While cars are complicated machines, you don’t need to be a mechanic to get the most from your vehicle. Here are some simple, easy-to-overlook steps you can take to make your car last longer.
Check Your Tire Pressure Frequently
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) in modern cars only activates if the pressure is several pounds below the manufacturer’s recommendations. Instead of waiting for the light, take the time each week to check the pressure using a tire gauge. Recommended pressures can be found on the B pillar on the driver’s side: just open the door and look to the right for a sticker. Keeping the pressure up will even out tire wear and improve fuel economy and handling.
Know When to Replace Oil and Transmission Fluid
Lubricant technology has changed a lot in the past couple of decades, so old rules of thumb no longer apply. Oil changes may be needed anywhere between 2,500 and 15,000 miles depending on your model, while transmission fluid may last between 40,000 miles to the lifetime of the vehicle. Check your owners manual for manufacturer’s recommendations so you can stay on track.
Wash Your Car
Bird droppings and bug guts are acidic, salt can corrode metal, and dirt can be abrasive. Leave them on your car, and they’ll eat away at the paint. The sooner you remove these contaminants, the longer the paint will last.
Keep Your Air Conditioner Charged
A working air conditioner cools the vehicle in the summer and helps the defroster remove fog from the windows in winter. Over time, refrigerant will leak through seals, forcing the compressor to work harder. If the pressure is too low, the compressor will shut off entirely to keep it from burning up.
Skip the DIY recharge bottles available at your local auto parts store and have your A/C looked at by a professional. They can get the system filled correctly and spot problems that can lead to expensive repairs. Yearly inspections can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Take Care of Your Leather Interior
Leather interiors used in cars for the past 20 years have a thin layer of vinyl on top. While this makes the material more durable, it doesn’t make them maintenance-free. These need to be cleaned with a leather-specific cleaner and a leather conditioner at least every three months if you want them to last. Unlike cream conditioners, liquid conditioners will penetrate the vinyl layer, letting them moisturize the underlying leather and keep it supple.
Keep the Coolant Fresh
As coolant ages, it becomes corrosive, eating into the water pump, radiator and heater core. Not only are these parts expensive to replace, their failure can lead to overheating that will destroy your engine. Automakers use many coolant formulas, and their life can vary widely. Keep in mind that coolant has both a maximum mileage and chronological life. If it’s been several years since the coolant has been changed, it may be due, even if you haven’t driven your car much.
If you prefer to do it yourself, run a bottle of radiator flush through the system to clean out any rust or contaminants. This keeps the coolant system clean, and it’s a required step for getting coolant manufacturers to honor their warranties.
For the best results, use pre-mixed coolant. This guarantees the right water/coolant mix, and there won’t be any contaminants that can interfere with the coolant’s anti-corrosive additives.
Don’t Push Your Vehicle Past Its Limits
Unless you regularly tow heavy trailers, you probably don’t think about how much weight your car is moving. Most cars and SUVs have a weight limit that can be exceeded by filling every seat with adults. Go over this limit, and you’ll put extra strain on the suspension components and tires.
The GVWR and curb weight for the vehicle can be found on the same sticker that lists the recommended tire pressure. Subtract the GVWR from the curb weight, and you’ll get your vehicle’s maximum weight capacity.
Don’t Skimp on Collision Repair
Mismatched paint and uneven shut lines can kill resale value, and poor repairs can increase wear and make your car unsafe to drive. If the underlying body structure isn’t straight, it can put extra stress on suspension and engine components, while unrepaired parts won’t be able to absorb another impact if you get into another accident.
When you need autobody repair, bring your car to Merton Auto Body. We’re an I-CAR Gold Class Certified shop, and we’re a preferred shop for most major insurance companies. Whether you live in Pewaukee, Delafield, Harland or Oconomowoc, we’re just a short drive away.