Little things can make a big difference. This is especially true when it comes to cars. Over time, little problems with a vehicle can add up and lead to big problems for their owners. At the same time, taking a number of little maintenance steps, or making small repairs here and there, can help to extend the life of your vehicle. These tasks can help keep it on the road forever.
The people you hear about driving 25-year-old cars with 400,000 miles on them are those who paid attention to the little details along the way. They didn’t skip out on routine maintenance. They also fixed any small problems, before they grew into bigger issues. Here are ten little things car owners can do to keep their vehicle running forever.
Change the Air Filter
Studies show that most cars in North America never even have their air filter changed. This is problematic considering that it’s recommended that the air filter on every vehicle be changed once a year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. What’s more, an air filter typically costs only $10. Most people can change them out all by themselves in less than 10 minutes.
Yet, a dirty and clogged air filter usually gets brought up by a mechanic who is repairing something else on your vehicle. A clean air filter is important. It helps to ensure the gas in the engine burns properly. Dirty and clogged air filters lead to lower gas mileage, the engine backfiring, or the engine shutting down completely. These big problems can be avoided by spending just $10 a year and ten minutes of your time. Please, change the air filter in your car. It’s easy.
Change Your Ragged Windshield Wiper Blades
Most cars head to the scrap heap with their original windshield wiper blades still attached. No matter how ragged, ripped, torn, or bare the wiper blades get, many people refuse to replace them. Or even acknowledge that there’s a problem! You’ll see plenty of drivers with their ragged wiper blades screeching and scratching across their windshield. This is not good practice and could lead to a major repair if the wiper blades scratch or crack the windshield.
To preserve the windshield, it is important to replace their wiper blades as soon as they start to become tattered. This is also an inexpensive repair. You can probably do it yourself in just a few minutes. A new set of wiper blades can be found at most automotive and home stores. Some Dollar Stores even sell replacement wiper blades for a buck or two. All you have to do to replace them is pull off the old ones and slide on the new ones. It’s that simple.
Ensure Your Battery Connection Remains Strong
The biggest problem with car batteries is not that they eventually die. Rather, it’s that the battery’s connection to the car becomes loose or interrupted by corrosion or engine gunk. A weak battery can be hard on a car’s engine and make it difficult to start. If you have to try two or three times to get your car’s engine to turn over, chances are that your battery connection is in bad shape. Again, this is an easy and simple fix.
First, disconnect the battery cables. Then clean around the connectors using water or Coca-Cola to remove rust or corrosion. Maybe use a wire brush to gently scrape away the stubborn spots. Then reattach the connector cables ensuring that the connection is firm. The great thing is that this little maintenance step needn’t cost more than the price of a can of Coke. It is a quick and simple thing that you can do to ensure your car is getting maximum power.
Occasionally Use High End Gasoline in Your Car
Emphasis on the “occasionally” here. We’re not advocating that you always put premium gasoline into your tank. It’s expensive and not necessary for the majority of vehicles. However, spending a little extra on premium gas once in a while can pay big dividends over the life of a car. That is because premium gas helps clean the engine and its components, ensure that both the engine and car perform at their optimum level.
Getting that extra cleaning once in a while can help maintain an engine. It will keep it running longer without the need for repairs. Even as the price of gas steadily climbs, you can probably afford to put some premium gas in your ride a couple times a year. It’s worth it in the long run.
Pay Attention to Recalls
Only the biggest and most dramatic car recalls make it onto the six o’clock news. However, at any given time, there are hundreds of manufacturer-issued recalls for different vehicles. Sure, not all recalls are serious or life threatening (some involve floor mats, for example). However, being aware of recalls and getting the needed repair done on your car can help to extend its life. It will ensure you get more out of the vehicle you worked hard to pay off.
The best thing about recalls is that the work and repairs are done for free. You won’t need to pay a mechanic to fix that knock in your engine if it’s the result of a manufacturer defect. Recall notices can be found easily online. Perform a Google search for your vehicle make and model year, and any recalls associated with it should appear.
Use the Parking Brake
The parking brake, or emergency brake as it is sometimes called, is a bit of a mystery to most drivers. You might wrongly assume that you only need to pull on the lever if you are careening out of control. The truth is that the parking brake should be engaged whenever the vehicle is stopped. It’s not only for when you’re parked on a steep hill.
The parking brake holds the car’s transmission in place when the car is stopped and static. And this, in turn, helps the engine. Not using the parking brake will, over time, lead to added stress on the car’s transmission. That’s extra wear and tear under the hood. It literally takes one second to pull the parking brake up or down when stopping or moving again. However, this simple act can be a lifesaver for a car during its usable life.
Buy the Right Engine Oil
When it comes to engine oil, the accepted wisdom is that any kind will do. Whether it’s 5W-30, 10W-30 or something else, most people don’t know and don’t care. However, using the wrong type of engine oil for an extended period of time can lead to costly breakdowns and repairs for your car.
Do yourself a favor and consult the owner’s manual in your vehicle. It will say clearly what type of engine oil you should use. It may even recommend a particular brand such as Mobil 1 or Shell. Take this information as gospel. Be sure to use the right engine oil under the hood. You’ll be saving yourself big headaches by following this simple advice. Your engine will thank you and reward you with years of problem free driving.
Get Regular Car Washes in the Winter
People who live in northern States (or Canada) know that winter is rough on cars. Road salt is great for melting ice, but it’s very corrosive. It can eat away at the body of a car. Getting regular car washes during the winter to remove salt stains can help protect the body of your car and prevent rust from developing.
Car washes are not that expensive. They are certainly less expensive than a custom body shop repair. Car washes in winter can also remove ice, snow, and dirt that has accumulated underneath a car. They will protect the undercarriage as well, where most drivers rarely even look. A head-to-toe car wash is a simple thing but can help to extend the life of a car. You don’t even need the most expensive car wash. A basic car wash will usually do the trick.
Park Your Car Indoors
This might seem overly simple and obvious. Despite that, it’s always a good idea to park your vehicle indoors. And not just in winter. Parking in a garage year round is recommended. It not only saves your car’s body from exposure to the elements, but it also spares the engine from extreme temperature swings. This can be true during frigid winter nights as well as sweltering summer evenings.
Parking indoors to keep your car warm and dry in winter and cool and shaded in summer is always advisable. It will put less stress on your vehicle’s engine when it’s started. It will also require less time for the engine to warm up. Indoor parking also protects a car from snow, ice, rain, hail, prolonged exposure to the sun, and animals crawling on it and scratching the paint. Any way you look at it, indoor parking is a good idea.
The one exception is parking your car in a wet, damp garage in winter. That can actually speed up rust. While it’s still a good idea to park your car inside if you can, make sure you sweep or shovel out any standing snow, ice, water, or dirt on a regular basis.
Keep the Fluids Topped Up
We’re not just talking about engine oil here. Pay attention to all fluids in your vehicle. From windshield washer fluid to engine coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid and water in the radiator. Making sure that all of these fluids are topped up and at the recommended levels will not only ensure that your car is safe to drive, but it will also ensure the vehicle is performing optimally. That will help keep it on the road for many years.
Too often, people let the fluids in their car run down to dangerously low levels before getting them topped up. This is a mistake and one that can be easily avoided, especially since most car fluids can be added by the driver with no need to pay a mechanic. Be diligent and check the fluid levels in your car regularly. When one needs to be topped up, do it right away. This is one of the best ways to keep a car running safely forever.