If you want your car to last for years – at least beyond your payment period – take heed of these 5 tips to keep your car in tip-top shape. They’re not difficult. You just need to pay attention to what needs getting done and do it at the appropriate time.
Consumer Reports has a long list of things you can do to maintain your car. We’ve boiled everything down to just 5 tips to keep your car in tip-top shape. This applies to newer vehicles, however, so if you have an old clunker that you’re trying to keep alive, check out Edmunds for advice.
1. Set Up a Regular Maintenance Schedule – When you buy a new car (or newer used), the smart move is to check the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Remember that there are things on your car that need to be replaced at certain intervals, such as air filter, spark plugs, brakes, timing belt, hoses, etc.). Set up what you need to do when, either written down where you’ll be sure to see it or put dates for maintenance service on the calendar.
2. Check Oil and All Fluids – Make an oil check a part of monthly maintenance if your car is in good condition and before any out-of-town extended road trips. Do the check more often if you notice an oil leak or find that you need to regularly add oil. As for other fluids, be sure to regularly check (and replace when low) power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant, transmission fluid in cars where the automatic transmission is not sealed, and windshield-wiper solvent.
3. Check Tire Pressure – This is another of the 5 tips to keep your car in tip-top shape that you should do monthly. Check the tire pressure on all tires, including the spare. Do this when the car is cold (hasn’t been driven for a while or only a few miles to the nearest gas station). Use an accurate tire pressure gauge, ideally a digital one. Inflate tires to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure – never the maximum pressure. Find out recommended level in your owner’s manual, on a sticker placed on the door jamb, or in the glove box. While you’re at it, inspect the tires for tread any signs of obvious wear. When you do take your car in for service, regularly rotate the tires (especially on front-wheel drive cars).
4. Keep it Clean – Nothing keeps a car looking in tip-top shape more than regular washing, so make it a practice to wash the car every week. If you live in an area where there’s salt spray or drive on wintery roads loaded with salt, or go off-road or through mud, you’ll want to clean it thoroughly under the body. Use a hose to spray the wheel wells and undercarriage. Every three months, do a thorough cleaning inside and out. A detailing of the car may be a wise move once a year.
5. Fix Any Problems Immediately – You never know when something will happen that requires your car to be repaired. It could be the emergency maneuver you had to make on the road that sent your car over a curb, necessitating an alignment. Maybe it’s an unexpected leak and you can’t pinpoint where it’s coming from or a slow tire leak. If the car’s electronics go wacky, better get that fixed right away. Best advice is to find a good mechanic or dealership service and take your car there for all your needs.