Little things make a big difference, and this is especially true when it comes to cars. Over time, little problems with a car, truck or minivan can add up and lead to big problems for their owners. At the same time, taking a number of little maintenance steps and making small repairs here and there can help to extend the life of a vehicle and keep it on the road forever. The people you hear about who are driving 25-year-old cars with 400,000 miles on them are individuals who paid attention to the little details along the way and fixed the small problems with their cars before they grew into big issues. Here are 10 little things car owners can do to keep their vehicle running forever.
10. Change the Air Filter
Studies show that most cars in North America never have their air filter changed. This is problematic considering that it is 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 and 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 to people by a mechanic who is repairing something else on their vehicle. A clean air filter is important as 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 10 minutes of your time to change the air filter in your car.
9. 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 windshield wiper blades get on a car, people refuse to replace them or even acknowledge that there’s a problem. People will drive with the 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 for people to replace their wiper blades as soon as they start to become tattered. And this too is an inexpensive repair that people can do themselves in 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. And all people have to do to replace the wiper blades is pull off the old ones and slide on the new ones. It’s that simple.
8. Ensure Your Battery Connection Remains Strong
The biggest problem with car batteries is not that they die over time, but that the battery’s connection to the car becomes loose or gets interrupted by corrosion or engine gunk on the connector cables. A weak battery can be hard on a car’s engine and make it difficult to start a vehicle. 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. Disconnect the battery cables, clean around the connectors using water or Coca-Cola to remove rust or corrosion, and 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 people can do to ensure their car is getting maximum power.
7. Occasionally Use High End Gasoline in Your Car
Emphasis on “occasionally” here. We’re not advocating that people always put premium gasoline into their gas tank. It is expensive and not necessary to do all the time. 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 cleans the engine and its components, helping to ensure that the engine and car perform at their optimum level. Getting that cleaning once in a while can help maintain an engine and keep it running longer without the need for repairs. And, with prices at the pump falling lower and lower due to the drop in the global oil market, now is a great time to add premium gas to your car for not a lot of extra money. Take advantage of low gas prices while you can.
6. 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. And while not all recalls are serious or life threatening (some involve floor mats), being aware of recalls and getting the needed repair done on your car can help to extend its life and ensure you get more out of the vehicle you worked hard to pay off. And, the best thing about recalls is that the work and repairs are done for free. You needn’t pay a mechanic to fix that knock in your engine if it is the result of a glitch that there is a recall issued to fix. 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.
5. Use the Parking Brake
The parking brake, or emergency brake as it is sometimes called, is a bit of a mystery to most drivers. People wrongly assume they only need to pull on the lever in the event that they are careening out of control in their car. The truth is that the parking brake should be engaged whenever the vehicle is stopped. It should not be used only when you’re parked on a steep hill. This is because the parking brake holds the car’s transmission in place when the car is stopped and static. And this helps the engine. Not using the parking brake will, over time, lead to added stress on the car’s transmission and wear and tear under the hood. It literally takes one second to pull the parking brake up or down when stopping or moving again. But this simple act can be a lifesaver for a car during its usable life.
4. Buy the Right Engine Oil
When it comes to engine oil, the accepted wisdom is that any kind will do. Whether it is 5W-30, 10W-30 or something else, most people don’t know and don’t care. But using the wrong type of engine oil for an extended period of time can lead to costly breakdowns and repairs for a 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 and may even recommend a particular brand such as Mobil 1 or Shell. Take this information as gospel and be sure to use the right engine oil under the hood. You’ll be saving yourself big headaches with this simple action. Your engine will thank you and reward you with years of problem free driving.
3. Get Regular Car Washes in the Winter
People who live in northern States or in Canada know that winter is rough on cars. Road salt is corrosive and 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 a car and prevent rust from developing. Car washes are not that expensive. They are certainly less expensive than a custom body shop. Car washes in winter can also remove ice, snow and dirt that has accumulated underneath a car, protecting the undercarriage as well. A head-to-toe car wash is a simple thing but can help to extend the life of a car. And people needn’t get the most expensive car wash. A basic car wash will usually do the trick.
2. Park Your Car Indoors
This might seem overly simple and obvious, but it is always a good idea to park a vehicle indoors—and not just in winter. Parking in a garage year round is recommended. It not only saves a 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 a car warm and dry in winter and cool and shaded in summer is always advisable. It will put less stress on the vehicle’s engine when it is started, and requires 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.
1. Keep the Fluids Topped Up
We’re not just talking about engine oil here, but all fluids in a 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 and 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 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.