23 Ways To Extend Your Car’s Life

Your vehicle may be one of the most expensive items you buy. But it can be even more expensive if you don't take proper care of it.

That's why we here at ZoomWiz put together the ultimate list of 23 ways to extend your car's life!

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1. Wash Your Car Often

It should be no surprise that the better condition your car is in, the higher value it has for resale and trade-in. In fact, according to Carwash.org, “regular cleaning can equate to thousands of dollars in value.” Resale value is one reason you should clean your car, inside and out.

If your goal is not to sell your car anytime soon, regular cleaning is simply protecting your investment.​

Aside from soap and water on the outside, make sure you’re using specialized cleaners on the tires, windshield and engine. Don’t forget the internal portions of your engine that can be cleaned using products like fuel injector cleaners and fuel additives.

You might also take some time to buff and wax your car or perform restorative cleaning on certain components.​

Cleaning your car is especially important during the winter months. All of the de-icer and snow salt spread by the plows causes corrosion to your car’s exterior and undercarriage.

2. Rotate Your Tires

Allowing even wear on your tires will make them last longer. And the name of the game is extending the life of your car.

There are many factors that contribute to abnormal wear ranging from improper air pressure and uneven roadways to your car’s weight on the front axles being more than the weight on the rear axles.

It is recommended that you rotate your tires every six months, unless you drive fewer than 7,500 miles per year. An easy way to remember is to rotate your tires during every oil change.

3. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

Maintaining proper air pressure in your car’s tires is essential to prolonging your car’s life.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that having under-inflated tires reduces fuel efficiency by .2 percent for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch), in addition to having a higher risk of damage or failure.

Check the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure for your tires and keep them properly inflated. To do so, you should look for a sticker on the inside of the driver’s side door jam and use this pressure. According to Central Avenue Automotive, “you should never use the pressure that is posted on the tire itself, because that pressure is the maximum pressure that the tire is designed to run.”

The Department of Motor Vehicles lists some important information on tire pressure, why you should always try to keep your tires properly inflated and how doing so will help extend your car’s life.

4. Change Your Spark Plugs

Regular inspection and routine maintenance of your vehicle's engine are things everyone should be doing. Sometimes, this involves removing parts and looking for damage or wear.

Spark plugs are relatively easy to pull out and inspect, and as such they are a simple way to improve your car’s performance and increase its lifespan.

One auto diagnosis and repair website lists spark plugs as a reason for engine misfires and even provides a visual guide of failing spark plugs. This guide is tremendously helpful in “reading” spark plugs and determining why they are fouling.

You should replace spark plugs according to your car manufacturer's recommendations at the very least. Even if they don't look worn, spark plugs firing at 90 percent can cause a misfire, potentially damaging your engine.

5. Follow A Service Schedule

You can perform many repairs and services to your car by yourself. However, sometimes it’s important to take your car to someone else to help you diagnose or fix problems.

This is where your trustworthy mechanic comes in. Christine Brackel from Quicken Loans writes about different tips you can use to find a mechanic you trust.

Once you have a mechanic you are comfortable with, have them service your car on a regular basis according to your manufacturer’s recommendations.

The value of your vehicle will be increased if you have kept up with scheduled maintenance — and can prove it, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Keeping receipts from your maintenance can help you create a service record.

6. Park in the Shade

Parking lots are usually devoid of any shade. Sometimes you can find a bit of it on the edges. If you agree with Murphy’s law, the shade will be farthest from the entrance of your destination.

By parking in the shade you’re going to be winning on two fronts. You will be protecting your car from harmful weathering effects of the sun. And you will be improving your health by walking a little extra each day.

When at home, park your car in a garage if possible, or consider purchasing a sun canopy designed for your specific vehicle.

This video explains many of the effects the sun has on your car. They even include some common repair cost estimates, in case you were still debating on whether or not you should park in the shade.

7. Change Your Oil Regularly

William Jeanes, a former publisher of Road & Track and a former editor in chief and publisher of Car and Driver, writes in an article for AARP.org about the costs of routine maintenance, specifically oil changes, versus the cost of purchasing a new car.

He gets down to business and lays out a conservative estimate in following regular oil changes at a tune of 30 over the course of five years. After which he gives the cost of purchasing a new car and making payments over five years.

The results were astonishing.

Even with added costs of occasionally changing the filter, hoses and a tire rotation, the regular maintenance comes out to about $700 per year.

A new, financed car at about $20k and payments over 48 months equates to over $5,000 per year. Not to mention the regular maintenance that will happen anyway.

In the end, he concluded that with regular maintenance and oil changes a “keeper is cheaper.”

As a bonus tip: you should check your oil at least every other fill-up at the gas station.​

8. Don’t Ignore Minor Repairs

Thinking with your wallet instead of your brain is a costly mistake. When you're driving down the street and all of a sudden the check engine light comes on, don't make the mistake of ignoring it. Get it checked out. Or better yet, check it out yourself with an OBD2 scan tool.

Once you know what the issue is, fix it.

Not fixing something because of the thought of high priced repairs typically leads to, you guessed it, even higher priced repairs.

Along with the check engine light, listen for odd noises that suddenly start and try to identify the cause.

9. Read Your Owner’s Manual

The first thing you do after buying a new car is to read the owner’s manual cover to cover.

Right?

Who are we kidding. Hardly anyone reads the owner's manual, yet everyone should. This boring little booklet is a wealth of knowledge on your specific vehicle.

In your owner’s manual, you will find information such as maintenance and service schedules for nearly every component in your car. You could also find what to do in an emergency and how your car reacts.

There are several tips for how to make reading your owner's manual more enjoyable on AskPatty.com. One of which is asking your car salesperson to go over your manual with you.

10. Check the Fluids

While you’re out on the road, running out of certain fluids could spell disaster for you and your car. It is always a good idea to check common and easily accessible fluids frequently, and more difficult to reach fluids during scheduled maintenance.

Make sure to stay topped off as well. Some auto repair and service locations provide a free top-off service for common fluids.

Fluids to consider: power steering fluid, brake fluid, cooling system antifreeze, radiator fluid, transmission fluids, oil and even the windshield wiper fluid.

This video covers most of the basic fluids to check in your car. He even shows you how to do it.

11. Drive With Care

Paying attention to your driving style is one simple way to not only increase the life of your vehicle, but also increase your fuel efficiency.

A lot of car owners don’t focus enough on how they drive and this has a real impact on their vehicle. Eartheasy.com states that your fuel consumption can go up by as much as 40 percent due to “jack-rabbit” starts and hard braking.

These “jack-rabbit” starts, or mashing the accelerator pedal, can cause significant damage to your vehicle over time.

You should also avoid aggressive style of driving which involves sharp turns and high speeds.

Finally, you could make a commitment to drive less.

According to the Federal Highway Administration in 2009, the average household took 9.5 trips per day with as much as 82 percent of these trips being by car. And more 50 percent of trips less than three miles were taken by car.

This means when a trip distance is less than three miles, people choose to drive more than half the time — even when walking or biking may may be an easier option that is better for their car, their health and the environment.

12. Check Your Brake Pads

Catching your brake pads before it’s too late can not only extend your car’s life, but it could save your life.

There are four common indicators for brake pad wear, and you should be familiar with each so you know what to watch for on your own car.

  • The first is simply a cut made to a specific point on the pad that must be visually inspected.
  • The second is a metal plate designed to scratch the brake disc. It will make a squeaking or squealing sound when the pad needs replaced.
  • The third is an electrical sensor designed to make contact after a specific amount of wear and alert the driver via an indicator on the instrument panel.
  • The fourth is a position sensor designed to activate and alert the driver of the position of the brakes.

Understanding, and often listening to, your brakes is key to measuring their effective lifespan.

Once they reach a certain point of wear, you will begin to have metal on metal contact. They will heat up, warp and eventually fail. How Stuff Works - Auto has a great article on how brake failure works which might help you understand what to do should your brakes ever fail.

13. Check the Belts

Your car utilizes belts to move different engine components. Properly monitoring and replacing worn belts is an easy way to make your car last a bit longer.

Depending on your specific make and model, you could have any number of belts ranging from serpentine belts, v-belts and timing belts.

Timing belt failure is preventable and even though it can be expensive to replace, it can be even more expensive to fix the damage to your engine if you don't catch it before it brakes. Typically ranging from $500 to $900, the timing belt should be replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles depending on your car. Damage to the engine can range anywhere from $1,000 and up if it brakes on you.

In the following video, Scotty Kilmer shows you how to replace a timing belt.

14. Change Your Filters

The main filters on your car are the oil filter, air filter, fuel filter and cabin air filter and you should change them.

Filters are one of the easiest and least expensive regular maintenance you can do to your car.

They are designed with one purpose — separate the bad stuff from the good stuff and keep the bad stuff from going where it shouldn’t. The bad stuff being particles and contaminants that can lead to corrosion of key engine components.

As with every replaceable part of your car, your owners manual will give specific manufacturer recommended times for replacement. Reference your owner's manual for when you should replace filters.

Edmunds.com provides a simple step-by-step guide on replacing your car’s filters.

15. Flush Your Transmission

Did you know you should replace your Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) around every 30,000 miles?

That’s right. Even though most owner’s manuals will list it as unnecessary, it is a fluid that can become contaminated and even break down over time.

Most cars driving under normal operating conditions should not need a transmission flush performed but every 100,000 miles or per directions of the owner's manual. However, once your ATF heats up and rises above the normal operating temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit, the fluid begins to oxidize and can break down the lubricating qualities.

If your car has ever run above 175 degrees Fahrenheit by 20 degrees, your ATF life could have been cut in half.

The jury is still out on whether a flush is necessary or not, and some people still think it can damage your transmission, but it has become common practice when extending your car’s life.

Bonus transmission tip: Wait until your vehicle has come to a complete stop before shifting into reverse or park.

16. Check Your PCV Valve

Have your mechanic periodically check your Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve for signs of damage and wear.

While a malfunctioning or plugged PCV valve will not directly damage your engine, a poorly maintained PCV system can cause the air intake manifold to become contaminated with oil sludge — causing pressure to build, damaging seals and eventually the engine.

How do you know if the PCV valve has gone bad?

You could use an OBD2 scan tool to get the error codes if your PCV valve has caused your check engine light to come on. The tool will most likely not specifically say that the PCV valve has gone bad, but instead might mention error codes P0171 or P0174. These codes could indicate a lean-condition in the engine. In either case, inspect or replace the PCV valve.

The PCV valve is relatively inexpensive to replace, so you should be checking it regularly for signs of wear. If you want to replace it yourself, see the symptoms of a bad PCV valve on agcoauto.com, or have your trusted mechanic inspect it during your regular maintenance.

17. Touch Up Your Paint

Regular maintenance is the common theme when extending your car’s life. Touching up your car’s paint should be included in that maintenance.

The first thing you should do when looking to touch up your car’s paint is to locate the exact color match code. This code can commonly be found in the door jam of the drivers door.

The color match code will be an exact match to the manufacturer's original paint. Anything else would be a close estimate and might not match, leaving your car with splotches of different colors everywhere you used it.

Once you locate the code, you can use it on a site like AutomotiveTouchUp.com and purchase paint sticks or even cans of paint that exactly match your original.

Touching up your paint helps to seal the tiny scratches and chips that can lead to rust and corrosion.

You can use the following video for tips on how to use a paint stick to get the best results.

18. Replace Damaged Hoses

Military.com has a fantastic guide for buying and replacing hoses for your car.

Hoses that are cracked, stiff and brittle or bulged should be replaced, or at the very least monitored so the problem doesn't escalate. Have your mechanic inspect your car’s hoses and replace them if you don’t feel like taking on the task yourself.

Most manufacturers recommend replacing certain hoses every four years, but it could be sooner depending how much you drive your car.

Safety warning: Some hoses, such as the air conditioner hose, contain contents under pressure. Use caution when removing them and always use eye protection because the refrigerant could cause blindness.

19. Properly Use Your Floor Mats

One, often overlooked, part of your car’s interior are the floor mats. They are designed to take the damage of the elements and spills so your car’s carpet doesn't have to. After all, it is a lot less expensive to replace a floor mat than it is to re-carpet your whole car.

Your car’s floor mats tend to shift around when you climb in and out. Once they find their place, they will often stay that way, or travel back there over time. That’s why you should take some time every now and then to place your floor mats back in their correct locations.

A bit more costly, but absolutely worth it, alternative is to purchase some aftermarket floor mats that are laser measured to precisely fit your car’s make and model.

HuskyLiners.com gives you five reasons you should have heavy duty car floor mats.​

20. Have Your Wheels Aligned

Sometimes the routine maintenance that goes along with extending your car’s life costs money. Sometimes it doesn't.

Wheel alignment is one that, whether or not it costs money, needs to be done. That’s because misaligned wheel can lead to many different issues that are guaranteed to cost more than an alignment.

A typical two wheel alignment will cost between $50-75 and a four wheel alignment between $100-150.

Performance Auto Repair lists a few times when an alignment should be done.

  • When you’ve hit something with any of your tires
  • Your car pulls to the left or right
  • When you notice abnormal wear on the shoulders of the tires or on one side
  • If one tire is noticeably more worn than the others

You should also have your wheels aligned every two to three years, when you get new tires or when you have your tires rotated.

EricTheCarGuy will help you understand if you need an alignment in this video.​

21. Occasionally Use All Your Car's Features

In order to make sure everything is in proper working condition, you should use all of your car's features a few times a year. This will become especially important if it’s a feature you only really use in an emergency.

Using all the features will help alert you of any potential issues before it’s too late and will keep everything in working order.

You probably frequently use most of your cars features like windshield wipers, headlights and your parking brake, but you might not think to use some obscure features. Especially if it's a seasonal feature.

The best example of this tip is occasionally using your car’s air conditioning during the winter.

GIC Car Clinic provides some useful information about running your AC in the winter. They say that you should run your AC for about 10 minutes every few weeks. You don't even need to have the dial set to cold when you do it because the effects are essentially the same.

22. Care for Your Car’s Battery

A low or discharged battery can prevent your car from starting. If your car is having issues starting, one of the easiest things to check on is your battery.

DrivingTips.org explains that even a battery labeled as “maintenance free” could have corrosion build up. They also explain some of the best ways to clean a battery and to help prevent corrosion.

Car batteries are fairly expensive and can run anywhere from $75 to a few hundred dollars.

If you are storing your car for a length of time, consider purchasing a battery maintainer.

23. Clean Out Your Trunk

Excess junk in your trunk can cause some long-term issues for your car, including reducing your fuel efficiency.

The Union of Concerned Scientists lists being weight-conscious is something you should do to maximize your vehicle’s fuel economy.

In the article, it states that for roughly every 100 pounds of extra weight, your fuel economy is reduced by one or two percent. Some things, like passengers, you can't help, but things like a set or two of golf clubs in the trunk should be taken out when not needed.

In addition to ruining your fuel efficiency, you are putting unnecessary weight on your suspension and possibly creating steering issues.

Take some time to clean out the inside of your car and trunk to help extend your car’s life.​