage will delay the interior aging process, extending the car's life and potential resale value.”
Car manufacturers issue recalls for a reason, and you shouldn’t blow them off — no matter how badly you want to. “Recalls can impact the performance, safety and resale value of your car,” said Christopher Basso of CARFAX. Just because your car isn’t showing signs or symptoms of the issue now, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Get it fixed through the recall, and you’ll likely get the repair at little to no cost.
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