While there are many alternative transportation options, including rideshare services, carpooling, public transit, or biking, not everyone lives in an area where these would make sense. Furthermore, with complicated schedules revolving around work, school, errands, family, and friends, it can be a logistical nightmare to rely exclusively on these services.
Choosing to buy or lease a car is one of the most important investments you can make as youíll depend on it for so many of your daily tasks. It only makes sense that you would take good care of your car, making sure it runs well for years to come. To avoid stressful moments and costly repairs, here are some tips for extending the life of your car.
Keep Up With Regular Maintenance
This may be the single most important thing you can do to ensure your car runs properly and remains reliable. And while it might seem obvious, many people neglect these simple tune-ups until something goes wrong. At that point, a small fee for an oil change will seem like nothing compared to major repairs and the inconvenience of full-on engine failure.
First, you should get in the habit of checking the air pressure in your carís tires at least once a month and inflating them to the pressure specified in your vehicleís ownerís manual. This will allow you to better control your car while driving, and it will improve your carís fuel efficiency. Tires that are over inflated or under inflated will wear down more quickly and may put you at a greater risk for blowouts. Because shifts in temperature can affect your tire pressure, youíll need to check it more often during seasonal changes.
Routine oil changes are another essential part of proper car maintenance. Depending on the condition of your vehicle and the oil used, your mechanic may recommend changing your carís oil every 3,000 to 7,000 miles. This will keep your engine properly lubricated, which will improve your fuel efficiency. Youíll also avoid the harmful buildup of dirt, debris, and sludge. Even when changing your oil at the appropriate frequency, itís important to check the levels occasionally in between changes to ensure your oil level remains at the proper level.
During an oil change or a seasonal tune-up, your mechanic may also check the condition of other essential components of your car, such as your battery and the surrounding cables, any hoses and belts, your fuel and air filters, the level and concentration of your engine coolant, and your power steering fluid. While replacing your carís windshield wiper blades and filling your wiper fluid reservoir might not directly impact how your car runs, itís obviously quite important to do everything you can to maintain clear visibility while driving.
Beyond these basic maintenance areas, itís also important to have your vehicleís transmission serviced periodically. If youíre not familiar with what your transmission actually does, it ensures your carís engine transfers the right amount of power to the wheels, shifting gears to run as efficiently as possible.
In most cases, experts may recommend servicing your transmission every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. However, the frequency of this service will depend on the type of vehicle your drive and how you use it. For example, a truck used for hauling heavy supplies is going to run harder than a car used for short commutes.
Donít Ignore Signs of Trouble
Aside from these preventive services, you should have a professional inspect your car as soon as you notice any of the following:
Delayed engine responses when shifting gears
Grinding, slipping, jumping, or shaking during acceleration
A burning smell coming from under the hood
Visible leaks of any fluid
Any strange sounds coming from the engine
A flashing ďcheck engineĒ light
Smoke or steam coming from under the hood
Excessive smoke from the exhaust
Donít ignore these issues or anything that seems out of the ordinary. Your car is a complex machine, and if one part fails, it will place additional strain on the other components. Seeking repairs sooner rather than later gives you the chance to fix one part before it can cause more serious damage throughout your vehicle.
Consider the Resale Value
If avoiding the risk of being stranded, injured, or paying more for major repairs isnít enough to motivate you to be proactive in taking care of your vehicle, then try to keep the resale value in mind. While some people are content to drive their vehicle until it no longer runs, itís common to buy a new vehicle before that point. This could be due to a change in location, a growing family, other capacity needs, or just a change in style.
If youíve invested in a new car, youíll likely spend years driving it and making payments as you go. By taking care of your car now, youíll have an easier time negotiating a sale or trade-in if your transportation needs should change.
Or perhaps youíve taken a more budget-friendly route by putting your faith in a well-used car that still gets you where you need to go. Despite all challenges your junker car may have faced successfully in its lifetime, there will come a point when it is no longer reliable or you simply decide to move on. Even with a junker, keeping up with regular maintenance and at least identifying any major defects will help immensely when trying to sell it.
While itís still possible to sell a broken down car, youíll probably get significantly less than if you had maintained the vehicle to begin with. As I mentioned above, if your car has fallen into disrepair and you canít identify the exact issues and parts that need to be replaced, youíll find it nearly impossible to sell to a private buyer. This could result in having to selling your car for scrap metal and parts, which may be far less than the vehicle would be worth with a few simple repairs.
By being proactive in taking care of your car before serious troubles arise, you can hopefully avoid costly repairs for major breakdowns. Youíll also lessen the chance that youíll be without a means of transportation, which can have a major impact on your ability to hold a job, run necessary errands, and keep your personal commitments.