Tips for Maintaining Your Car
Take good car of your car and your car will take good care of you. Whether you’re just cruising from point A to point B or regularly take long road trips, you want your car to be in the best possible shape. Here are a few basic tips that’ll help your vehicle last for the long run.
Stick to the Maintenance Schedule in the Owner’s Manual
You trust your mechanic to tell you when your vehicle needs certain maintenance items done. For instance, your mechanic may suggest you change your oil every 3,000 miles or replace your coolant every 30,000 miles. It’s all sage advice, but also outdated advice given how fluids and other items are designed to last longer in modern vehicles. Today’s engines can go anywhere from 5,000 to 7,500 miles or more between oil changes, for example.
The best advice comes from your vehicle owner’s manual. In every manual you’ll find a section listing the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance intervals. Following these intervals not only ensures that your vehicle is maintained properly, but you won’t accidentally spend extra on services you won’t need until later.
Check Your Tires Regularly
There’s no understating the importance of keeping your tires properly inflated. Having too much or too little air inside your tires can put them at risk of a blowout, which in turn increases the likelihood of a serious accident. So, it pays to keep a close eye on tire pressures:
• Check your tire pressures when the tires are cold. Pressures fluctuate with temperature, making accurate readings more difficult after a long drive, especially with high outdoor temperatures.
• Always fill your tires to the recommended pressure listed on the “tire and loading information” sticker located within the driver’s side door jamb. Go by the sticker on the door – not the maximum PSI listed on the tire itself.
• Use a high-quality tire pressure gauge when checking tire pressure. Digital units often give the most accurate readings.
Checking your tires means more than just topping off the air. Maintaining good tread depth is also important for safety and good performance. Tires with little to no tread left can prove dangerous on wet and slippery roads. Certain types of tread wear can also indicate suspension or alignment issues. For instance, poor wheel alignment can lead to uneven tread wear.
Use a penny to quickly check tread depth. If the top of Lincoln’s head can be seen above the remaining tread, then it’s time for a new tire. Another way to check tread depth involves the built-in wear bars. If the bars are flush against the rest of the tread, then you’ll need to replace that tire.
Keep Your Car Clean Inside and Out
Your car doesn’t have to be showroom-sharp, but you should keep it as clean as possible. The slings and arrows of everyday motoring – from road salt, grime and grease to tree sap, dead bugs, bird droppings and acid rain – can easily do a number on your car’s paint. All of these contaminants can eat away at the paint and even the metal underneath, resulting in a dulled finish and eventual metal corrosion.
Keeping the inside of your car tidy is just as important. Dirty interiors not only kill resale value, but also make the driving experience less enjoyable. Vacuum the interior on a regular basis and wipe down the seats and dashboard with your favorite cleaning and conditioning products. If necessary, limit what you eat in your vehicle or give up eating in your car altogether. Food particles can easily discover nooks and crannies to work themselves into.
Stay with the Recommended Octane Rating
Unless your vehicle is specifically designed to use high-octane fuels, you’re better off using “regular unleaded” or 87 octane fuel. Most of today’s passenger vehicles are optimized for regular, which makes using “plus,” “premium” or “super” unleaded fuels unnecessary. In fact, using higher octane fuels in vehicles not tuned for it can actually hurt engine efficiency.
Cars that require premium (91 octane) unleaded fuel often have higher compression ratios and need higher-octane fuel to prevent pinging, detonation and an overall loss in performance. Persistent use of low-octane fuel in high performance engines can easily lead to severe or even catastrophic engine damage. No matter how tempting it is to save a few cents per gallon on your next fill-up, stick with the octane grades recommended in your vehicle owner’s manual.