Maintaining a car can be a great investment of your time and money. It can also give you a better understanding of how motor vehicles operate, so you don’t seem like a clueless customer on your next visit to a dealership. Knowing how to maintain a car is practical, purposeful and profitable, in the words of Marcus Lemonis.
There are many steps you can take to protect and preserve the interior and exterior of your vehicle, so it looks good and runs smoothly. But you also need to respect the alerts and warning lights as well. If the “check engine” light comes on, for instance, you should go to a dealer or mechanic who can plug your vehicle into a sophisticated diagnostic system to find the problem.
The skills you put into practice by regularly keeping an eye on and maintaining your car are also good practice for moving up in your profession or becoming an entrepreneur. Being able to keep track of a maintenance schedule, research best options and stay on top of your vehicle maintenance can add to the confidence you feel in other roles as well. Regardless of gender, age or background, by maintaining a car, you are taking charge of an important aspect of your life and the rewards – both emotional and financial – can be very satisfying.
As Marcus says, “If you don’t work for it, why do you think you deserve it?”
The Importance of Maintaining a Car
There are excellent reasons to learn how to maintain a car, such as the following:
Purchasing a car or truck is a major investment. Even if you take out a loan, you’ll need to make monthly payments for several years. Good maintenance may allow you to keep driving your car much longer, so you can put off the next expensive purchase and use that money for other things.
Higher Resale Value
If you are looking for a used car, would you reduce your offer if the vehicle’s engine coughed and sputtered when you started it up? What if the inside upholstery was stained or ripped and the outside was dirty or scratched? Maintaining a car can make a significant difference in the resale value when it is time to purchase your next vehicle.
You want to look your best in business, school or other aspects of your life. Good maintenance can help ensure that your vehicle adds to that overall positive impression. Keeping your car looking clean and attractive is particularly important if you are in a field where clients or customers will see your car, such as real estate or insurance.
We don’t propose that you try to learn to service your car yourself, but by researching some basics about maintaining a car, you can gain insights into the complex field of auto mechanics. That means you can ask educated questions about your car when it goes into the shop, consider the maintenance and repair options and make good decisions about your vehicle. It puts you in a much better position to talk with the service technician, negotiate on pricing and drive away with a better feeling about the outcome.
Tips on Maintaining a Car
You might be surprised how easy it is to maintain a car, both inside and out. Here are some basic tips to get you started:
Keep Tires in Good Condition
Your tires provide the traction to hold your car on the road in windy, rainy, snowy or icy conditions. But the more miles you put on your car, the more the tread on your tires wears down. Check your owner’s manual to see how often you need to replace your tires, but don’t assume that everything is fine until then.
You need to inspect your tires on a regular basis to see if the tread is less than expected or if there is an uneven pattern of wear. If so, you should rotate and rebalance your tires so they will last longer. You should also check to see if there are stones, nails or other small objects embedded in the tread. If so, you could flick them out before they cause a puncture and leave you stranded on the road. If a nail or screw is embedded in your tire, head to the tire repair shop. The puncture may be able to be patched, saving you the expense of a brand new tire.
Another important step is checking the air pressure of your tires on a regular basis. Overinflated tires can reduce the amount of tread on the road, increasing the possibility of a skid. But it’s more common for tires to lose air on a gradual basis. Underinflated tires can reduce your gas mileage, and may be at a higher risk for a puncture. Buy a simple air gauge, check your owner’s manual or the inside of your car door to see the recommended air pressure, and fill up your tires the next time you buy gas.
Checking Under the Hood
Every other week or so, depending on how often you drive your car, you should use the release mechanism to open the hood, prop it up, and take a look at the engine area. Does it look relatively clean, or can you see dirt, grease or oil that could be a sign of a leak. Here are four things to check under the hood:
Your car engine needs oil in order to run smoothly. If the oil drops below a certain level, you could wind up with an expensive repair job. First, clean off the dipstick by wiping it with a rag or paper towel, and then insert it into the tube. If you’re not sure where the oil fluid tub is located, you can find it in the owner’s manual in the maintenance section. If the oil is low, you can purchase a quart at a service station or auto store and add the fluid when you get home. If you’ve filled the oil and it still seems low everytime you check it, there may be a problem that needs to be looked at by a certified technician.
Your car relies on other fluids to run smoothly. For instance, your radiator needs a mixture of water and antifreeze to keep the motor from becoming too hot. If your radiator fluid is too low, you will probably see an alert on your dashboard control system. Then, you can add the proper amount of fluid to keep the engine cool. But if the problem continues, you should check the tubes and fittings for cracks or leaks, or take the car to a mechanic to evaluate the situation.
Power Steering Fluid
You should also pay attention to your car’s power steering fluid, which allows you to turn the wheel smoothly and easily. If that’s not the case, then open the hood, see if the level is low, and add more fluid if necessary.
Windshield Washer Fluid
Your car also uses fluid to clean the windshields when dirty. If the reservoir of windshield washer fluid is low or empty, it’s easy to buy more and pour it in yourself, rather than taking your car to the shop.
Get Regular Maintenance
Along with these checkups, you should follow the owner’s manual in regard to regular maintenance. For instance, your car will need an oil change, based on mileage or timing. Fresh oil keeps your engine happy, particularly if you drive at high speeds or in a hot, dry or dusty area. If in doubt, pay for an oil change or do it yourself. The cost of preventive maintenance is almost nothing compared with replacing a burned-out engine.
Maintaining a car also means checking the battery from time to time. If the battery is low, you may find it difficult to start the car before going off to work, school or an errand. You should also keep a pair of jumper cables in your trunk at all times and know how to connect them safely. They can give your battery enough of a charge to drive to a mechanic and see about a replacement.
Your windshield wipers also need to be replaced fairly often. Heat, humidity, snow or ice can damage those rubber-like blades. You need clear vision ahead to drive safely, so be sure your wipers are working properly.
Also, check the lights on your car to be sure they are all working. Have a family member or friend look at your vehicle while you turn on the headlights (both high and low beams), turn signals, and brake lights. If a light is not working, you can purchase a new bulb and install it yourself, or take it to a mechanic. Don’t jeopardize your safety by driving a vehicle with burned out lights!
Keep Your Car Clean
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of washing and waxing your car on a regular basis. You will get rid of the dirt before it has a chance to accumulate and mar the paint. Putting a coat of wax on the exterior adds an important layer of protection while making your car more attractive and potentially increasing its resale value.
Don’t forget about cleaning the inside of your vehicle. Throw away any trash, and vacuum the interior. Mop up any spills and carefully clean and condition the seats. If the inside of the windshield is looking hazy, use a window cleaner to make the glass sparkle again.
Make safety your top priority. In addition to the jumper cables mentioned above, you may want to keep the following items in your trunk, just in case:
- Travel Size Air Compressor (for minor tire issues)
- Flares or Reflective Triangle
- Ice Scraper (depending on your location)
- Car Cell Phone Charger
Be a Savvy Driver
As you get to know your car inside and out, you may be able to sense a problem at an early stage. The engine might sound a little different, your mileage might be dropping or your car might take a little longer to start in the morning. Pay attention to these signs and fix any problems at an early stage. If you take care of your car it will take care of you!
- What are some things you currently do to maintain your car?
- What tips from above do you think you can use to maintain your car?
- Are there any maintenance jobs your car currently needs?