Getting a new car might be exciting, but it's also expensive. Sometimes car ownership can feel like a litany of service appointments and repairs. Could you have avoided the agony of an unreliable car if you had made some different choices? The answer is yes.
Keeping your car running strong and avoiding a slew of costly, time-consuming repairs is a matter of investing a little effort up-front to save time in the long run. Here are some things you can do to ensure your vehicle's longevity.
1. Change Your Oil
Keeping clean oil in your car's engine is the one thing just about everyone realizes they've got to do. Without it, engine internals get gummed up. Friction and heat will begin to damage components, and things will break. Make your life simple and either change your oil yourself or take your ride to the mechanic at regular intervals.
2. Mind the Check Engine Light
"I checked, there's an engine!" This is not a good philosophy for a long and happy ownership experience. While not a good idea, you can often get away with driving a car for quite a while after a warning light comes on. However, you don't know what additional wear and tear the cause of the engine light might generate. Don't risk it.
3. Keep Your Cooling System Intact
Engines generate heat, which is one of the top killers of cars. However, it doesn't have to be. Your vehicle has a built-in cooling system designed to keep it running at the right temperature. Flush your radiator fluid at regular intervals and check your cooling hoses for integrity. Depending on the climate where you live and how you drive, you may need to replace dried-out hoses more often.
4. Take It Easy
"Viper miles" is a popular term used to describe the way people shopping for a used Dodge Viper should count every mile twice. The reason is that Viper owners tend to squeeze a lot of performance out of each mile. That type of driving has negative impacts on your car's long life. If you can, avoid having a lead foot unless you really need to hurry.
5. Have Your Alignment Checked
If you notice your car pulls to one side of the road or doesn't steer as you'd expect it to, your alignment might be off. This can happen after you hit a large bump or divot. Bringing the car back into alignment, which most tire shops can do, will reduce undue wear on your brakes and help you avoid a crash.
6. Check Transmission and Drivetrain Fluids
It's not just your engine that needs oil. There are important lubricants your car's transmission, differential and even wheel bearings rely on to run smoothly. Your manufacturer probably includes this as part of specific services, like your car's 80,000-mile tuneup, but if you use a third-party garage, they can be optional. Be sure to have them done to prolong the life of your car as much as possible.
7. Replace Your Timing Belt
Perhaps none of the items on this list can shorten your car's lifespan more than allowing an old timing belt to snap. They need to be replaced at the right time, or you'll risk catastrophic damage to your engine. Not all cars use a timing belt, though — some use a chain, so consult your owner's manual. It will recommend when you should bring the vehicle in for a new belt.
8. Don't Rattle It to Pieces
Suspension components can last a long time if you service your car regularly. However, when they fail, it can make the car ride unpleasantly. It's not just you and your passengers getting jostled around in there, either. Harsh impacts shake your entire car and can cause other things to break. If you have a failed set of shocks or springs, replace them quickly so the rest of the vehicle doesn't fall apart.
Keep Your Car Going
For old gearheads, these might seem like easy things to remember. However, new cars are becoming so reliable and easy to care for, many people may not know. Ultimately these are all simple and affordable maintenance items that'll save you from dealing with bigger problems down the road. You can probably even make many of them at home if you've got the space, a set of tools and some know-how.