Whether new or used, a vehicle purchase is one of the more expensive decisions you'll make in your life (next to a home purchase). Since you're spending all that money, it's important to stay on top of your vehicle's maintenance to help keep it on the road for years to come.
1. Regular Oil & Filter Changes
An engine that is not properly maintained will eventually start giving you problems and eventually lead to the need for an engine replacement (which isn’t cheap). That’s the last thing you want when you’re on your way to work, dropping off the kids at school or taking a trip to Kona. Don’t forget to also change the oil filter when changing the oil. Without changing the filter, you’re putting clean oil into a dirty engine. Your engine will have to work harder to compensate with that dirty clogged filter.
2. Inspect Your Tires Often
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered a screw or nail in my tire, but only when I started losing tire pressure. Take the time every week or so to walk around your vehicle and check all the tires. Look for any foreign objects that may have gotten stuck in them and check your tire treads for uneven wear. Uneven tread wear could be a sign of wheel alignment issues. You’ll want to keep your tires properly inflated to the factory specs and be sure to rotate your tires for even tire wear. I make it a habit to do this every six months along with my oil and filter change. Tires aren’t cheap, especially since you can’t replace just one at a time. To prolong the life of your tires, be sure to take care of them and they’ll get you where you need to go.
3. Check Battery Connections
A dead battery can be a real inconvenience when you’ve already hopped in the car and need to get to your next destination. One way to prolong the life of your battery and avoid the hassle, is to check your battery connections regularly. Corrosion to the battery terminals can keep your car from starting and cause improper alternator operation. Search YouTube for a quick tutorial and give it a try!
4. Don’t Ignore Dash Lights
Placing a piece of electrical tape over it is not the answer to your problems! (believe it or not I’ve seen this) A dash light is telling you that something is wrong. Sometimes it’s as simple as a loose gas cap or it could be a much more serious problem. It can be tempting to ignore it, especially if you don’t feel or see anything wrong with the car. However, prolonging the fix could make a problem worse. Once the light comes on, make an appointment to get it checked out.
5. Pay Attention to Your Brakes
Your brakes are one of the most important features on your car. Not paying attention to them could lead to a big problem! Have you ever hit the brakes and felt your steering wheel shake? That probably means your rotors are warped and need to be resurfaced or replaced. Hear high-pitched squeaking when you press the brake? You’ll want to check your brake pads. The life of your brakes depends on multiple factors, but in general, look out for anything that sounds or feels weird or different. If you take your car into a dealership to get serviced, they generally will check these out for you so you can check with your service tech.
6. Replace Your Cabin Air Filter
Many people don’t know this even exists, but your cabin air filter helps keep the air within your car clean by keeping allergens and dust from coming in through your vehicle’s air vents. Those that drive on unpaved roads will want to replace these more often because of the dust that your vehicle kicks up when driving. (Side note – most cars have this, but some will not.)
7. Avoid Hazy Headlights
Why compromise your ability to see when driving at night? Although the haze is caused by external factors like UV rays from the sun, they do sell products to help clean off that foggy layer. If all else fails, you can look into headlight replacement.
8. Protect Your Interior Surfaces
All the tips we’ve talked about have to do with the exterior and mechanics of your car, but what about your interior? Don’t neglect that either. Just like the hazy headlights, UV rays can damage plastic, vinyl and leather surfaces in your car’s interior. There are sealant products out there that easily spray on and you wipe it in. This helps protect from those UV rays and the heat in the cabin. Leather seats should be conditioned to prevent cracking as well. Don’t forget to protect from the rain too! Those components on your door handle that control your windows and door locks are electronic and don’t mix well with water. Don’t leave your windows down when it’s raining (unless you have window visors) and wipe down as soon as possible if it does get wet.
9. Vacuum Your Interior
A lot of us spend hours of the day in our vehicle. Just as with your home, your car’s interior needs vacuuming to keep it smelling fresh and looking great. It’ll pick up all those food crumbs from meals on the go, rocks that get carried in from your shoes and other dirt and debris. Also take the time to clear out the clutter that builds up, like your kids toys, sports equipment, shopping bags, etc. Extra weight in your vehicle makes your car work harder and can decrease your MPG.
10. Pamper the Exterior
Lastly, take care of your vehicle’s paint job. Years of weather damage can take its toll and ruin the paint on your vehicle. If you notice bird droppings on your car, wash it off right away or it’ll eat through the paint! Wash your car as often as you can and every once in a while apply a layer of polish. It takes a little bit of time, but your car will be shining like new!