5 Easy Tips to Make Your Car Last Longer
You don’t need to be a world class mechanic to know how to make your car last longer. It’s the same as being… not a doctor, but knowing how to take good care of your health. I’m not a doctor, but I do know that eating a salad every now and then, or doing a push-up or two is good for me. I’m also not a mechanic, but I do know that by sticking to certain regiments, knowing my way around an engine and maintaining a schedule, my cars stay with me for a long time, living out happy and healthy lives. The sense of accomplishment you get when your odometer hits 500,000 miles is unbeatable! If you treat your car the same way, it’ll be your trusted steed for many years. You might even get to see it become a classic, like you! So without any further ado, here are 5 easy tips to help make your car last longer.
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Tip #1: Want to Make Your Car Last Longer? Wash Your Car!
Let’s start with the simplest step. Wash and wax your car regularly! This might seem overly obvious, then again it might not…how does washing my car make it last longer? Believe it or not, washing your car is more than just about aesthetics. When you don’t wash your car, all the foreign bodies in the air start to collect onto its body. Over time, that coat of dirt will eat through the clearcoat. Eventually the paint will start to oxidize and turn into rust. And if that rust goes beyond the surface of the paint, gets into the metal work, then that car is done for! Rust is like cancer to a car, and once it reaches the body panels it spreads like wildfire. Rust may even spread to the frame and chassis, which will render the car completely unsafe to drive.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in Southern California think we are immune to the worst rust causing elements, just because we don’t see snow and salt. Think again. You know that big beautiful blue thing we’re all so lucky to live right
next to? The Ocean! And what’s in the ocean? Salt! Lots of it. And while that gentle salty breeze caresses your flowing sun-kissed blonde hair during one of our glorious San Diego sunsets, it’s killing the surface of your car. Want your car to see 500,000 miles? Keep it clean!
And if you really like your car, wash it by hand! Drive through car-washes are abrasive and can cause permanent damage like scratches and swirling, will dull your clearcoat and leave water spots. A regular hand wash once every 2-3 weeks is a good habit, maybe more frequent if you live closer on the beach. If you don’t have access to your own hose and bucket, you can use a coin-op DIY car wash but be careful with how close you put the power washer nozzle to your car, and stay away from the brush with its abrasive bristles. Bring your own sponge! Those DIY car washes usually include a spray on wax, which should be sufficient for the average vehicle. However, I would suggest an additional professional wax job maybe once or twice a year.
Tip #2: Know Your Engine Bay, Squeeze Your Rubber and Check Your Fluids
Want to help make your car last longer? Get to know your engine bay! Again, you don’t have to be a mechanic, but it helps to be able to identify the major components of your engine, as well as other parts under the hood. Your engine is made up of parts such as the block, intake manifold, cylinder head, valve cover, etc. There are other parts under the hood such as air intake, starter, brake master cylinder and fuse box. (That’s an easy one. If you know the fusebox, and which fuse powers what, you can save a ton of money on unnecessary electrical repairs. You might just need to replace a $0.50 fuse.)
So why is this so important? Self diagnosis of a potential problem can save you a lot of time and money! If your mechanic has a good idea of where to start, they can get to the problem a lot quicker.
Another easy tip to caring for your engine bay? Squeeze your rubber! Every engine has drive belts up front and hoses connecting this do-hickey with that thinga-majigger. These components are more than likely made of rubber…and rubber cracks over time! Look at your belts, can you see a crack? Give your hoses a squeeze, are they cracking or bulging? If so, you need to replace them! It is not very expensive to replace belts and hoses. If you spot cracking, splitting or bulging in time, you could save yourself from more detrimental, costly repairs.
Now let’s talk about fluids. The literal lifeblood of your car. Besides gas, your car has engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, differential fluid…and of course, washer fluid! It helps to know which tank/ reservoir belongs to which fluid. Get to know the colors and smells so you don’t mix any of them up! (Don’t put washer fluid in your coolant tank!) Each reservoir has an indicator line or a dipstick that will tell you the level at which the fluid should be. And most modern cars have warning lights somewhere on the dashboard which will go on if your fluids are low. If said fluid is below the line, it may mean your car has a leak somewhere. Minor leaks are common, especially for higher mileage vehicles. They are usually minor and not an emergency, and the fluids can easily be topped off during your next oil change. But if a reservoir is completely or nearly empty…that means you have a major leak. Yeah, go get that looked at!
If you take care of your engine, replace fluids on time and keep up with wear and tear, your engine may very well last 500,000 miles. It might even last forever!
Tip #3: Check Tire Pressure! Rotate, Replace & Align
Another seemingly obvious thing, but you’d be surprised how many drivers out there disregard the importance of proper tire pressure. It’s common knowledge that properly inflated tires will improve your gas mileage, but they will also last longer and make your car last longer! Extending the life of your tires will extend the life of your suspension components, putting less overall stress on the metalwork of your car.
If weight is not evenly distributed this affects the overall health of your car. Definitely keep an eye on your tire pressure. Some modern cars will tell you the exact PSI level of each individual tire as part of its on-board computer functions. For the rest of us, get yourself a tire pressure gauge and keep it in your glovebox. They’re about $3 at any gas station. Your car has a little sticker inside the driver door panel which should tell you the factory recommended PSI. Recommended PSI does vary depending on the car.
Your tires will also last longer if you have them regularly rotated wheels regularly aligned. A good, well maintained set of tires should last you about 50,000 miles / 6 years. When the tread starts to wear too thin, replace them.
Oh… side note: if you buy your car used make sure all 4 tires are matching. Meaning they are the same brand, same size, same tread wear!
Tip #4: Know Your Limits
Don’t abuse your engine, know your limits.All engines are built differently. Some are built for speed, some are built for efficiency, some for smoothness. Some engines are absolutely bulletproof, and some are more… sensitive. But if treated with care and respect your engine can last forever!It helps to get a feel for what kind of load your engine can take and where its limits are. How hard can you push it before it gives way, and how much weight it can pull?
Obvious example: if your car has a little 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine, it might not be the best idea to haul a trunk full of cinderblocks! That engine is just not made to pull such weight, you’re going to work it harder than it can work, and cause damage (probably to the suspension as well). That engine might also need a little extra time getting up to speed on the highway, so slamming on the gas as soon as you approach the on-ramp might not be the healthiest choice. Let your car do the driving, and don’t expect a snail to run like a gazelle.
On the other hand, some engines are built as racing engines, then they’re tuned down for the road. These engines are happiest between 3500-5000 RPM. And if they never see those revs, they’ll collect sediments in places of the engine that aren’t being utilized. So go have a ball.
Just listen to your engine, get to know each other, and treat it well.
Oh and for crying out loud, let them warm up! You don’t have to wait a full 10 minutes after firing it up to start driving, most modern cars can be driven right away after startup. Just don’t go nuts right away. Try to keep it below 3000 rpm before the temp needle has reached it’s comfort point. Otherwise you can cause irreversible damage to your engine.
Tip #5: Make a Schedule with a Trusted Mechanic and Stick to It
Vehicle maintenance is important. When you buy a car new, it comes with a recommended maintenance schedule. These service intervals are usually broken down in terms of of time or miles. This includes small maintenance like check ups, oil changes, but also major tune-ups, timing belt changes, etc. Some cars have recommended maintenance schedules that go as high as 500,000 miles. Stick to this schedule, and your car will thank you with a long life of service!
If you buy a car used, if your car is a little older, or has higher mileage, you might not know where your car stands with factory recommended service intervals. But don’t panic, just start fresh! Make a new schedule with your trusted mechanic. Just like the dentist who bugs you every 6 months when it’s time for your teeth cleaning, your mechanic can send you friendly reminders that it’s time for your car’s check-up.
Your car’s mechanic should be like your family doctor, an extended relative, someone you know and trust. I suggest finding a mechanic that works specifically on your type of car, or at least very limited makes of cars. Specialists. Some mechanics ONLY work on Fords, some are experts in Swedish cars, there’s a specialist in your town for every kind of car. For example, when I drove a 1987 BMW, I used a mechanic who worked on not just BMW’s, but just BMW’s from the 1980’s! That’s all he worked on, so I knew that he knew what he was doing with my car, and I trusted him fully. They know your car inside and out and that’s all they do. Those are the mechanics to befriend! Buy ‘em a nice bottle of wine for the holidays, bake some brownies…whatever it takes. You want them to love your car as much as you do, and they’ll take care of it for a long time.
A side note: Auto City has a do-it-all service department. Our technicians are trained to work on any make and model of car, however big or small the problem may be. We also came up with a long list of service specials to keep your ride in tip-top shape without breaking the bank.
I should probably mention that the items on this list pertain mostly to the used car market, cars 5 years and older with 80,000 miles or higher that have driven past their factory warranties. Some items are even specific to gas powered cars with internal combustion engines. But things are indeed changing! We are now entering the era where hybrids, electrics and other alternative fuel vehicles are becoming more and more common. I look forward to the future, and I look forward to learning about long term care and maintenance of hybrids and electrics. Hopefully soon, I will have a whole new list of tips for you with new ways to make your electric cars last longer. It’s going to be very exciting!
In the meantime, follow these 5 easy tips, and you’re well on your way to making your precious car last longer!