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Unless you have something rare or exotic in the garage, your car's value will depreciate over time. The wear and tear it faces on the road make repairs and maintenance necessary to keep it working well. Don't ignore the warning signs – staying on top of maintenance will increase the lifespan of your car. These four tips can help your car last as long as possible.
Keep your car clean: Washing your car makes it look great, and helps increase it's lifespan, too.
- Wash your car frequently. It's a good idea to wash it at least once a month. This removes grime which can damage the paint.
- Don't forget the underbody. Shiny paint looks nice, but the underside of your car is exposed to moisture, mud, road salt, and debris. Use a pressure washer to clean as much of that off as possible to prevent rust and corrosion.
- Make sure carpets are clean and dry. Damp carpets can seep water onto the frame, leading to rust and corrosion. Rubber floor mats could be a good investment if you live in a wet climate.
Repair any body damage: Sometimes we think that fixing minor body damage is more trouble than it's worth. However, leaving damage unrepaired can have detrimental results in the long term.
- Fix small dents and dings. These imperfections are prone to rust and corrosion. Some states won't allow a vehicle to pass a registration inspection if there are rust holes on the body. Depending on the extent of the rust you may be able to fix it yourself.
- Touch up paint scratches. Car paint acts as a protective barrier for the sheetmetal underneath. Any scratch in the paint allows moisture to reach the metal, which will result in rust. If you spot a new scratch in your car's paint, touch it up right away.
Change your car fluids regularly: The various fluids in a car are critical in keeping it running. Consult your owner's manual to see what the fluid maintenance intervals are, then follow those to a tee.
- Always get oil changes on time. Different cars have different oil change intervals, but the general range is between 3,000 and 5,000 miles. Going beyond that range means your engine will be at greater risk of overheating and increased wear on internal components.
- Check and change your transmission fluid. Transmission fluid keeps the moving parts inside the transmission working smoothly. While a transmission fluid service is more expensive than an oil change, it happens much less frequently, at as high as 60,000 mile intervals. Ignoring this service can lead to worn clutches, grinding gears, rough shifting, and other problems.
- Ensure coolant is clean and properly mixed. Old or out-of-proportion coolant can cause engine overheating, or can freeze in very cold temperatures. It's a problem if there are visible particles or contaminants in the coolant – if you see any, get the cooling system flushed right away. Otherwise, most vehicles have five-year coolant replacement intervals.
- Keep brake fluid fresh. Brake fluid absorbs moisture to prevent corrosion inside the brake system. However, there's a limit to how much water it can absorb. When that point is reached, brake components can fail and the brake pedal can feel spongy. Check your brake fluid level and condition to make sure it's in a safe range.
Be timely about vehicle repairs: Certain car parts have finite life spans. It's best to make regular checks on those parts to ensure they're in good shape, and to replace them immediately if they're not. Postponing those repairs can result in higher bills than if you had replaced them on time.
- Replace consumable parts. Brake pads and rotors, hoses and belts, tires, filters, and suspension all wear down and stop functioning eventually. Keep a log on the status of these parts so you know when they're due for replacement. If you don't, you may need to call a tow truck, which can negate the cost of on-time repairs.
- Perform drivetrain repairs. Repairs to the transmission, driveshafts, and four- or all-wheel-drive system can be costly, but a failure of these parts while you're driving can be extremely dangerous to you and other motorists.
- Complete engine repairs. Issues like oil leaks or unusual noises are never good signs. Get them inspected right away to avoid risking total engine failure. The cost of a new engine will always be more expensive than any preventative care.
Unless money is no object, you want your car to last as long as possible. Making the investment to keep parts fresh and repaired will help your car look better, run more efficiently, and perform more safely – and, most importantly, last longer than it would otherwise.