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5 Essential Tips for Extending Your Used Car’s Lifespan

5 Essential Tips for Extending Your Used Car’s Lifespan

Even an older car can be reliable if it’s been well-maintained, and treating your car right will not only save you money on repairs and greatly prolong your vehicle’s lifespan, but can even help you to reduce your environmental footprint. Research shows that a poorly maintained car can release as much as 100 times more pollution than one that has been well-kept.

So what exactly do you need to pay attention to when it comes to extending your used vehicle’s lifespan? Here are five of the most important things you should know.

1. Don’t ignore its maintenance schedule

Your vehicle’s regular maintenance schedule can be found in the owner’s manual. Following this schedule will help you keep your car running smoothly and will actually end up saving you money because you’ll be able to nip any problems in the bud.

Regular maintenance includes things like topping off or replacing fluids, changing oil, checking brake pads, suspension and steering, and replacing oil and air filters, but your manual will give you a clear overview of what needs to be done and when. If you no longer have your car’s manual, it’s usually easy enough to find it online.

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Be sure to keep records of any work you’ve had done and hang on to all your receipts in case you end up selling the car down the line. If tracking your maintenance schedule sounds like too much of a hassle, there are a number of useful (and free) apps dedicated to tracking mileage and vehicle maintenance, such as aCar or Car Maintenance Reminder.

2. Make a habit of checking your fluids

A fluid check should include a quick look at the level of your engine oil and its cleanliness, your coolant and transmission fluids, as well as your brake and power steering fluids. Ideally, you should do this every two weeks with an older used car, but no less than once a month.

You can top up your engine oil or coolant yourself, but never check coolant levels while the car is hot or running. Transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid should never be low, so if they are, you know it’s time to take your car in to a mechanic. If you’re not sure how to check the transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid, your owner’s manual should explain this in detail.

3. Drive carefully and listen for unusual noises

The way you drive also has a big impact on your vehicle’s lifespan, and things like accelerating too quickly, shifting gears carelessly or overloading your car can wear it down quickly and set you up for some expensive repairs.

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In an interview with Gumtree, British racing driver and former top-gear presenter Tiff Needell points out that the best way to minimize wear and tear while driving is to be as smooth as possible with the car’s controls and avoid rushing things by using progressive applications when steering, accelerating, braking and changing gears.

Aside from driving carefully, make a point of turning down the music and listening to your car while you drive to see if there are any unusual noises.

A ticking sound could mean a U-joint needs replacing, while a sputtering or rattling noise might indicate a hole in your exhaust system. Of course the only way to know for sure is to have your mechanic take a look, so if you do notice anything unusual when starting your engine, driving, braking or turning, try to get it checked out as soon as possible.

4. Rotate your tires and check their pressure regularly

Along with avoiding curbs and potholes and driving as smoothly as possible, checking your tire pressure regularly is the best way to extend the lifespan of your tires. Most experts recommend checking tire pressure every two weeks to prevent damage, as soft tires can quickly overheat or even blow out.

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The correct PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) should be listed on the side of the tire, but if you can’t find it there, check your owner’s manual.

Rotating your tires, which involves moving the back tires to the front of the vehicle or from one side to the other, will help you prevent uneven and premature tire wear. Although opinions vary on how frequently you should rotate them, it’s generally a good idea to do it every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.

5. Wash and wax regularly

Washing and waxing your car regularly can help prevent a buildup of dirt as well as rust and water spotting on the paint, but how often you should wash it depends a lot on the season, climate and the type of roads you drive on.

Obviously, if you drive on fairly dusty roads in warmer climates or muddy roads in wet climates you’ll end up washing your car more frequently, but even during the colder months it’s important to wash or at least rinse your car once every week or two, as salt residue from the roads can build up on its surface and undercarriage, making it more susceptible to rust damage.

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Waxing should be done at least three or four times a year, as this will help you to maintain your vehicle’s shine and color and can also help prevent small scratches.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on June 18, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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