What keeps any car going is preventive maintenance. Just like your yearly physical at the doctor’s office keeps you in shape, regular preventive car care can help you get more miles out of your vehicle.
Car manufacturers provide recommendations on when to complete maintenance tasks. For instance, most experts recommend checking battery fluid levels four times a year, and an engine’s timing belt should be replaced within 100,000 miles. Find out what your car’s manufacturer recommends and stick to it. Spending a little now can save you from a big expense, and hassle, later on.
There is no type of automotive fluid that lasts forever. Checking and replacing fluids can help keep your vehicle on the road longer as a well-oiled machine. Consider that engine oil usually needs to be changed every 5,000 miles, or every six months; engine coolant needs to be checked twice a year and flushed and replaced as necessary; and transmission fluid needs to be flushed every two years or 30,000 miles.
One that is most consistently overlooked is brake fluid. Brake fluid attracts and absorbs moisture, and over time, it can do a lot of damage to the internal parts of your anti-lock braking system. It should be flushed every two years regardless of mileage. And, don’t forget to flush the power steering and change the differential lubricant, as well.
Driving gently may help reduce the wear and tear on your car. This means slowing down for bumps or potholes, taking corners at a reasonable speed and avoiding putting your foot to the floor. Driving hard puts more stress and strain on your car’s components. According to the US Department of Energy, it takes 73 percent more horsepower to cruise at 60 mph, and a whopping 159 percent more at 70 mph, than it does at 50 mph. This means your engine is working that much harder and wearing down that much more quickly if you continue to speed.
Also, slowing down may keep your repair costs lower. Increasing your average speed from 50 mph to 60 mph increases maintenance costs by 38 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Increase your speed to 70 mph, and you’ve added 80 percent more in repair costs.
There are also fuel consumption implications: each mile per hour you travel over 50 mph will cause a 1.5 percent increase on fuel consumption, the Department of Energy says. Speed just 10 mph over 50 and you’re wasting 15 percent more gas. That’s several dollars more each time you have to fill up!
Overall, cars are getting more reliable, but there is still a wide range of reliability from company to company, model to model, and even between different model years of the same vehicle. When you’re shopping for a new or previously owned car, choose one with a proven track record of reliability. Also, be sure to choose a car company that’s going to be around for a while, with a good reputation for supplying parts.
There are many sources that provide this information, such as Kelley Blue Book. So if you’re really interested in getting the most out of your car, choose a reliable model to begin with–not just one that looks good.
Even by following these four steps perfectly, your car is, unfortunately, not built to last forever. Parts break or wear out, seemingly at the worst possible time. One way to protect yourself from this inevitable circumstance is to invest in an extended warranty for your vehicle. An extended warranty can help ensure that your vehicle is always in the best mechanical condition and can help you avoid expensive repair bills.Joe Campanella is the EVP of business development at CARCHEX. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Md., CARCHEX is the premier provider of Extended Auto Warranties and Mobile Vehicle Inspections. CARCHEX is the preferred partner to the most trusted names in the automotive industry, including Pat Goss of TV’s MotorWeek, Carfax and Kelley Blue Book.