Regular maintenance such as tune-ups, oil changes and tire rotations go a long way toward preventing breakdowns before they happen. Routine maintenance will not only boost your vehicle's reliability and resale value but also save fuel.
Pay attention to the little things:
- A car wash does more than just clean your car. Regular washing, especially the underbody makes an enormous difference in a car's longevity. Brake-fluid and fuel lines run along a car's underbody and are highly susceptible to dirt, water, salt and, therefore, rust.
- Take note if your car starts to sputter, stall or have other strange symptoms. Auto repair shops advise that you keep a detailed log of any problems and the conditions under which they occur – such as the weather or speed at which you were traveling. This detail will help your mechanic diagnose the problem.
- Monitor tire inflation and mileage to save money at the gas pump and in the repair shop. Proper tire inflation helps you get better gas mileage. In addition, fuel efficiency is often the first warning sign of a problem, so monitoring your mileage can catch a problem before it gets too big (and expensive).
- If your engine light flashes, stop the car as soon as possible. Driving even a few miles with an engine problem can wreak havoc on your car. A tow shop will almost always cost less than fixing the damage caused by driving with a faulty engine.
Never underestimate the value of regular maintenance:
- Have your car checked by a professional before extended road trips. Have the mechanic look at the belts, hoses, filters, tires, fluid levels, wiper blades, lights and battery.
- Never ignore regular oil changes – which should be done every 3,000 – 4,000 miles on most cars. Check your owner's manual to see if you car has a specific oil type, and make sure your mechanic uses that type.
- Follow the manufacturer's service schedule . Annual, biannual and mileage-based preventative maintenance is intended to give technicians the chance to uncover any problems in the early stages. As well, if a technician tries to pressure you into buying a service your manufacturer doesn't recommend, chances are you don't need it.
Develop responsible habits:
- Drive smoothly. Cars that are driven gently last longer and experience fewer problems. Don't race from red light to red light. Avoid sharp turns, slamming on the brakes and other habits that put stress on your car.
- Avoid driving on a low tank of gas. Your fuel pump is located in the gas tank. Sediment from gasoline can settle in the bottom of your tank. When you run your car on low fuel, the pump can pick up the sediment and become damaged.