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5 Simple Ways to Make Your Car Last Longer

Updated on December 1, 2010

Are you sick of having to trade in your jalopy every 5 years because it's almost ready for the scrap heap? Are you sick of car payments? Do you have a car salesman's name in your phone's speed-dial? Although we all enjoy the new car smell, ignoring your vehicles maintenance needs is a quick way to making your new car dealership that much richer.

As cars get increasingly more expensive (even the so called "economy" models), it's in your best interest to make it last as long as you can. So what are some simple things you can do to make it run forever? Here are a few practical tips:

1. Stay on Top of the Maintenance Schedule

Just because your vehicle's wheel hasn't fallen off or there aren't flames coming out from under the hood doesn't mean you shouldn't take it in for some general maintenance from time to time. And by maintenance, we're not just talking about oil changes and tire rotations.

Next time you're sitting in the car waiting for Suzy to finish soccer practice, flip to the 'recommended maintenance' section in the owners manual. What's an owners manual, you ask? It's a small rectangular book that often gets stored in the glove box. You should check it out sometime! Not to say that you need to read it cover to cover, but flip through it at least once and familiarize yourself with what's inside.

When you get to the maintenance section, study carefully. This is what the manufacturer recommends that you need to do for proper maintenance. It lists either a mileage and/or timeframe to replace certain items like transmission fluid, filters, etc. Sometimes dealerships will follow their own maintenance schedule to get some more cash out of your pocket. Ignore what they say and go by the manual.

Make sure that ALL of the fluids and filters get replaced at least once in awhile. There is no such thing as a lifetime fluid. Even the ones that may not have a replacement interval, like power steering fluid. Following factory maintenance schedules will help prevent many future breakdowns!

2. Your Car's Engine Doesn't Need to Warm Up in the Winter

In fact, it's actually harder on the engine that way. Why? Because the faster an engine can warm up, the faster the engine oil can be pumped through it. When the oil is warm is when the least amount of engine wear occurs. Warming it up prolongs the amount of time the oil is still cold. All during that time, excessive engine wear is occurring. The best thing to do? Start it, let it idle for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then drive GENTLY until it warms up. The two minutes of cold you'll have to experience until the heater starts blowing warm air won't kill you. In addition, idling a car is a huge waste of gas and emits tons of greenhouse gases! Stay green my friends....

3. Save Wear and Tear by Saving Fuel (AKA Your Trunk is not a Second Garage)

Some people just love to keep half a sports store in the trunks of their cars. It's great to stay active, but you probably don't need a set of golf clubs, three pairs of running shoes, a gym bag, two cases of bottled water, and two bowling balls back there. Point being, cut the weight. Every 100 lbs of extra weight decreases the fuel economy by 2-3%. Doesn't seem like much, but it probably adds up to a couple tanks of gas a year. The less weight is in the car, the less the engine has to work, and the longer it lasts. Also remember that properly inflated tires and keeping the engine tuned up will save gas as well. Don't forget to get a wheel alignment done once in awhile too, having the tires out of angle will have the same effect as all of the aforementioned.

4. Rust Never Sleeps

Neil Young is a wise man for penning that line. As a mechanic who formerly resided in the Rust Belt, it's shocking how fast the undercarriage of a car will begin to corrode when exposed to road salt. If you live in an area where they apply salt in the winter, make sure to get your car washed frequently at a place that offers an undercarriage rinse. Also remember that salt is much more effective at higher temperatures. That means that if you have a heated garage, you're only making it that much worse.

Even if you don't live somewhere where snow is all that common, it's good to keep it washed and waxed to preserve the paint. The paint job on newer cars is often much softer than the cars that preceded it. This is due to environmental regulations in the US that have caused manufacturers to change the paint formulas to ones that are more earth friendly. What this means to you is that your cars paint is more easily susceptible to hairline scratches, dings, and pock-marks.

So what can you do? If you're into the DIY thing, give it a hand wash and wax twice a year. If not, consider having it professionally detailed. Between sessions, make sure to get it washed at least once every few weeks, whether it's truly dirty or not.

5. Find a Good Repair Shop and Stick With It

A good mechanic is worth his weight in gold. Although most people assume that the major issue with mechanics is usually dishonesty, it's actually incompetency. Our business is filled with a lot of "parts changers" who are either too lazy or just plain unskilled enough to correctly diagnose your cars problems. If the shop tends to throw around terms like "we need to start by replacing...." or "once we get (certain part) replaced we'll know if that's the problem" then you should run far far away. Throwing parts at the car is nothing more than a good guess, and that's not what you're paying expensive shop labor costs and parts prices for.

In addition, by staying with one shop, they can build a maintenance history on your car, and recommend things that may have been previously overlooked. Also, if you're a good customer who frequently spends money with them, they will often be much more willing to help you out by going the extra mile while servicing your car.

So there you have it, 5 simple tips to keep your junker running for a few more months before it ends up with a gross failure of the safety inspection and they tow it to the junkyard where it probably should be in the first place! Drive safe......

For more basic car repair tips like this, visit my website at


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    • moncrieff profile image


      8 years ago from New York, NY

      Great information! I'm dreadful to see what may happen to my car this winter (it's my first snow winter, I've just moved), so I'll try to follow these helpful tips.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks Jake for the good information. I like the fact that you can write and explain in laymans terms what we need to do and not b.s. us. I am one of the lucky few who has a good mechanic who doesn't rob my bank account every time I go in there. Please keep the posts coming I need all the information to be informed as a woman.


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