April is National Car Care Month, and for good reason. After a long winter of road salt and brine and just before summer heat hits, spring is the perfect time to give your car some TLC.
Unfortunately for many of us, taking care of our cars is an afterthought–something we only think about when things go wrong and we need a repair. But following some of these simple car care practices could actually help reduce the likelihood of those moments when things go wrong, and could save you money in the long run and could help your car last longer.
If you’re trying to hit the 200,000 mile mark (or if you already have and want to keep your car in good shape), here are 25 car care tips, tricks, and tidbits to help you get there:
- A Wash Goes A Long Way – First thing’s first: wash it. Chances are the road salt your car came into contact with during winter weather is still there. Not only can it eat your paint, but it can also corrode your undercarriage.
- Wax Will Protect the Paint – It’s a simple step that can go a long way in helping to protect your car’s exterior. An easy trick to tell if your car could use a wax? According to the folks at Probst Auto Body, if water beads up well on the surface, the wax is still protecting the paint. If it doesn’t bead up, well, your paint could probably use some wax.
- Rubber Mats Will Protect the Carpet – They’re a cheap investment and rubber floor mats will go a long way in helping protect your carpet from stains and wear.
- Lighten Your Load – If you’re hauling around heavy items, they could be weighing you down and negatively affecting your gas mileage.
- Change Your Air Filter – Spring means allergy season: prime time for pollen, dust, and other irritants to fill the air. Replacing your air filter will help keep the air inside your vehicle clean.
- Check Your Windshield Wipers – It goes without being said, visibility is important when driving–especially during spring showers. Replacing worn windshield wiper blades is a cheap and easy fix.
- Top Off The Fluids – You don’t have to be a mechanic to know how to pop the hood and check fluid levels (and top them off if you need to). The engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid should all be checked regularly.
- Fix Foggy Headlights – You might have heard that rubbing toothpaste on foggy headlights can do the trick. It’s also easy to replace your own headlights if you need improved visibility.
- Get Your Oil Changed Every… – Years ago, the consensus was that you needed to get your oil changed every 3,000 miles. Nowadays, it’s between 7,500 and 15,000 depending on your car, according to Cars.com. Knowing how often to change your oil is key when it comes to properly maintaining your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends and stick to that schedule.
- Use The Right Grade of Motor Oil – If you’ve been using the wrong motor oil, switching to the right grade of motor oil could improve your gas mileage up to 2 percent, according to FuelEconomy.gov. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended grade for your vehicle.
- Have The Brakes Checked – You’ll want to have the brake system checked each year, but the rotors, drums, and brake linings should be checked each time you get your oil changed.
- Flush and Refill the Radiator – Removing the old antifreeze by flushing your radiator system each year will help remove rust and scale buildup and other contaminants. You can have the procedure done most places that offer oil change services.
- Check Hoses And Belts – Make sure your hoses and belts are not cracked, brittle, or loose. You need to have a qualified mechanic do this check.
- Check The Exhaust System – Exhaust leaks are extremely dangerous. It’s important to have your exhaust system inspected, even if you don’t suspect there could be a problem.
- Check Engine Light On?– Don’t panic, but don’t ignore it. Retrieving the “trouble code” will help you determine why your check engine light is on and how to address the issue. There are some relatively inexpensive code readers out there if you want to take the DIY approach. Or, you can bring your car to your nearest Pep Boys–they offer free code retrieval.
- Don’t Neglect Your A/C – Also, according to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence or ASE, you’ll want to have your air conditioning system serviced if it’s not performing like it should to avoid the likelihood of more costly repairs in the future.
- Test Tire Tread – The penny test is the easiest way to do this. You can also look to see if the tread is flush with the indicator bars, according to Bridgestone Tire. If so, it’s probably time to invest in a new set.
- Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated – FuelEconomy.gov says keeping tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage up to 3.3%. The proper tire pressure for your vehicle can probably be found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jam.
- Rotate Your Tires – Some say you should have your tires rotated each time you get your oil changed. Cars.com suggests following the schedule outlined in your owner’s manual, but having your tires rotated at least once a year.
- Where To Get Free Tire Services – This is one car care component that doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg for professional-grade service. Discount Tire, for example, offers free flat tire repair (even if you didn’t purchase your tires there).
- To Change Your Battery… – Too much buildup around the battery posts is a common reason you might need to change your battery. Do-It-Yourself with our guide to changing your own battery.
- Find a Free Car Care Event – The Car Care Council sponsors free events to help you understand your car’s maintenance needs. Find a free car care event near you to learn how to better care for your car.
- Get Free Car Maintenance Services and Diagnostics – Many retailers offer free testing and other services like battery testing and charging, brake inspection, code retrieval, and more.
- Get “The” Car Care Guide – The CarCare.org Car Care Guide uses everyday language to explain typical preventative maintenance repairs. Print it out and keep it your glove box for a handy guide to caring for your car year round.
- Call A Pro When… – You’ll want to have things like hard starts and rough idling corrected before the warm temperatures arrive to avoid developing even more issues.
You Might Also Like:
- Simple DIY Car Care Tips
- Six Free Phone Apps to Help You Cut Car Costs
- 5 Inexpensive Ways to Make Your Car Last Longer
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