Some cars are better than others. Certain automakers build models to stand the test of time, and others do not. But no matter what you drive, how many miles it runs smooth and strong depends on one factor above all others: you.
As a vehicle owner, it is your responsibility to look out for its health and safety. That means staying on top of maintenance and addressing issues proactively. Being diligent about these important automotive tasks can keep your vehicle in the best condition possible – which then helps you avoid frustrating breakdowns, spare yourself expensive unscheduled repairs, and get more life out of your car.
Every vehicle is different and has its own unique maintenance requirements. After you buy a new vehicle, take some time to consult your owner’s manual (or look your make/model up online) and find out exactly what kind of maintenance the manufacturer recommends and when. The single best thing you can do for your vehicle is to follow this schedule to the letter.
Beyond that, there are several smart strategies every driver can use to keep their car in good condition:
Your vehicle needs gas to get down the road, but that is just one of many fluids it depends on: motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, and more. These fluids keep various components cool, lubricated, and working as intended. With time and regular usage of your vehicle, these fluids start to burn away, leak, or get too dirty to be useful – at which point they put critical vehicle components at risk. Problems caused by fluids can be catastrophic. But they are also some of the easiest to prevent. Monitor your fluids regularly or have them checked frequently by a professional. Watch out for evidence of drips on your driveway that could indicate leaking fluids, or unusual smells while driving that could be burning fluids. Do not just top the fluids off, either. As necessary, have the system flushed and filled with new fluids. It is easy to turn this elective maintenance down, but it is impossible to deny the benefits of fresh fluids for aging vehicles.
Washing your car keeps it looking good and running well. A thorough cleaning removes dirt, grease, grime, and road salt during the winter, which can all degrade the exterior of your vehicle. If left to sit on the outside, buildup from the road can lead to rust, cause metal components to wear out prematurely, and affect vehicle performance. Gunk on the exterior can also find its way under the hood or into the interior, neither of which are good for vehicle longevity. You do not need to wash obsessively – lots of filthy cars have racked up amazing amounts of miles. But doing it consistently will help slow down the aging process both cosmetically and mechanically.
What is the easiest way to take years off the life of your vehicle? Get in an accident. But even if you manage to avoid collisions, your driving will still affect the health of your vehicle. Accelerating quickly, breaking hard, shifting rough, or failing to let an engine warm up on cold days can all put extra stress of the vehicle. Individually, none of these behaviors will cause you to suddenly break down. But when done regularly over time, they can add extra wear and tear to your vehicle – which only forces you to replace things faster and throws off the maintenance schedule. It is never easy to change your driving habits, but it is always worth the effort.
Unless you are an automotive expert who loves working on your own vehicle and has all the equipment to do so, you are going to need a mechanic. Finding one you trust to give you honest advice and good work at fair prices can help you avoid a lot of automotive frustrations later. Take your car to this person regularly – ideally every three months for your regularly scheduled oil change, but at least twice ever year. Have them do a thorough inspection and take whatever advice they recommend. If your vehicle is ever performing unusually, get it to your mechanic sooner rather than later. In general, consider your mechanic to be your automotive partner: someone you rely on for assistance and advice whenever necessary. The help of a good mechanic can keep anything running for longer.
Why do you want to extend you vehicle longevity? Probably so you do not have to pay for repairs or spend money on something different to drive. It is a cost-cutting measure for most people – but sometimes you must spend money to save money. As you add fluids, replace parts, and pay for services for your SUV or sedan, you may be tempted to go with the cheapest option available. That will always be adequate, but investing a little more on quality tires, premium fluids, and OEM parts can pay dividends later by revitalizing your vehicle. The same goes for vehicle service. Paying a mechanic to preemptively service your vehicle costs a lot less than paying for repairs in a few months. If you are trying to keep vehicle costs low, remember the smart times to spend.
Mike Rupers, CEO and founder of Direct Express Auto Transport, Inc. since 2004. He created the very first instant car shipping quote calculator on the internet. It was the only one for four years and is still arguably today the most sophisticated and accurate.