Modern cars last longer than their older counterparts. Better roads, sophisticated diagnostic tools, and advanced manufacturing techniques have all contributed to this evolution and increased the worth of car ownership. However, there are steps you can take to extend the life of your car and get the most value out of your money. Here are a few tried-and-tested tips to help:
1. Keep your car clean
Dirt build-up is one of your car’s worst enemies, and the fact that its effects stock up slowly makes it easy to overlook. Dirt is abrasive, leads to paint damage, and causes corrosion and rust on metal parts, including the frame and engine.
While daily cleaning can go a long way toward preserving paint and ridding your car’s upholstery of stains, you still need occasional professional detailing for full-body protection against hidden effects of dirt and the elements. Take your time to search for detailers around you, and ensure you know the average cost of car detailing for your vehicle type before accepting any offer.
2. Maintain your car battery
Your car battery is bound to drain and degrade if you don’t start your car over long periods. This is because functions such as the alarm system remain active even when you are not using the vehicle.
A battery conditioner can come in handy if your battery holds less charge than normal, while a trickle charger will help revive a flat battery. If you don’t have a trickle charger, consider driving your car at least once every few days, particularly during winter.
3. Replace your spark plugs
Spark-plug replacement is one of those seemingly intricate procedures that you can handle on your own. Spark plugs are vital to your car’s ignition system. When they fail, the vehicle develops problems that may have long-term irreversible effects on the engine. Atypically frequent spark-plug failure can also signify existing problems, including chemical contamination, improper gapping, and incorrect heat ranges. You can tell if a spark plug is damaged if it has deposits or signs of melting and has an electrode and insulator that sport a color other than light brown.
4. Service regularly
It doesn’t matter how well your car is running; sticking to your service schedule is the only way to ensure it remains pristine and runs in tip-top condition. Service intervals are typically based on miles driven, though most modern cars have a dashboard warning light that alerts the driver when service is due. It’s up to you to decide whether your vehicle needs a minor or major service depending on how frequently you have been using it.
Broadly speaking, you should consider a major service once every two to three years with one or two minor services in between. Minor services include fluid and oil filter changes, while major services may also cover air-filter, spark-plug, and cambelt replacement.
5. Avoid overloading your car
Adding too much weight to your car, whether through modifications or luggage, takes a toll on its fuel economy and puts additional stress on your brakes, suspension, and tires. It may also affect your car’s structural integrity, even if marginally, and cause your engine to work overtime. Most of these forms of damage are repairable, but it’s doubtful that you will detect them early enough, or your mechanic will be able to perform a complete restoration of your vehicle.
The best thing to do is keep your car weight within recommended limits by only carrying what you can’t do without. Check the glove box, door pockets, trunk, and under-seat spaces for bottles, stray toys, and other objects, and ensure all new modifications are done with vehicle weight in mind.
6. Rust-proof your car
Metal corrosion is rare in modern vehicles, but the moment it sets in marks the start of rapid deterioration. If you spot rust on your car, no matter how small, consider professionally repainting it or at least covering the rust with touch-up paint while you wait to take it to the mechanic. For old vehicle models that are prone to rust, chassis rust-proofing might prove an excellent way to block water ingress and ward off corrosion.
7. Replace and top-up fluids regularly
Vital fluids in your car include brake fluid, transmission fluid, engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, and windshield wiper fluid. All of these need to be checked once or twice a month and refilled or replaced if necessary. Consult a mechanic if you are unsure whether your fluids are at sufficient levels and in good condition.
8. Driver carefully
Driving carefully plays a vital role in extending your car’s life. Not only does it protect your car from accidents, which can cause frame and engine damage, but it also facilitates smooth and gradual braking. Additionally, careful driving helps you spot and avoid potholes and other road hazards more easily, prolonging the life of your engine and suspension. It’s worth noting that careful driving doesn’t always mean driving slowly. Failing to rev your car fully can lead to carbon build-up, fouling the valves and other parts such as the intake manifold. The end result of this is a potential misfire and reduced fuel efficiency.
9. Read your car’s owner’s manual
One of the most important reasons to read your car’s owner’s manual is to boost the longevity of your prized asset. The owner’s manual helps you understand your vehicle and the features it comes with, from the variety of buttons around the dashboard to the warning lights and occasional beeps. It also provides detailed breakdowns of basic operations such as opening the fuel door, hood, and trunk and customizing alarm, clock, light, and temperature settings. Everything you need is in the owner’s manual, and the performance and longevity of your car are partially dependent on how well you understand the booklet.
Although your car won’t last forever, proper maintenance can keep it running flawlessly for years. Always stay ahead of potential repairs and heed the manufacturer’s recommendations and warnings to minimize wear and tear, cut back on expenses, and get maximum value for your money.