Here is my list of 25 things that you need to do to keep your vehicle running and looking good.
1. Change the oil and filter on a regular basis. Go by time or mileage but set yourself some kind of reminder, maybe add it to your smartphone as a reminder. In other posts here I have written about changing your oil yourself and how you can save money doing so. If you want to really extend your oil change intervals safely, use the Cadillac of motor oils – Amsoil. Check here for additional information or to place an order.
2. Wash the exterior of your vehicle at least once a month. Hand washing is the best wash job you will get but if you are dealing with winter conditions, a quick trip through the auto-mat is worth the few dollars in cost.
3. Wax your vehicle at least once a year – more often is certainly better. Today’s cars have a clear coat over the color coat of the vehicle but what is protecting the clear coat? It needs wax. With today’s contaminants waxing is a cheap insurance policy for the paint on your vehicle.
4. Keep the interior clean. Yes we all live in our vehicles to a certain extent. But just like sweeping the floors in your home, you need to do the same with your vehicle. Dirt and other items in the seams of the upholstery can lead to tears, carpeting that is left with dirt will get ground-in and act like sandpaper wearing out the carpeting early. Clean up spills quickly – SpotShot is a great product for this purpose, you can find it at most grocery stores.
5. Do not get talked into a automatic transmission flush. Most of these units use high pressure and you run the risk of seals getting dislodged from their proper location or even flipped over. This can lead to severe transmission damage.
6. Do change the transmission fluids and filter (if an automatic) at 50k mile intervals. And be aware that if your transmission is one of the newer CVT (Constant Velocity Transmission) types, it requires a specialized fluid. This fluid is expensive and using it for 100k miles makes sense. Whether you are changing it yourself or not, the fluid should be purchased from the dealership.
7. Change the spark plugs in your vehicle to keep up your gas mileage. Most of today’s cars can run to about the 100k mark before they need changing. But if you determine that gas mileage has reduced at 70k or 80k then change them out – they never get better.
8. Do not change out anti-freeze every year or two years. Most systems from the factory will last 10+ years by simply adding distilled water to keep the system to the proper level and adding a can of Napa’s Kool additive once a year to help with maintaining the ph level of the water mix. My Ford F-350 which was built in October, 1999 still has the original cooling system parts and antifreeze mix.
9. Keep your tires inflated to the proper pressure and if you can rotate them, do so at every other oil change. To find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle, start with the information located on the door sticker. Run the tires at this pressure and check tread wear at 3000 mile intervals. Do this by measuring the depth of the rain grooves across the surface of the tire – they should be fairly even. If the center area has an increased depth, you are running too little pressure – increase your pressure by 5 pounds and recheck again at 3000 miles. If you have a decreased depth, you are running too much pressure and need to reduce the air pressure by 3 pounds and recheck again at 3000 miles. If the depth varies from the inside to the outside, you have an alignment problem that must be addressed.
10. Clean the inside of the windows. You normally take care of the window outside area during the car wash, but the interior side has to be cleaned too. Most people have a favorite brand of window cleaner so use it – and here’s a tip, use a microfiber towel to wipe them down. No more paper lint from paper towels.
11. Most cars today have plastic lenses on the headlights and as they age they can take a real beating. One thing that you can do to slow this down is to use a headlight polishing kit on a regular basis and when you are finished polishing them, give them a coat of wax.
12. Carry a can of instant tire inflate in the trunk of the car. Most of the time if you have a flat, it is normally a small object that has pierced the tire and this stuff will re-inflate the tire to allow you to get to a safe location to either change it with your spare or have it repaired. Changing tires on a busy highway or the interstate system is a dangerous thing to do – that can of instant inflate can be a real life saver.
13. Unless you are continuously purchasing your fuel from the cheapo gas station down the street, you probably will never have a need for any kind of injection cleaner no matter what the ads say about the stuff. If you do happen to get a bad load of fuel, it is normally a water problem and a bottle of cleaner (dry gas) will help the water move out of the fuel system.
14. Save some money. Just about every major automotive chain store in the country offers free code reading. If your check engine light pops on, stop by one of the stores and have the codes read. They can give you some information about the problem before you start working on it or take it to a garage for repair. If you happen to get a check engine light and you just put fuel in the car recently, check the gas cap. Make sure it is on properly. A missing cap or one that is not tight can cause an error code.
15. If your windshield suffers a star crack, getting it fixed as soon as possible can prevent having to have the entire windshield replaced. And if you cannot get to it right away, take some clear fingernail polish and dab a couple of coats into the crack or use some superglue. This will keep water from getting into the crack and expanding it which will crack the rest of the windshield.
16. When doing an oil change, take the time to look at the air filter. Most of the time you can shake out a lot of the buildup in it and if done regularly the filter will last much longer. Also, using a spray can of lubricant hit the door, hood and truck hinges – you can also spray the door strike lockers.
17. Do not buy one of those big, big cans of R-134a that they sell – well just about everywhere. Overcharging your A/C system is just as bad as being undercharged. If you need to top off your system, go with the normal 1 pound can of R-134a and your connection hose. Do not set your system on “High”, set it one notch lower. Make sure you wear safety glasses and gloves when charging the system. Do not turn the can upside down until it is almost completely empty and only do so for about 15 seconds. Do not exceed the “Good” or “Green” zone on the gauge.
18. In the evening about once every couple of months, turn on the lights and walk around your vehicle. Verify that all of the bulbs are burning and operating as they should – this only takes a few minutes.
19. Touch up any nicks or scrapes with touch-up paint. Those that show shiny metal are prone to rusting and once it starts, it is tough to stop it.
20. Pay attention to any brake noises you hear or increases in normal stopping distances. Roll the windows down occasionally at low speed to better hear any braking noises. An increase in stopping distance can be brake pad material wearing down and must be checked out.
21. Wipe down the interior dashboard, doorpanels, plastic surfaces with warm water and a regular washcloth from the bathroom. This will remove built up dirt, clear up shoe scuffs and is easy on the materials.
22. Do not get talked into a replacement of your brake system fluid. This is another service that is not needed unless you are having the entire brake system of the vehicle changed out. Brake fluid operates for the most part in a sealed environment and the only exposure to air or moisture is normally by removing the cap on the master cylinder. Once brake fluid is exposed to air – such as filling the system it will naturally darken with age – the darker color is not an indication that the fluid is bad.
23. Rusting chrome can be restored to a nice look by polishing it with #0000 fine steel wool and automotive wax. It will remove all of the rust except for the pitted areas.
24. Do not put CD’s that you make yourself in your vehicle audio system if you applied a paper label to them. The paper label can cause the CD to stick and jam in the player. Home made CD’s without the labels are fine.
25. Plastic body color parts on the exterior of the car can often oxidize which leaves the part with a dull, weathered look. Using some light polishing compound followed by waxing can normally restore the parts to their original look in just a few minutes. In some cases, using a cleaner type wax will work well on minor oxidation.