Sadly, many of us only think about car maintenance when things go wrong and repairs are needed. But by being proactive and following basic car care practices, it’s possible to save yourself time, money, and headaches by decreasing the odds you’ll have to deal with a breakdown. You might also extend your vehicle’s life by a few years! So 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 some useful pointers to keep your car running like a fine-tuned machine.
25 of the Best Car Care Tips, Tricks & Tidbits
1. A Wash Goes a Long Way:
First thing’s first: wash your car. Dirt, grime, and salt from icy roads can do damage to your car’s paint and corrode the undercarriage. Routinely washing away any unwanted substances will make your car look better and can keep it in good shape.
2. Wax Will Protect the Paint:
It’s a simple step that can go a long way in helping to protect your car’s exterior. A few extra minutes after a carwash can keep your car looking much younger than it really is.
3. Rubber Mats Will Protect the Carpet:
They’re a cheap investment, and rubber floor mats can save your car’s carpet from stains and wear. Rubber mats can also be removed for easy cleaning.
4. Lighten Your Load:
If you’re hauling around heavy items, they could be weighing you down and negatively affecting your gas mileage. Take inventory of what’s in your trunk, and remove any of these unnecessary passengers.
5. Change Your Air Filter:
From pollen during allergy season to dust from construction sites, you probably spend a good bit of time driving through unclean air. Replacing your air filter will help keep fresh air running through your vehicle.
6. Refresh Your Windshield Wipers:
When it comes to driving, there are few things more annoying (or dangerous) than windshield wipers that don’t work properly. Extend their life and clean them by soaking a rag in your favorite glass cleaner and wiping them up and down. You’ll be pleased with the results when it starts to rain!
7. 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.
8. Fix Foggy Headlights:
9. Get Your Oil Changed Regularly:
There are a number of reasons to get your oil changed regularly, and doing so can help prevent you from paying for costly repairs later. Check your owner’s manual to see how often the manufacturer recommends an oil change and stick to that schedule. You can also learn how to change your oil by yourself to save some money.
10. Use the Right Grade of Motor Oil:
Switching to the right grade of motor oil could improve your gas mileage by up to 2 percent. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended grade for your vehicle.
11. Have the Brakes Checked:
You’ll want to have the brake system checked regularly. One good tip is to have them looked at when you bring your car in for a tire rotation.
12. 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.
13. Check Hoses & Belts:
Visit a qualified mechanic on occasion to make sure that none of your car’s hoses and belts are cracked, brittle, or loose. This could prevent you from ending up stranded on the highway shoulder while you wait for roadside assistance.
14. Check the Exhaust System:
Exhaust leaks are extremely dangerous. It’s important to have your exhaust system inspected, even if you don’t think there is a problem.
15. Check the Check Engine Light:
Don’t panic, but don’t ignore it. Retrieving a “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 search for an auto shop (like Pep Boys), that offers to retrieve engine codes for free.
16. Don’t Neglect Your A/C:
Driving without air conditioning during the summer months is brutal, but you can hopefully avoid this fate by getting your A/C system checked. You should be able to take care of any small issues before they lead to more costly repairs, and if a more expensive problem is on the horizon, you’ll be able to prepare (and budget) in advance.
17. Test Tire Tread:
The penny test is the easiest way to check your tire’s treads. You can also look to see if the treads are visibly worn down and make mental notes of how the car is handling. Driving on tires with poor tread depth can be very dangerous.
18. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated:
Having your car’s tires properly inflated is important for safety, and it can increase your gas mileage. The proper tire pressure for your vehicle can probably be found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jam or in your owner’s manual.
19. Rotate Your Tires:
Bring your car in for a regular tire rotation as recommended in your owner’s manual. This should make sure your tires wear out more evenly, keeping you safe from the dangers of uneven tread depth. Want to save a little money? Some companies will offer free tire rotation for the life of your tires if you purchase a set from them.
20. Get Your Tires Serviced:
Drive over a nail or screw? While this is certainly an inconvenience, it might not set you back any money. Some companies, like Goodyear, offer free flat tire repair or other free tire services. You can also consider adding roadside assistance to help you fix a flat.
21. Keep an Eye on the Battery:
Too much buildup around the battery posts is a common reason you might need to change your battery. You can even do it yourself with our guide to changing your own battery.
22. Find a Free Car Care Event:
The Car Care Council sponsors free events to help you understand your car’s maintenance needs.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. Call a Pro When Necessary:
Car struggling to start? Are you noticing weird noises when you accelerate? Sometimes, it’s best to call in a pro early to get to the bottom of any issues before you have a breakdown.
Bonus Tip: Get Covered with Direct Auto
Not only is proof of financial responsibility a legal requirement in every state, but finding the right insurance plan can be crucial for your car’s future. If you end up in a car accident, insurance can help pay for any covered damages, meaning you get your car back in working order without breaking the bank. Also, roadside assistance can help you keep racking up the miles by coming to your rescue when you’re stuck on the side of the road. Give us a call or stop by one of our locations to talk about your insurance options!