Car Maintenance Tips: Avoid Ruining Your Car

ways you're ruining your car

Ever wondered, “How long do cars last?” Not that long ago, it was a big deal to hit 100,000 miles in your car. Now, most cars can easily go twice that distance before they head off to the great junkyard in the sky. If you’re nice to your car, that is.

5 Car Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Car Running

Here are five ways you may be damaging your car, plus car maintenance tips to keep it running longer.

1. Not changing the fluids.

You already know that oil changes are important — that’s number–one on your dad’s list of favorite car maintenance tips. “Even missing one oil change can contribute to premature engine wear or cause damage, and reduce the chances of your car remaining reliable for long,” Consumer Reports says.

But even if you’re faithfully changing the oil at the intervals recommended in your owner’s manual, it’s easy to forget about the other fluids sloshing around under the hood, like transmission and power steering fluids. Brake fluid is a big one. Over time, it can absorb moisture, corroding the system and reducing the effectiveness of the brakes. And I know from experience that if you ignore your mechanic’s advice to change the fluid, you’ll have to pay for an expensive repair down the road.

2. Not cleaning up spills right away.

When you dump a mug of coffee on your car seat, it ruins your day — but it doesn’t have to ruin your upholstery. If you’re busy (and who isn’t?) you may just blot it with a few napkins and try to clean it later. Don’t! As we demonstrate in this photo guide to cleaning coffee from your car seat, it’s much, much easier to get rid of the stain if you tackle it with some water, dish soap and vinegar soon after the spill.

3. Not using the parking brake.

For years, I never used the parking brake unless I was parking on a hill. As long as the car was in park, it wasn’t going to move. Right? Totally wrong. When your car’s in park, there’s just one little pin inside the transmission, called a parking pawl, that’s holding your car in place. If that pin should fall out or break, your car could roll away. Also, if you rarely use the parking brake, the brake cables under the car can corrode and become stuck, YourMechanic says. So if you want your car to last, pull that brake.

4. Not washing your car every few weeks.car maintenance tips

I once parked my Saturn under a pine tree, which left little globs of sap all over the roof and the hood. Eww. Knowing the sap would be difficult to remove, I did what any lazy person would do: I left it there, hoping the rain would eventually wash it off. Instead, the sap became dark with dirt and hardened. My gold car took on a leopard-like appearance until I chipped off the spots. (Can you tell I’m really bad at taking care of my car? That’s why I love lists of car maintenance tips.)

You should wash your car every week to or two to  remove the dirt, chemicals and bugs that can damage the paint. Zip through a car wash when you can, and spend some time on a hand wash every month or so.

5. Listening to your music on max volume.

If the bass is rattling your windows every time you drive, you may be missing an important message from your car. The first sign of a car maintenance issue is often an unusual sound, so you have to be careful not to miss it. As you drive, turn down your stereo system for a minute or two and listen for screeches, taps or whines. Car Talk has an awesome audio guide to car noises, from a connecting rod problem (clicketta clicketta clicketta) to warped disk rotors (vwahp vwhap).

Of course, the best way to protect your car — and yourself — from mishaps is by getting good-quality car insurance. Get free quotes from multiple companies in minutes on compare.com!

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