9 Essential Car Care Tips
Buying a new or used vehicle can be a big investment.
But as any economist will tell you, gas-powered cars and trucks do not typically go up in value. With every passing mile, your vehicle is worth less and less. Checkout these nine essential care trips that will help you 1) slow that depreciation, 2) get more miles out of your favorite mode of transportation (for less money) and 2) stay safer on the road.
1. Change the Oil and Check the Fluids:
If you’re not driving an electric car, then you have plenty of fluids you need to check, change, and top off regularly. Change the oil in your vehicle as prescribed in your owner’s manual every 3- or 5,000 miles. You can choose to do this yourself or go to a qualified oil change shop. Just be sure you keep good records of the last time you changed the oil. Missing an oil change or two can have lasting, negative consequences on your vehicle’s engine.
Every time you get gas, check the level of your antifreeze, power steering fluid, brake fluid and transmission fluid. If any of them are low, take note and top them off when your car has had a chance to cool for several hours. Do not overfill any of these fluids and only use brands and types that are clearly stated in your vehicle owner’s manual.
2. Look Under the Hood:
Locate your timing belt and other hoses and inspect them for cracks and other signs of wear. If you see anything that looks worn out or ready to crack, get into your mechanic before it becomes an issue. While you’re there, get your transfer case checked out every couple of years if you have an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle.
3. Park Inside (or in the shade):
UV light from the sun, as well as other forces of mother nature, can damage your vehicle’s paint, plastics and other exterior components over time. Plus, sunlight over time can crack window casings and cause other damage to rubber fittings. Parking in the shade or under cover can add to the longevity and value of your vehicle.
4. Check Your Brakes and Tires:
Brakes are one of the most important parts of your vehicle. Every time you use your brakes at a stop sign or stop light, parts of them do wear out and will eventually need to be replaced. If possible, have yours inspected at least once a year.
Additionally, get your tires rotated at least every 10,000 miles and inspect the tread for abnormal wear. Tires that are between six and 10 years old should be replaced for safety and vehicle performance. To know the age of your tires, look for the initials DOT followed by two or three series of letters and numbers. The last of that series will be four digits that correspond to the week and year your tires were manufactured. For example, 4517 would be the 45th week (November) of 2017.
5. Check the Air Filter:
The cleaner your car’s air filter, the better it will perform on the road. Plus, a clean air filter will keep debris from entering vital components of your vehicle, increasing its longevity. To know when it’s time to change your air filter, take it out and hold it up to the sun. If you can easily see light through the filter, then it can go another thousand miles or so. If it’s packed with dirt, leaves, and other gunk, change it. It’s a cost-effective way to keep your car running at peak performance.
6. Keep on Top of Your Battery:
While today’s cars and trucks don’t need much of a boost to start, time and use will eventually deplete your battery. To ensure you’re not stranded somewhere, have your battery checked every fall (the summer heat is the usual culprit of a damaged and worn out battery).
7. Change the Windshield Wipers:
Depending on where you live, you might need to change your wipers twice a year. Doing so will improve your visibility and help you stay safe.
8. Clean Your Car (inside and out):
A buildup of dirt and road grime will eventually ruin the paint on your car or truck. Vacuuming out your interior will help your car look and feel newer, plus weekly cleanings can help maximize the resale value.
Bonus! Do a Pre-Trip Safety Check:
Before you go on your next road trip, be sure to double-check that your spare tire is inflated, you have extra oil and other fluids in the trunk, and you know the number for your insurance provider’s roadside assistance.
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