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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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