Care Tips

10 Steps To Keep A Car In Top Running Shape & Extend Its Life

Read the owner’s manual

Your vehicle is probably the most complicated machine you own; learning the details about its parts, how it runs and when to take it in for maintenance makes you an informed owner and helps to reduce costly breakdowns. This knowledge will serve you well throughout ownership.


Change the oil

Oil is the lifeblood of you car, so change it according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule, which may be at intervals of 3,000, 5,000, or more miles. Some cars have an oil-life monitor that will notify the driver when the oil needs to be changed. In addition, use the type of oil the automaker suggests; this alone will increase your vehicle’s longevity.


Maintain tire air pressure

It’s very important to check and maintain proper air pressure in your car’s tires. Under inflated tires are the number one cause of tire failure or flats. When a tire is under inflated, it builds up heat internally, which can cause a blowout. Under inflated tires also decrease fuel economy by as much as 10 percent. Look on the driver’s door panel for a label marked Tire and Loading Information for more details. It’s best to check tire pressure when the tires are cool. Use a quality tire-pressure gauge.


Pay attention to your car’s warning lights

Modern vehicles can have any number of warning lights for various on board components like the anti lock braking system. Sometimes, the behavior of a given warning light — a flashing check engine light versus a steady one — may indicate two entirely different issues, so it’s important to understand each warning light’s purpose, its various modes, and what to do if they illuminate. You can consult your owner’s manual to learn this information.


Check your vehicle’s vital fluids regularly

These include your radiator coolant, engine oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and automatic transmission fluid. You can do this, or a mechanic can take a look during routine maintenance. Ask how to properly check these things yourself, too, so you know how to do it.

The owner’s manual provides details about fluid levels and recommended maintenance. Some tips: Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot or the car is running. Check your oil when the car is off but the engine is still warm. Check the transmission fluid with the car running but in “park.”


Get rubber engine components inspected

Get rubber engine components inspected
Belt and hose failures are the number one cause of roadside breakdowns. Rubber components under the hood are exposed to extreme heat, so they tend to wear out faster than other parts on your car. Get belts and hoses inspected every six months and before long trips. It’s more cost effective to replace them before a breakdown occurs


Know your car’s acronyms

Get rubber engine components inspected
Know your car’s acronyms
Many of today’s vehicles come with a healthy dose of alphabet soup: ABS, TCS, ESP, etc.

These letters often designate a computer-controlled function that enhances the driving experience. An anti lock braking system, or ABS, is a computerized system that prevents wheel lockup and skidding during braking. If your ABS light comes on and stays on, you should take your car to a mechanic for inspection because there could be a problem with the system. TCS, or traction control system, helps eliminate wheel spin during acceleration. ESP could mean an electronic stability program is part of your car’s features. There are many acronyms affiliated with vehicles today, and the only way to find out what some of these things mean is to look in the owner’s manual.


Use the right tires for the season

Make sure your tires are appropriate for your driving environment. While all-season tires may provide adequate traction on snow and ice, if you spend a considerable amount of time driving in wintry weather, then it may be worthwhile to purchase a set of snow tires for your car. Snow tires are optimized for winter driving conditions, whereas all-season tires are designed to handle a wider range of road and temperature conditions.

If your car is equipped with summer tires, you definitely should install snow tires if your travels take you through snow-covered areas. To make snow-tire installation and removal easier in the fall and spring, you can purchase a separate set of wheels exclusively for your snow tires.


Know which wheels drive your car

Is it equipped with front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive? A front-wheel-drive car will handle differently than one equipped with rear- or all-wheel drive, and vice versa. This is especially true when road conditions are poor. Front-drive cars have been praised for their ability to accelerate and maneuver in snowy conditions, but modern rear-wheel-drive cars equipped with traction control and an electronic stability system are a far cry from the fishtailing rear-drive cars of the past. All-wheel-drive systems send available engine power to the wheels with the most traction and can enhance dry-road handling characteristics in addition to snow performance.


Keep your car clean

Don’t drive around with dirty windows, and make sure your headlights are clean and properly aimed. Dirty headlamps can drastically reduce the amount of illumination provided; if you can’t see something on or alongside the road, you can’t avoid it. Additionally, an improperly aimed headlight greatly reduces its effectiveness and affects visibility for oncoming drivers. Keep your car clean, if for no other reason than safety.