74 Tips To Extend the Life of Your Car
from Long Life For Your Stuff
Care and Maintenance Tips Keep Your Car Running in Top-Notch Condition
We’ve compiled our best expert advice, surprising tricks, and car care tips to prolong the life of your automobile!
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Car Engine and Other Systems.
Check engine oil at every other fill-up
Change oil frequently. Your dad knew that frequent oil changes were key to keeping his Buick on the road another year. And while owner’s manuals for today’s cars recommend increasing long intervals between oil changes, the fact remains — frequent changes flush abrasive dirt and metal particles out of the engine, prolonging its life. Most owner’s manuals recommend a more frequent interval for “severe conditions.” To maximize the life of your engine, follow the severe intervals recommendations, especially if drive regularly in stop-and-go traffic.
Maintain your transmission. Change automatic transmission fluid and filter after the first 5,000 miles (8,000 km) and after every 25,000 miles (40,000 km) or two years thereafter, or as recommended in your owner’s manual. If you use your vehicle for towing, change the fluid and filter every year. For manual transmissions, change the lubricant (motor oil or gear oil, depending on the car) after the first 5,000 miles and after every 50,000 (80,000 km) thereafter. Use synthetic motor oil or gear lube for longer transmission life unless the manufacturer recommends otherwise.
Don’t forget the timing belt. On many cars, it’s the belt you can’t see that is the most critical. If your manual says, as many do, that you should replace the timing belt at 50,000 miiles, do it! A failed timing belt can, depending on engine type, cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your engine.
Run your AC in winter. To keep your car’s air-conditioning system fit for the next warm season, run it a few times throughout the winter. This will prevent moving parts in the compressor from seizing. Also, circulating the refrigerant will help keep the seals soft and pliant.
Don’t forget to flush. Coolant-antifreeze eventually degrades and becomes contaminated. Flush it from your cooling system as recommended in your manual (typically every two years; every five years for newer coolants). Failing to do so can damage your radiator, clog your heater core, and cause the thermostat and water pump to fail.
Maintain proper inflation. Under-inflated tires are a tire salesman’s best friend. They create excessive heat and stress that can lead to tire failure. If you want to get every last mile out of your tires, get yourself a tire pressure gauge and use it at least once a month (more in hot weather) to keep your tires inflated to the recommendation in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Check tires when they are cold (driven for less than one mile) for an accurate reading.
Check tires for uneven wear. If you’ve maintained tire inflation properly, uneven wear may indicate the need for a wheel realignment. It can also mean improperly operating brakes or shocks, a bent wheel, internal tire damage, or worn bushings.
Rotating your tires helps to distribute tire wear evenly and ensures that you’ll get the maximum road life out of them. The first rotation is especially important. Your owner’s manual should specify both rotation period and pattern. If not, rotate your tires every 6,000 to 7,500 miles (9,700 to 12,000 km) — your tire dealer should know the correct pattern of tire rotation.
Have your car’s wheel alignment checked every 30,000 miles (48,000 km), or as recommended in your owner’s manual. Also have it checked after buying new tires and when you replace a rack-and-pinion steering unit or other steering parts. Improper tire alignment will shorten the life of your tires as well as cause poor handling. If your steering is stiffer than normal or the vehicle pulls to one side, you probably have an alignment problem.
Drive with care everyday. Being car considerate shouldn’t stop after the break-in. Drive with care every day and your car will reward you with longer intervals without repair.
Do not race your car’s engine during start-up.This is a quick way to add years of wear to your engine, especially if it’s cold outside.
Accelerate slowly when you begin your drive.The most wear to the engine and drive train occurs in the first ten to twenty minutes of operation.
Avoid driving at high speeds and accelerating quickly, especially when it’s very hot or very cold outside. Such driving behavior will result in more frequent repairs.
Lighten up your key chain. Does your car key share a chain with a dozen or more other keys? That’s a pretty heavy load hanging off the car key when it’s in the ignition. The weight, combined with bouncing while you drive, can wear out the tumblers inside the ignition and eventually lead to ignition switch failure. To add years of service to your ignition switch, purchase a lightweight key chain that allows you to separate your ignition key from the others.
Preserve door and window seals. Wipe a rubber protectant (such as Armor-All) or silicone on door and window weatherstripping to keep it in good condition. Don’t use an oil based product, such as WD-40, because the oil will damage the rubber. Regular cleaning and treatment of your car’s weatherstripping will also lessen the likelihood of your door sticking to its rubber seal in cold weather, a common cause of damage to the rubber.
Fix bad weatherstripping immediately. If your weatherstripping is letting rainwater leak into the interior of your car, take a look at it and decide if you can repair it or if it needs to be replaced. Small leaks can be handled with brush-on seam sealers. Resecure loose sections, not otherwise damaged, with trim adhesive.
Keep leather from drying out and cracking. Leather cars seats are durable and don’t require a lot of maintenance. After a few years, however, the seats can become soiled. Use a leather cleaner to remove dirt and stains.Then apply a leather protectant formulated for pigmented or top-coated grain leather (the leather used for most leather car upholstery). Protectants will resist stains and make the upholstery easier to clean in the future. Choose a protectant that includes conditioners to keep your leather supple.
(Article excerpts taken from Reader’s Digest online at www.rd.com)