Car Care Tips: Preventative Maintenance is the Key to a Longer-Lasting Car
Are you the kind of person who buys a car and hopes to drive it for the next decade or longer? This is a wise choice that will save you on new car purchases in the coming years. And with better-built cars on the market today, the expectation of reaching 100,000 miles or more is entirely reasonable. In fact, Money magazine states that the average mileage of cars on the road today is over 122,000. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles reach 200,000 miles or more before they’re retired, and many even go on the market for resale at this point.
Of course, you can’t bank on the improved reliability of today’s cars alone to get you to the 200,000-mile mark. The key to a longer-lasting car is preventative maintenance. Here are the top car care tips that will help your ride last for well over a decade and reach six-figure mileage with ease.
Schedule Routine Oil Changes Every 5,000 to 7,500 Miles
When it comes to basic preventative maintenance, nothing is more essential than routine oil changes. Over time, engine oil degrades and becomes contaminated with debris from the engine and environment. When this happens, the oil can’t properly lubricate and cool the engine. Routine oil changes improve gas mileage and keep the engine running smoothly for years to come.
How frequently you should change the oil depends on how you drive. The old recommendation of changing the oil every 3,000 miles only applies these days if you drive very aggressively in “severe conditions.” This doesn’t apply to most drivers. Check your owner’s manual for the specific mileage that applies to your car. Most will suggest somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500 miles.
Tune Up the Engine Every 30,000 to 100,000 Miles
A well-tuned engine ensures all the parts are working as they should, helping the engine perform cleanly, run efficiently and last longer. You should get an engine tune-up every 30,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on the car’s mileage and age. A tune-up includes these steps:
- Visually inspect fuel system components.
- Check spark plug performance and make a replacement if necessary.
- Adjust the ignition timing and idle if needed.
- Check and replace the engine and cabin air filters as needed.
- Check oil and coolant levels.
- Replace any ignition or emission system parts as recommended.
Flush the Coolant System Once a Year
Overheated engines are a common reason for roadside breakdowns. Prevent this inconvenience and keep the engine running strong by making sure it always has enough coolant. You can add more any time in a 50/50 solution with water.
Then, about once a year, you should have the cooling system flushed. This is when a cleaner is added to eliminate rust and sediment buildup. New antifreeze and a conditioner to protect against future corrosion are then added. This helps prolong the life of the radiator, water pump, hoses, pipes and other cooling system components while ensuring the engine continues to run cool with adequate antifreeze.
Flush the Motor Every 25,000 to 30,000 Miles
While you can’t see it from the outside, sludge and varnishes gum up the inside of the engine over time. Oil changes aren’t enough to remove this buildup. The solution is to flush the motor, a process that breaks down internal contamination and rinses it away when the oil is changed. Most car care experts recommend this preventative maintenance every 25,000 to 30,000 miles.
Flush the Transmission Every 30,000 to 50,000 Miles
When fluids reach the end of their lifespan, they lose the ability to fully protect your vehicle. Transmission fluid is no exception to this rule. By flushing the transmission, you restore the ideal viscosity that the system’s gears need to avoid overheating and seizing. This can prevent other problems from developing, including complete transmission failure. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you should plan to flush the transmission every 30,000 to 50,000 miles.
Use the Proper Fluids
From engine oil and coolant to brake and transmission fluid, make sure you’re using the products recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. You can find these recommendations in the owner’s manual. Using the proper fluids will help your car perform better and last longer while ensuring you don’t invalidate the warranty.
Replace Belts and Hoses Before They Break
A snapped belt or split hose can mean big trouble for the engine, potentially leaving you stranded and causing additional engine damage. That’s why it’s wise to check the condition of these engine components and replace them when they show signs of wear and tear. Follow these tips to keep your belts and hoses in good condition:
- Inspect hoses at each oil change and replace any that feel rock-hard or mushy.
- Replace hoses when you replace the coolant radiator or water pump.
- Install new clamps when hoses are replaced.
- Replace V-belts every three or four years, or every 40,000 to 50,000 miles.
- Replace the serpentine belt system and timing belt every 60,000 to 90,000 miles.
Don’t Ignore the Check Engine Light
When this dreaded dashboard indicator light comes on, it’s best to address the problem as quickly as possible. The check engine light indicates a sensor failure or engine irregularity. Before you do anything else, make sure to tighten the gas cap, fully seat the engine oil dipstick and tighten the oil fill cap.
If the check engine light remains lit after these simple troubleshooting tips, take your car in for service. Don’t wait too long because this dashboard indicator light could be the start of something more serious. Your mechanic will use a code reader to diagnose and repair the problem. Addressing it early could save you a great deal of time, hassle and costs.
Check Your Brakes
As perhaps the most important safety system in your car, you can’t afford to ignore the brakes. Preventative maintenance can help you avoid dangerous situations that could lead to an accident. Ask the mechanic to check your brakes every time you have your car serviced. Then, replace the brake pads and shoes, drums and rotors, cylinders, hoses, and other components when the mechanic says they’re wearing out.
Maintain Your Tires
While they aren’t a part of the engine, your tires have a surprisingly significant impact on the longevity of your car. After all, driving with underinflated or excessively worn tires could make you more likely to blow a tire or lose traction and get into an accident. These scenarios could mean the end of your car’s lifespan.
Follow these basic tire maintenance tips:
- Check tire inflation once a month.
- Rotate and align the tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles to help them wear more evenly.
- Visually inspect the tires regularly for signs of wear and damage.
- Replace the tires when they appear excessively worn, which is usually between 25,000 and 50,000 miles.
Keep Your Car Clean
Following the car care tips in this guide promotes a longer-lasting vehicle, but to further protect your investment, you should also make efforts to keep the car clean. After all, the engine may still run even if the car is rusty, dented and dirty, but the driver probably isn’t proud of the vehicle. Plus, body damage can lead to larger repairs later on.
To keep your car clean, follow these tips:
- Wash your car often, especially the underside where road grime and salts can accumulate.
- Hose down the engine compartment to remove dust and debris.
- Keep the windows, windshield and mirrors clean for improved aesthetics and visibility.
- Avoid eating and drinking in the car to avoid spills and grimy buildup.
- Clean the carpet and upholstery to remove stains and odors.
- Dust the dashboard and center console.
If it’s time to schedule service for your car, choose Gary Mathews Motors in Clarksville, TN. Our service department provides authentic OEM parts for Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram and SRT vehicles to maximize performance. We also offer rental cars and shuttle service for your convenience. Ask us about our service contracts to help you stay on top of preventative car maintenance!