Take good care of your car, it deserves it

Prolong its life, protect its value and enjoy safe driving with our Top 100 Car Care Tips

Wear and Tear

  1. No Pressure Make sure to check your tire pressure every month. Less air in the tire causes more contact with the road, which will not only wear the tire faster, but you’ll use more gas as well.
  2. Squeaky clean Keeping your dash, doors and seats clean and moisturized will help make them last longer. Make sure to condition about four times each year.
  3. Warm up If the temperature gets below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure to store your vehicle in the garage. When a battery gets too cold, it can’t produce enough energy to power the motor.
  4. Rain-proofing the windshield Change your windshield wiper blades every three or four months for optimum visibility during rain. It’s a good idea to keep a spare set in the trunk.
  5. Stop a spreading crack Once a rock hits your windshield you should react fast and eliminate the $200-$500 replacement fee. Many glass shops have the ability to fill-in the crack with a perfectly shaped resin that will prolong the windshield’s life.
  6. Lighten your keychain If your car key shares a chain with a dozen other keys, it can turn into a hefty load hanging from your ignition. All that weight could cause tumblers in the ignition to wear out, which could eventually cause ignition failure.
  7. Clean dash gauges with care Be gentle when cleaning your dash gauges; you can scratch them with too much pressure. Use a soft, damp wipe and carefully wipe away the dust from the plastic lenses.
  8. Lay a towel beneath child seats Anything from food crumbs to all sorts of liquids quickly accumulate under a child seat. These can all permanently stain the interior.
  9. Washer fluid only Avoid adding water to the windshield wiper fluid compartment. Water won’t work as well, and can freeze in the winter, damaging the system.
  10. Wax on, wax off. Paint care is simple It’s true, waxing a vehicle is a lot of work, but it’s work that will help maintain your car’s paint job and keep it looking brand new for years. Waxing protects that paint and reduces oxidation.
  11. Got a flat? Check tire caps If you wake up one morning and notice you have a flat, check to see if the tire valve cap is missing. If so, you probably just have a leaking valve.
  12. Look for uneven tire wear Make sure to check your tire tread often for uneven wear. If proper tire pressure has been maintained, uneven wear can show signs of a much-needed wheel alignment.
  13. Check tire tread Many state laws require tires to be changed or replaced once the tread has worn down to under 1/16 of an inch. Stick a penny between the treads: if the top of the Lincoln Memorial is covered, you’re good to go!
  14. Think about used tires Consider quality used tires over new ones if you only plan on driving your vehicle for another year or so. Buying used tires can save you as much as 60 percent off the price of new ones.
  15. Lube lug nuts When not kept properly lubricated, lug nuts can freeze due to corrosion. This can make things expensive the next time you’re trying to change a flat and need to call a tow truck.
  16. Wheel alignment benefits Get your wheel alignment looked at every 30,000 miles. Poor alignment can decrease the life of your tires. An adjusted alignment will also improve handling.
  17. Keep an eye on brake fluid Make sure to check your brake fluid level at least once a month. Be sure to clean the lid of the master cylinder before opening it, as this will keep dirt and other pollutants out.
  18. Not necessarily every 3K, but frequent oil changes are essential Grandpa always said frequent oil changes were the secret to keeping his well-used Chrysler on the road. Check your manufacturer’s handbook for the recommended change intervals – it’s not always every 3,000 miles.
  19. Transmission needs It’s important to not only change your transmission fluid, but also your filter about every 25,000 miles (or two years).
  20. Test the drive belt It’s wise to check the condition and tension of the drive belt every month. Tight belts wear out your bearings, along with many other accessory parts. Loose belts can fail prematurely.
  21. TLC for A/C To ensure you’re A/C is fit for next summer, let it run a couple times during winter. This helps keep moving parts in the system from freezing together.
  22. Battery tests No battery is truly maintenance free, so make sure to have your battery checked frequently. This will help to extend its life.
  23. Power-steering fluid checks Once a month, check your power-steering fluid level after letting the car warm up. Low levels commonly indicate a leak in your hoses or pump.
  24. Take a closer look Spend some time every now and again simply walking around your car and taking a close look at it. Many problems go undetected by owners who don’t take the time to look closer.
  25. Drive smart Driving behaviors have major effects on both fuel economy and car life. Avoid taking off and braking too fast. These two tips can help avoid wear on the engine and brakes.
  26. Careful with DIY Cars, just like people, begin to age and need more care from professionals, and less from WebMD. Run by an auto repair shop for a professional’s advice.
  27. Check brake pads often Keep an eye on the thickness of your brake pads, avoid letting them wear-down too low. This will cause the metal parts to rub together and damage your rotors and calipers.
  28. Clean it up Keep your vehicle clean by getting frequent washes. This will protect your car’s body from damaging air pollutants, salt, tar, bugs and dirt.
  29. Grease it! All moving parts of a vehicle require grease to last, so keep them well lubricated.
  30. Find the shade You can better protect your car’s interior plastic and vinyl from drying out by simply parking in the shade. Also try applying a UV protectant spray to these interior surfaces.
  31. Coolant flush Change your coolant fluid and flush the system at least once a year. A 50/50 ratio of coolant to distilled water will keep sediment from building inside.
  32. Checking oil correctly When checking your car’s oil, let the engine run for a few minutes then set it in park on a level surface. Now shut off the engine, open the hood and find the oil dipstick. You’re looking for the correct oil level as well as at the color. Dark oil needs to be replaced.
  33. Do you see a puddle? If your car has been sitting still for a while and you see a puddle underneath, it may be caused by a coolant leak. Have your coolant system checked as soon as possible.
  34. Insurance — choose wisely No matter how careful you may be, accidents happen. Be prepared for anything with the best possible insurance provider and plan to ensure good repairs.
  35. Use floor mats Don’t forget to use floor mats to protect the carpeting in your vehicle. Choose rubber mats so you can pull them out and hose them down easily.
  36. Wash the underbody You can clean the undercarriage yourself using a regular water hose at home. Road salt can begin to stick to the bottom of your car and eat away at the metal.
  37. Clean your battery The easiest way to prolong battery life is by keeping it clean. Frequently detach the cables and wipe down the terminals. Also be sure the connections are securely fastened.
  38. Be Cool. A/C Maintenance The first sign you may have issues with your air conditioning is if the A/C is unable to maintain temperatures inside the car 50 degrees below outside temperature.
  39. Save money during car care With newer cars you may qualify for free or discounted services, so check with your dealership. Look into your service warranty too before replacing any broken parts: they may be covered, saving you money.
  40. Suspension inspections Have both your steering and suspension inspected annually, including close examination of struts, shocks and all other chassis parts.
  41. Muddy off-roading When driving in muddy and wet conditions, be sure to use dialectic grease to coat and protect any vulnerable electrical connections under the hood.
  42. Wiper fluid refills It’s recommended you check wiper fluid levels monthly. Look for the blue jug. Most reservoirs are visibly marked, but in newer vehicles, they’re often buried and hard to see.
  43. Seal out road noise Maintain your car’s window and door seals. Clean them with soap and water, then use a silicone-based protectant. Avoid using any oil-based products that dry out rubber seals.
  44. Changing bulbs the right way While changing a burnt-out light bulb clean away dirt and corrosion using a small wire brush.
  45. Secure the load Ensure your load is completely secure to avoid body paint scratches or dents. Try to buy the highest-rated bicycle and luggage mounts to protect your ride.
  46. Wet-thumb tire test Next time you’re about to inflate your tires, try pressing down on the inflator valve pin with your thumbnail. If your thumb is wet, it indicates moisture inside the air pump. Water in your tires can lead to varying tire pressures.
  47. Cover it up When your car is sitting for a long time, use a soft cotton cloth or car cover to protect it. If it’s inside a garage, consider leaving a window down for proper air circulation.
  48. An FYI for new drivers! We recommend you ask your just-passed-their-test son or daughter to read all our tips! Take care of your car to prolong its life, and safe driving!

Engine Health

  1. Open road It’s important to get your engine up to 70 mph for a minimum of 10 miles once a month on an open highway. This will evaporate any water and gas that may have built up in the exhaust system.
  2. Oil filter – Time for change Much like a strainer separates pasta from water, the oil filter separates dirt that could potentially harm the engine. Make sure to have your oil filter change every time you get an oil change (every 3,000-5,000 miles).
  3. Fight overheating — with heat! If your car is overheating, roll down your windows and turn on the heater. As weird as this sounds, it will draw heat away from the motor and into the car’s cabin.
  4. Stay in tune Just getting a tune-up or fixing your emissions could increase your fuel economy by around 4 percent. So make sure to schedule those yearly tune-ups.
  5. Replace air filters Be sure to change your engine’s air filter annually. The filter keeps dirt, bugs and dust from clogging the engine. Changing a dirty air filter can improve your fuel economy by up to 15 percent.
  6. Using the right motor oil Make sure you are using the grade of motor oil recommended by your dealership. Using the wrong grade can reduce your fuel economy by 1-2 percent.
  7. Don’t ignore that check engine light Ignoring the check engine light can be extremely dangerous, even if your car is running fine. The light can help you avoid problems with anything from fuel economy to more serious problems.
  8. Buy gas at reputable service stations At the gas station, try asking the clerk if the gas is filtered at the pump and whether the station replaces its oil filters periodically. If you receive a suspicious or uneducated reply, consider another place to fill up.
  9. Water helps coolant Remember that a cooling system requires both antifreeze and water to function properly. Avoid pouring undiluted coolant into the system — dilute your coolant with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze.
  10. Use the same mechanic Once you’ve found a reliable repair shop, make sure to let that shop service your car every time and get to know it inside out. You don’t change doctors when you’re sick, so why should you change mechanics for your car?
  11. Rest more often While waiting at an intersection with a long stoplight, shift your car into neutral. It won’t bother the transmission and will help out the engine a lot. It’ll also improve your gas millage.
  12. Plug changes Make sure to change spark plugs frequently: this will allow the fuel and air mixture to burn more efficiently.
  13. More is not always better Don’t blindly use higher-octane fuel; it doesn’t improve power or millage, only oil-company profits. Use the grade recommended in your car manual.
  14. Engine light? Close the cap Next time your car’s check engine light comes on, check your gas cap. If it’s not properly screwed on, it can cause the engine light to appear.
  15. Check your stickers Remember to look at your vehicle registration and inspection stickers every one to two months. This will help you avoid being pulled over, and a state inspection is vital for the health and safety of your vehicle.
  16. Avoid filling up if you see a tanker If there’s a tanker filling up the gas station, find another place to get your gas. While the pumps are being refilled, sediments are being stirred up in the fuel lines.
  17. Go easy in the beginning With a new car, try to keep below 3,000 rpm for the first few hours when accelerating, and below 55 mph for the first 1,000 miles.
  18. Towing? Get a cooler Vehicles primarily used for towing should install oil and transmission coolers. They’re inexpensive and can save money in engine and transmission repairs down the road.

Fuel Economy

  1. Lose the junk For every 100 extra pounds of weight in or on your vehicle, your fuel economy decreases by 1 to 2 percent. So get rid of that extra junk in your trunk!
  2. We don’t want to be a drag but… Be aware that driving over 60 mph can limit your fuel economy. For every 5 mph over, you end up paying about 24 cents extra per gallon of gas.
  3. Keep an auto log Keep a notepad in the glove box and record both your fuel fill-ups and oil changes. That way you’ll know if fuel-economy begins to drop, and can bring it to your mechanic’s attention.
  4. A/C over windows Many people believe rolling down the windows is more fuel-efficient than using the A/C. However, use you’re A/C while on the highway because windows create too much drag.
  5. Reduce emissions and boost fuel economy Devices on the market these days, like The Blade, attach to the exhaust pipe of your car. They can reduce your emissions and improve fuel economy by up to 12 percent.
  6. Fine footwork Many drivers use their toe to accelerate instead of their entire foot, making it more difficult to keep steady pressure, and cause excessive gas consumption. Ease-up and drive flat-footed.
  7. Go easy on the air Running the A/C creates extra work for the engine, and consumes a large amount of fuel. The average vehicle reduces its fuel economy by 20 percent with the A/C on.
  8. Rotate tires Rotate your tires every 6,000 miles to even out wear of the tread, and increase tire life.

Worst Scenario

  1. Prepare for the worst It’s smart to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. The kit should include jumper cables, first aid, tools and an air compressor.
  2. Trapped in mud, and getting out If your vehicle is stuck in mud, keep at a very low speed while trying to get out. Try to rock the car back and forth, but remember the more wheels spin, the deeper hole you’ll dig yourself into.
  3. Failed brakes?! If for some tragic reason your brakes fail, use a lower gear and begin engine braking to slow up the vehicle. Once slowed down, begin pumping the hand brake until you reach a stop.
  4. Survive a water landing Nowadays almost every car has electric windows, which will surely short out once they come into contact with water. Make sure to invest in a center punch that makes breaking a window a cinch.
  5. Carbon monoxide leaks If you suffer from symptoms like headaches and dizziness, tiredness and nausea whenever you drive, get your vehicle checked for a carbon monoxide leak ASAP. The gas is colorless, odorless and can be deadly.

Prevent Damage

  1. Lights on Studies have shown that people who drive with their lights on during the daytime have an 11 percent decreased risk of a collision with other vehicles.
  2. Keys locked in the car? Get in without a scratch Simply call someone at home and ask them to locate the spare set of keys. Place your phone on hands-free, and get close to the car. Now have them press the unlock button on the spare key fob against the phone.
  3. Positioning is key A smaller blind spot provides a better chance at avoiding an accident. To adjust your mirrors: place your head against the driver-side window, then place your mirror where the back corner of your car is visible. Lean right to do the right mirror.
  4. Be in control of your car Discover your correct driving position where you can control your car well, protecting both yourself and the vehicle. With pedals depressed, your knees should still be slightly bent (about 120 degrees). And keep both hands on the wheel.
  5. Count to three Some 40 percent of all car collisions occur at intersections. Look left and right as well as count to three once the light turns green to allow for a driver who may be running a red light.
  6. Deer! Avoid swerving to avoid deer and animals in the road; it will only put you at more risk. Try flashing your high beams toward the creature, and brake while steering straight if impact is imminent.
  7. Just add trees — and relax! Studies have shown that commutes to work with trees are much less stressful than those with malls and buildings. So try the scenic route to reduce stress and the chance of collisions.
  8. Care in the country Protect yourself and your car: make sure you’re extremely careful if you find yourself traveling in the country. Rural roads are known to have twice as high of a death rate than all other roads.
  9. Be aware of recalls Have there been any recalls posted about your vehicle? Are you sure about that? It’s smart to just double-check.
  10. Signs of brake failure These include: the brake pedal becoming soft and mushy; the brake pedal is hard and resistant; the pedal rests too low or too high; warning lights on the dashboard are on.
  11. Check your lights Routinely check front and rear lights, as well as brake lights, and turn signals.
  12. Prevent a break-in, and a stolen vehicle Never try to hide a second set of car keys on or around your vehicle. Thieves know all the hiding places.
  13. Hide valuables, avoid car damage Avoid leaving valuables in plain sight: items left in the open attract thieves and can lead to a costly break-in and theft.
  14. The parking strategy Where possible, park in well-lit areas with plenty of pedestrian traffic, or in attendant lots, to keep your car from vandalism and break-ins.
  15. Long-term storage? Take care of your car during storage: disengage the parking brake to avoid brake corrosion; disconnect and remove the battery to keep it from draining; and put the car on jack stands to take the weight of the vehicle off wheels and tires.
  16. Hail on the horizon? Move the old furniture out and make way for your vehicle in the garage to prevent expensive hail damage.
  17. Car stopper – it’s a brake-saver If you leave a car in storage, don’t leave the parking brake engaged: the pads and rotors may fuse when pressed together for long periods. Instead, buy a tire stopper.
  18. Put your nose to work Don’t be afraid to sniff out problems. If you smell something similar to burned toast it may be burning insulation or an electrical short. A rotten egg smell could be a catalytic converter issue.
  19. Winter driving – keep the tank above 1/4 During winter, maintain your gas level at or above a quarter of the tank to ensure fuel lines won’t freeze.
  20. Rooftop hauling Check on the weight limit of your roof’s loading racks: look at the owner’s manual for specifications, but it’s normally between 150 to 200 pounds.
  21. Letting it sit If you happen to be storing your vehicle for a long period, drain all of the fluids and remove the battery.