A car is typically an expensive investment, but a little care and planning can go a long way in extending the life of your vehicle. Most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about taking care of their car until something requires their immediate attention, but sticking to a regular maintenance schedule can save you a lot of money and hassle on repair work in the long term. Simpler things like lights and tire pressure are simple enough to check yourself, but more complex things like front-end alignment and shocks should be inspected by a mechanic. Every vehicle has its own needs, and yours might have special requirements, so take a look at the owner's manual if you're not sure. Follow the guide below to ensure that your vehicle stays in the best possible shape over the course of its life.
Once a month, check the tire pressure, washer fluid levels and all the lights on your vehicle, including the blinkers, brake lights, headlights and interior lights. These are all things that are frequently used, so they wear out the fastest. It's also a good idea to thoroughly clean the interior and exterior of the car to keep the upholstery, leather, trim and paint in top condition.
Every six months or 6000 miles, the brakes inspected for wear and have the tires rotated and wheels balanced so that the tread wears down evenly. You should also have the tires balanced every time they are replaced. Small things like cleaning and detailing your vehicle may seem cosmetic, but they can also keep the parts as new as possible and prevent rust and corrosion. The wax coating that protects the paint from rust and UV rays will break down with exposure to the elements, so wax it at least twice a year.
Over the course of a year, some parts of your vehicle may wear out and need a little help or replacement. Some things you can do yourself and save money, while other things are best left to a mechanic.Clean the battery terminals to remove any buildup and reduce the chances that your car won't start due to a faulty electrical connection. If the headlight covers are dull and have worn out, clean and buff them to restore clarity and brightness. Have the under-hood belts and hoses checked by a mechanic and replaced if necessary. Also, have the brake fluid, coolant and manual transmission fluid checked at the same time. Rinse off the air conditioner condenser with a garden hose.
Some auto parts are made to last a certain amount of time and will slowly wear down or stop working after that time has passed. Every two years you should have a mechanic service the automatic transmission, change the fuel filter and flush the coolant system. Have the timing belt replaced and the front-end alignment checked.
Proper tire pressure does more than keep you and your occupants safe - it also helps you get better gas mileage, slows down tire wear and provides a more comfortable ride. It's quite easy to check your own tire pressure as long as you have a good tire gauge and access to air, which is usually available at most gas stations. Follow the steps below to find out how to do it.
You can find a variety of tire gauges at auto supply stores, but you really only need a standard PSI gauge. They typically only cost a few dollars. Digital ones are easy to read, but they also require batteries, so take that into consideration before making a purchase. Many gas stations have air pumps with built-in pressure gauges, but it's best to use your own since it's hard to tell how accurate those are with such frequent use. Store your pressure gauge in the glove box so it's easy to get to when you need it.
If you're not sure what the recommended PSI is for your vehicle, check the sides of your tires or look for the sticker on the inside the driver's side door jam. If they're unavailable or illegible, check the vehicle's owner's manual or ask your auto mechanic. It's important not to over- or under-inflate your tires, since this can cause the tires to wear down more quickly or even lead to a blowout.
Remove the caps from all four tires before paying for air, and don't lose them. Take note of which tires need the most air. Some air pumps add the air when placed onto the stem, while others add the air when you squeeze the handles. To fill the tires, connect the end of the air hose to the valve stem until the air stops leaking. Release the air in short bursts, then check the pressure reading with your gauge. If you've overfilled a tire, press down on the needle in the center of the valve, then re-check the pressure. Replace the valve stems when you're finished.
Always check your tire pressure when the tires are cold. This is when you've driven less than one mile within the last three hours. Checking hot tires might result in inaccurate higher PSI readings.
How to Clean and Detail Your Car
Cleaning and detailing your car is just one small investment you can make to keep your car looking its best. Plus, it will extend the life of your paint job, finish and upholstery. There's no need to spend upwards of 150 dollars when you can do it yourself for much less money. Check out the following steps to clean and detail your car so it shines like new.
Remove the floor mats. Use a high-powered vacuum to get rid of any dirt and debris on your upholstery and carpets. Use a crevice tool to get to hard-to-reach areas between the seats and next to the door frame. Loosen stuck debris with a stiff scrub brush. Vacuum the dash and move the seats to reach all areas. Vacuum the floor mats if they're made from carpet, or shake off any dirt and rinse them with a garden hose if they're made from rubber. Let them air dry.
Use a foaming upholstery cleaner, a scrub brush and a damp sponge to clean the upholstery and carpet thoroughly. Avoid completely saturating the upholstery or carpet with water, since it can lead to the growth of mildew.
Clean all interior hard surfaces with a mild all-purpose cleaner diluted in warm water and a soft cloth or sponge. Use cotton swabs or a wooden skewer to clean crevices and vents. Compressed air can help loosen trapped debris from tiny areas. Follow up with a protectant spray for vinyl, plastic and rubber. Use leather conditioner on leather seats or trim. Apply these sparingly with a soft cloth. It will restore the look of your trim and protect it from discoloration, fading and cracking.
Always start with the wheels first since they trap the most dirt. Spray the wheels and wheel wells with a strong stream of water from a hose to loosen the dirt. Spray a non-acid wheel and tire cleaner on the wheels wheel wells and let it dwell according to the instructions on the package. Do two tires at a time to speed up the process. Scrub the wheels with a wheel brush, sponge or cloth. Rinse thoroughly with the hose, and re-do any spots that you may have missed.
It's best to do this in the shade. Fill up a bucket with water and car wash solution. Don't use dish detergent because it's too harsh for the surface. Rinse the car with a hose to loosen the dirt and debris. Wash the car starting at the top and work your way down. Pay extra attention to the front and bottom of the car, headlights and tires, since these are usually the dirtiest areas. Rinse the car well with the hose. Dry the car with a clean microfiber cloth.
If you want your tires to look extra shiny and black, apply a tire dressing either by spraying the tires lightly and uniformly and allowing them to dry, or spraying a cloth and wiping over the tire for a smooth application. Wipe up any excess.
Choose your favorite paste or liquid wax, and only work in the shade. Apply the wax with a buffing pad or microfiber cloth in a thin layer. Buff it off in a circular motion using a clean microfiber cloth until it looks smooth and shiny. Some types allow you to apply the wax to the whole vehicle before buffing, so check the label for specific instructions. You can also use a machine buffer to apply the wax with a foam finishing pad, then buff it off with microfiber bonnet over a lambswool pad. If you feel like it's necessary, apply and buff a second coat of wax to ensure you don't miss any spots.
Clean the interior and exterior Windows and mirrors with an ammonia-free glass cleaner. Gather a few microfiber cloths or sheets of newspaper. Clean one section at a time with ammonia-free glass cleaner. Start with the windshield and rear window before moving onto the Windows and mirrors. Before you clean the Windows, roll them down enough to clean the tops first, then roll them back up. Use either vertical or horizontal strokes on the interior and go in the opposite direction on the exterior so you can easily spot which side any streaks are on when you're finished. Turn or change the microfiber or newspaper while cleaning as it gets dirty.
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