Driverside's Top Tips for Car Owners

Awareness and safety is of top concern here at DriverSide, even more so with all the recall scares currently in the news. We think a well-maintained car is a safe car that can also save you money in the long run.

Here are our top ten tips for keeping your family safe, saving you money and keeping your car running smoothly.

Listen to your car


No matter how embarrassing it may be to stand in front of a perfect stranger and make funny noises, it is worth it. Effectively relaying what you’ve experienced in your vehicle to your mechanic is an essential tool to keeping it on the road. The more your service center knows about the problem, the more likely they are to fix it right the first time and for less labor costs. Be sure to tell the mechanic as much as you can about the problem, including details like speed, what direction you are turning, the temperature outside and the time of day. It may sound strange, but all of those details can help your mechanic assess the situation and set it right without expensive exploratory work.

Schedule checkups twice a year with a mechanic you trust 


Regardless of how well you think you know your vehicle, a well-trained, trustworthy mechanic can spot things ahead of time that you might miss. Taking the time to schedule a check up with a good mechanic twice a year may seem obsessive, but preventative maintenance at the hands of a qualified professional is cheap insurance. Also, keep all the documentation; being able to provide a potential buyer with all of your service records is a major buying incentive.

Flush the engine and top it up with mileage-appropriate fluids


As your vehicle ages, carbon deposits and grime form inside of the engine no matter how well you maintain it. Using a product like Sea Foam engine restorer or BG44K as recommended on the packaging can keep buildup in check, improve fuel economy and restore lost power. Also, be sure use the appropriate fluids for your vehicle’s age and use high-mileage oil as your car grows older.

Address minor problems early


It’s easy to hear a strange noise in your vehicle and hope that it will go away. Unfortunately, there aren’t any cars out there that can heal themselves, at least not yet. Don’t put off minor maintenance or easy repair work. Doing so can lead to larger problems and larger repair bills in the end. Bite the bullet, fix what’s wrong and your car will last a lot longer.

Know what weather does to your car


Do what you can to protect your car from all types of weather. While a garage is the ideal storage solution for your investment, other options exist to protect your vehicle from the sun’s UV rays, drastic temperature changes, water and salt. Look into inexpensive options like car covers. Maintain the paint job by touching up any and all nicks and waxing your vehicle at least twice a year. Small steps like those can go a long way to preserve the appearance and head off rust before it can get started, saving you repair costs and keeping the resale value of your car high.

Drive gently 


While this may be the hardest thing to do for your car, it’s something that will pay huge dividends over the life of the vehicle. Adjusting your driving style to minimize the wear and tear on your ride can not only give you a few more years of happy motoring, but it can also save you cash in repairs and replacement parts. It might take some of the fun out of driving, but accelerating gently from stop lights and stop signs, avoiding abrupt braking and completing smooth, non-aggressive turns all play a part in keeping your car in one piece, and save you gas too.

Read your owner's manual

That thick booklet with the sexy cover shot of your car looking all new and expensive is in the glove box for a reason. It likes to be read regularly! Be sure to refresh your memory as to when your next service is due because following the manufacturer's suggested schedule for maintenance is the single most important thing you can do for your car -- and yourself.

Check on your tires and brakes

Since tires and brakes are what brings your car to a stop, it's vital that these components are well maintained. Worn tires with little or no tread can become slick even in the best of conditions, but you can easily check if they need to be changed by performing the penny test. Stick an upside down penny into the tread on both sides of the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, it's time to get a new set.

Brake pads come with a handy squealer tab built into them, so you'll hear a high-pitched whine coming from them when the pads are worn. Don't wait too long before taking them into the shop though, if they wear down far enough you'll compromise your safety and cause damage to the rotors -- replacing those will set you back much more than the brake pads alone.

Keep up with fluid changes


Checking on your vehicle’s fluids is paramount to its longevity. While some fluids like brake fluid, clutch fluid and coolant may not require attention as often as oil or transmission fluid, they’re just as important. Mark one day on your calendar each month to make sure all of your fluids are topped off. It’s quick, easy and can save you some serious repair dollars down the line. Of course, remember to change those fluids when your service manual requires it, too.

Stay Informed

Many car owners carry on driving cars with defects because they haven't been informed of the major recall affecting their vehicle. While most dealerships will track owners down if a recall is issued, you can't rely on them alone. Have you moved or changed your phone number? Chances are they won't be able to reach you. Give your local dealership a call and provide them with your latest contact information. You can also sign up for recall alerts from DriverSide. We'll email you when a recall is issued that affects your particular make and model.

Need auto repair help? Ask a DriverSide auto mechanic for free.

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