With the price we pay for new and even used vehicles today it is important to get the most out of them. Here we will discuss some of the simple things you can do to extend the life of your car or truck while also improving its performance.
It is not uncommon to see vehicles driven 20 to 30,000 miles every year and with that comes a lot of wear that must be take care of. Because most of us don’t have the time we put off regular maintenance but doing so can lead to higher expense down the road.
All of the things we will look at should be performed at standard intervals or when you notice a problem however if you are buying a used vehicle or restoring one that has been neglected you can start by doing one or two jobs a weekend until you are back in place.
Probably the most neglected and most important job to perform is changing your engine’s oil and filter.
Remember that every time you change your oil you must put a new filter on.
Running your vehicle to normal operating temperature or about 10 minutes prior to performing the oil change will help by reducing its viscosity so more oil will flow from the oil pan. Always allow your engine to cool enough that you won’t come in contact with hot exhaust or other parts.
Changing Transmission Fluids
It is important to change your manual and automatic transmission fluid at regular intervals. You can find the exact number of miles in your owners manual but if you are purchasing a used vehicle it is worth making a fluid change early after purchase.
Transmissions will often have a screen or filter that needs to be cleaned or replaced. Unfortunately on many models this can mean removal of the transmission to access the filter. If this is the case then a trick of changing the oil a few times in a period of about a week may improve the flow of fluid but will not eliminate the need later on.
Changing your engine’s accessory belts may mean changing a single serpentine belt or changing individual belts that run your Air Conditioning, Alternator and Power Steering.
Some vehicles have more accessories and will require additional service.
If you have more then one belt you will need to replace or at least loosen and remove the outer belts to get it off the crank pulley. If this is the case replace all of the belts at the same time and save the old ones in your trunk for emergency repairs.
Inspecting and replacing Tires
If you drive your vehicle 20,000 miles or more a year then you can expect to replace your tires every 3 years.
However if you drive less then this your tires may endup with sidewall rott or cracking. This is because the UV Rays of the Sun and Chemicals break down the rubber material over time.
When you drive less the tires stay on your vehicle longer and are more substitutable to this problem.
For this reason when you purchase a used vehicle you should inspect the sides of the tire as closely as you do the tread depth. The same is true if you have had your vehicle for a long time.
Cleaning the interior of your car will provide better comfort but also allow the materials to last longer. Just like in your home the plastic and natural materials that make up your interior need to be cleaned and preserved.
Using a carpet shampoo clean your rug well to remove dirt and stains. Highly visible stains can be treated with special carpet paints available at an auto body supply store.
Leather materials should be cleaned and then treated as should your plastic and vinyl parts.
One word of caution be very gentle to your plastic lenses on your dash. Only use a very soft cloth with a weak solution of soap to clean these part or you may damage them by causing scratches and scuffs.
Changing Your Radiator Coolant
Follow steps specific to your car to change your coolant on a regular basis. This will reduce buildup in the internal parts of your radiator and buildup around your cars Thermostat.
Flushing the system is very important if you have not performed the job for an extended period or have bought used.
Drain the coolant from the system and allow the car to run with water. Turn on the heater in your car to allow coolant to flow through the whole system then drain the water and replace with fresh 50/50 mixture of coolant. Check your manufacturer for exact ratio which may change if you live in a very hot or cold location.
Change your Air Filter
This is a very quick and easy process. Simply purchase a new filter at your parts supplier and replace it. If you need help most stores will install it for free but all you should need is a screw driver to remove the cover.
I would recommend that you do this every year or as your manual suggests.
Changing Your Fuel Filter
Fuel filters can and will get clogged over time and should be replaced on a regular schedule.
If the filter is easily accessible under you hood then removing the filter will require not much more then a set of wrenches. If the filter is under the vehicle then you will need to place the car on jack stands or car ramps to gain access.
Changing Power Steering Fluid
Just like your cars engine and transmission the power steering system on your car needs to have its fluid checked regularly and changed for best operation.
Normally there won’t be a filter that needs to be replaced but flushing out the system can be a difficult process depending on your cars location of the pump.
You should remove the return line to the pump and place it in a bucket or other catch container. Run your vehicle and have someone turn the steering wheel from one side to the other and the old fluid will be drained.
While you are doing this you should be adding new fluid so the pump will continue to run.
Once the fluid comes out of the return line looking as clean as you are pouring in then you have flushed the system.
Reconnect the power steering return line to the pump and allow the car to sit for 15 minutes.
Check the level of the power steering and add any fluid as needed.
The final step is removing air from the system.
With the pump reservoir filled turn the steering wheel lock to lock about 10 times and air should be removed from the system.
Allow the car to sit again for about 15 minutes and recheck the fluid level.
If you see bubbles in the fluid allow the car to sit for a longer period of time until they are no longer present before driving.
Check the fluid level and for any leaks during the next few days.
Cleaning the Underside Of Your Car
If you live in a area that gets snow then it is very important that you remove the road salt from the underside of your vehicle both in the spring and on warm days in the winter.
Road salt is one of the main reasons for rusting of floor pans and other under body parts and will reduce the life of your car dramatically.
Some car washes now offer an under body wash which is good but if you can you should use your hose to get into the creveses around your wheel wells and remove as much of the dirt as you can.
Dirt will also hold moisture.
What about oil? well oil can be a problem if you have large leaks but if you have a small amount of oil residue on your transmission or oil pan it can actually help reduce rusting.
Painting your suspension parts with a good black engine enamel will also help and undercoating in a spray can can protect wheel wells and other problem areas. Don’t go overboard with the undercoating it is not a good idea to cover all surfaces. Instead keep the areas clean and painted.
This list is just a beginning in keeping your car running well for as long as possible. You want to refer to your owners manual about dates for servicing and do your best to follow it.
Also getting in touch with other owners of the same vehicle will let you know what problems you can expect down the road.