You’ve bought your car and you’re looking and feeling great, but now what do you do?
Given that this is most likely to be the second most expensive investment you make in your life, second only to a home purchase, it’s probably a good idea to take the necessary steps to keep it running for as long as possible. Today’s cars come with many advanced systems that monitor most of the cars major functions and alert you when there’s a potential problem, but with some basic knowledge, you can identify any potential problems even before the warning lights come on.
If you only had one thing to do to take care of your car, it’d be to read your owner’s manual and/or maintenance schedule. These usually contain all the most pertinent information on taking care of your vehicle and may even teach you a couple of things you may not have known about car care.
Nonetheless, here are some simple tips to keep your car in great condition for years, and cut down on some of the potential costs associated with auto repairs:
1. Check the engine oil
In order to keep your car running smoothly, ensure that your engine is well lubricated by checking your oil every couple of weeks. Consistently checking your oil level will help you spot a leak if the level seems to be getting lower faster than usual, and also will give you an indication of when it’s time for an oil change based on how dark or dirty the oil looks.
Traditionally, most vehicles require oil changes every 3,000 miles or every 3 months, however, with modern advancements in oil technology and engine efficiency, many manufacturers recommend oil change intervals of between 5,000 and 7,500 miles depending on your driving habits. What is ideal for your vehicle? Hint: it’s in your vehicle manual or maintenance schedule. For the do-it-yourselfers, don’t forget to properly dispose of the used engine oil and always use the recommend oil type, weight and proper oil filter.
2. Topping off fluids
While most other fluids don’t need to be checked and changed as frequently as engine oil, it’s advisable to check them every month or so as to detect any leaks and possibly avoid any costly repairs. These include transmission fluid, brake fluid, engine coolant (also known as antifreeze) and windshield washer fluid. Ensuring that these are maintained at the proper levels will keep your car running smoothly.
3. Inspecting your Tires
Tires tend to leak air naturally, therefore it’s recommended to check your tire pressure frequently. Underinflated tires tend to wear out faster and often reduce your vehicle mileage. When checking tire pressure, don’t forget to check your spare tire as well. You can find the ideal tire pressure in your vehicle manual, on information stickers on the inside of the driver’s door frame, and in some cases on the tires themselves.
Checking your tires for signs of uneven wear, cracks, bulges or any embedded nails could easily save you from a blow-out and is easily done while fueling or before getting into your car for a drive. Most vehicles also require a wheel rotation every other time you change your oil, to ensure that the tires wear out evenly. If the car seems to be pulling either to the left or right when driving, it could be a sign of misalignment which causes uneven tread wear on tires. A simple wheel alignment usually takes care of this.
4. Taking care of your paint
Regardless of how well a vehicle is running, its condition will often be judged based on its appearance. The easiest way to take care of your paint is washing your car as needed to ensure that it remains as sleek and shiny as the day it left the factory. Waxing the vehicle every six months also maintains the paint job by creating a layer that keeps debris away from the paint.
5. Fueling up
When filling up your car, make sure that you’re using the recommended octane rating, usually located on the inside of the fuel door and in the owner’s manual. Many people often opt for higher octane rated fuel than the recommended fuel because of perceived gains in vehicle power or mileage but in reality these gains, if any, are minimal at best, and rarely justify the increased spend in gas over time. Unless your engine starts knocking when using the recommended fuel, there’s no reason to switch to a higher octane level. The vast majority of passenger cars can run on 87 octane without any issues.
Also, it’s always a good practice to fill up your tank when you reach a quarter tank of less of fuel – don’t wait until you are on empty. This will not only keep your fuel pump happy, you won’t have to worry about running out of gas while stuck in traffic or while on a road trip.
While these five car care tips certainly don’t cover everything you need to know about car maintenance, these basics should keep your car healthy, shiny and you a happy driver. It’s important to remember that simply keeping up on your preventative maintenance (by following what’s recommended in your maintenance schedule!) is always the best way to avoid any breakdowns and costly repairs down the road, especially if you don’t have a warranty.
Did we miss another preventative vehicle maintenance measure? Let us know in the comments below so we can keep our cars on the roads and our money in our pockets!