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Simple (And a Few Surprising) Ways to Extend the Life of Your Vehicle

Serving Families Throughout Jacksonville
car getting a car wash

With rising fuel prices and costly car repairs, the last thing you want to worry about is having your car break down. Follow these simple tips to help extend the life of your vehicle.

Open (or download) your owner’s manual.

Whether you drive an older vehicle or you just drove a new one off the lot, getting to know your make and model is the best way to understand the specific needs of your vehicle. This is also where you’ll find helpful information like how to remove the spare tire and jack; or what every dashboard symbol means. If the manual isn’t with the car, check the manufacturer’s website—most offer online manuals for free.

Learn some basic car maintenance.

Tire pressure, oil, and air filters are a great place to start.

  • Maintaining proper tire pressure will keep you safe and even save you a little money. First, find the tire pressure recommended for your car (it’s in your owner’s manual and on a panel inside the driver’s side door). For the most accurate reading, check tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge when the tires are cold (i.e., when the car hasn’t been driven very far or for very long). Check tire pressure often, as even minor seasonal changes can impact tire pressure.
  • Motor oil is essential to your car’s performance. Its most important job is to lubricate all the moving parts in your engine to prevent internal damage. To ensure your car always has enough oil, it’s important to get in the habit of regularly checking it. To get an accurate measurement, make sure the car is parked on level ground and that the car is cool (i.e., turned off for at least ten minutes), so the oil has a chance to return to the oil pan. Add more oil when needed and change the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
  • Air filters prevent debris from reaching the engine and ensure a good mixture of air and fuel to support performance. Newer cars will generally have two air filters: one for the cabin and one for the engine. The cabin air filter also needs to be changed periodically, but on a different schedule than the engine air filter. The good news is air filters on most engines are fairly easy to access and you can check the location in your owner’s manual if you need help.

Keep your car clean.

Clutter contributes to distraction, and that distraction lowers your ability to process information. A clean car can help you avoid dangerous distractions that may cause you to crash. But safety isn’t the only reason to keep your car clean. A properly cleaned car has less wind resistance, resulting in a smoother ride and improved fuel economy. Wash down your car and its undercarriage often and do so every season.

Wait a minute.

Driving your car immediately after start-up increases friction between tightly-packed engine components, which wears them out faster. Let your car idle for 30 to 60 seconds after you start it to allow the oil to get up to temperature and flow through the engine.

Take a walk.

Short-distance drives can also adversely impact your car (unless your car’s electric). Starting a car takes more energy than you think, and afterward, it needs a recharge from the alternator. If you only ever go short distances, the alternator can’t charge the battery enough and, eventually, you’ll find yourself with a dead battery and an overworked alternator. If the drive is short (i.e., any distance that’s too quick for your car to heat up to optimal temperature), consider a walk instead.

Anyone can master these simple maintenance tips, even young teens and inexperienced drivers. Share this information with friends and family to encourage them to take care of their car in the new year.

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