While for many people a vehicle is a necessity, it’s not an investment. There are costs associated with vehicle ownership including:
Vehicles depreciate in value over time, meaning they aren’t worth the same price you paid for the car later on. Yet maintenance and repairs are continually necessary to keep your car running well. If you want your vehicle to last as long as possible, you need to stay on top of vehicle maintenance. Here are a few ideas to extend the life of your car.
Part 1 of 4: Performing regular fluid maintenance
Many expensive repairs can be prevented by performing routine vehicle maintenance when it’s due. Follow your vehicle maintenance guide or have a knowledgeable mechanic like the ones from YourMechanic perform the maintenance for you.
Step 1: Change your engine oil on time, every time. Each manufacturer has a different requirement for oil changes.
If your car has an oil life monitor, change the oil before it reaches 0 percent.
If your engine oil should be changed at a set time or at mileage intervals such as 3 months or 3,000 miles, don’t wait beyond your interval.
Dirty engine oil can cause sludge deposits in the engine, overheating, blocked oil passages, and increase internal wear on metal components.
Step 2: Change your transmission fluid when it’s due. Again, follow your manufacturer’s recommendations for time and distance for this service.
The transmission requires much less maintenance than your engine oil, although the service is more expensive.
Have the transmission fluid and filter replaced when they are due to prevent premature transmission failure.
Old, dirty transmission fluid can cause burnt clutches, shift flares, solenoid problems, and a host of other expensive transmission problems.
Step 3: Keep your engine coolant clean and properly mixed. Most engine coolant, also known as antifreeze, has a 5-year replacement interval.
Flush your coolant if there are contaminants of floating particles in the fluid.
Test the coolant strength every season, especially before winter.
If the engine coolant is too weak, it can freeze and cause major damage to your engine.
Old coolant can corrode internal engine parts or restrict coolant flow, causing your engine to overheat.
Step 4: Change your brake fluid when required. Like any hydraulic fluid, moisture is its worst enemy.
Brake fluid absorbs moisture to prevent corrosion inside the brake system.
When your brake fluid can no longer absorb more moisture, brake parts can fail or a noticeable change in brake operation can occur, such as a spongy brake pedal.
Part 2 of 4: Performing timely vehicle repairs
Even when you maintain your vehicle as best as possible, repairs can be necessary from time to time. Components like brake parts, clutch discs, and belts can wear, or bearings and seals can fail. It can be tempting to postpone or neglect these repairs completely; however, that can greatly reduce your vehicle’s life expectancy.
Step 1: Perform engine repairs as soon as symptoms occur. If your engine fails, it’s a major repair no matter what type of vehicle you drive.
If you have an engine oil leak, address it quickly. Driving with low engine oil can cause engine wear, or even cause your engine to seize if it completely runs out of oil.
If you have engine noise, have it repaired before you break down. A breakdown is almost always more expensive than correcting the problem beforehand.
Step 2: Complete drivetrain repairs in a timely manner. That includes transmission, differential, and four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive issues.
- Not only do repairs get more expensive because of more extensive damage, but a drivetrain failure on the road can put you in a dangerous situation.
Step 3: Keep routine repairs in check. When wearable parts are nearing the end of their usable life, have them replaced.
- Replace tires, brakes, belts, and hoses before they completely fail. The added cost of a tow truck or emergency repair usually negates any savings you hope for by delaying the repairs.
Part 3 of 4: Keeping your vehicle clean
Mechanically, your vehicle may be perfectly fine. But body or undercarriage rot can condemn your vehicle to the scrapyard. Proper detailing and cleaning will help prevent rust and corrosion.
Step 1: Wash your car regularly. Wash your car every one to two weeks to remove grime.
It’s even more important in the winter when corrosive salt gets on your car.
Use a high-quality car wash soap if you’re washing your car by hand.
Automatic car washes are great for a quick clean when your car is dirty.
Step 2: Wash the undercarriage. There are nooks and crannies under your car that harbor debris and salt.
- Use a pressure washer to remove as much buildup from your car’s undercarriage as you can.
Step 3: Keep your carpets clean and dry. Moisture in your carpets can cause corrosion and rust on your floorboards underneath.
In wet weather, use high-quality floor mats that trap water so it doesn’t absorb into the carpet.
If you see salt stains on your carpet, it’s a good idea to have your carpets shampooed. The salt can permeate down and form corrosion on the floor.
Part 4 of 4: Repairing minor body damage
Minor damage on your car can have detrimental results in the long term. Repair those minor issues that creep up to extend the life of your car.
Step 1: Touch up scratches in your paint. Scratches on metal body parts will rust eventually.
- Use touch up paint to fill in scratches to prevent premature rust.
Step 2: Repair minor rust that forms on your car. Address it sooner rather than later to keep your car in good shape.
It can happen from a simple stone chip that gets out of hand or another seemingly harmless incident.
You can fix minor rust or rust holes on your own or have it done professionally. In many cases, your vehicle won’t pass a state inspection with rust holes in the body.
Whether you need routine vehicle maintenance like a brake fluid change, common repairs like a serpentine belt replacement, or more involved engine or drivetrain repairs, you can find help at YourMechanic. One of our trained mechanics will come to you and get your vehicle repaired to extend its life.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Extend the Life of Your Car and was authored by Jason Unrau.