20 tips to make your car last longer

No question about it, a car is a significant financial investment. So keeping it reliable, running well and looking good means you’ll have a sweet ride for a long, long time. 

  1. Replace worn tires and rims

First, start at the bottom — literally. Because when it comes to the condition of your tires and rims, everything – from fuel economy to general wear on your suspension system – is affected. A new set of tires allows your car to regain that much-needed grip, which means your drivetrain doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain balance and acceleration. 

  1. Perform regular oil and filter changes

Pardon the age-old cliché, but oil is the lifeblood of your engine – and as you drive your car, that oil is used and circulated over and over again, dissipating its mineral purity over time. A regular oil change schedule (usually every 5,000 kilometers) means your engine can continue to perform smoothly and efficiently. 

  1. Clean air filter(s) regularly

The air filter is essentially the last measure of protection from dust and debris before it all goes down through the intake and into the engine. Occasionally popping the filter out of the air box for a quick cleanup is a good way to check on what your engine is breathing, and if the filter itself needs replacing. A clean-flowing filter will help overall fuel economy, as well as keep the engine itself from any damage. 

  1. Wash/detail your car regularly

Even across a span of just one year, your car’s exterior goes through a lot of punishment; in the summer, you’ve got bird poop (which is, essentially, calcium and therefore corrosive to paint) and bug tar (and, darn, their guts are hard to scrub off). And then you got the winter finale, complete with deadly salt/snow brews and freezing temperatures. So, regardless of the season, be sure to give your car a wash or a detail service once in a while — it’s worth the effort and the money saved on a new paint job down the line. 

  1. Service your spark plugs/cables if worn out or old

Keeping your ignition system in top shape can make all the difference in the long run, especially if your car’s an all-season daily driver. Worn out spark plugs and distributor cables mean your solenoid works harder to get the engine fired up, among other problems such as misfiring cylinders, poor fuel economy and loss of power. Check your car’s owner’s manual to see the recommended service intervals. 

  1. Have your exhaust system inspected

Over time, your exhaust system is subject to a build-up of carbon residue and corrosion, both of which are bad news for your fuel consumption and off-the-line acceleration. To avoid any problems, have your mechanic do a quick check to see if all exhaust components are still properly connected and relatively rust-free. 

  1. Get your wheels aligned

After years of punishing potholes, cracks, and other nasty bumps on the road, a car’s suspension system will eventually start to fall out of balance — if left unchecked, this can create uneven wear on your tires, and cause your car to pull right or left. Performing an alignment service once in a while keeps all your wheels lined up and your steering centered. 

  1. Recharge your car’s air conditioning

Every time we think of A/C systems, we scoff in frustration — they’re complicated, and hideously expensive to diagnose and fix when they break. So before raiding your savings for thousands of dollars to get that cool-air feel back in your car, look into an A/C recharge kit, which allows you to pump refrigerant back into the A/C system yourself. 

  1. Respect your car’s capacity

An easy way to unknowingly cause serious damage to your car is by overloading it past its carrying capacity. Be sure to check your owner’s manual and verify how much your weight your vehicle can take before setting off on a long trip. 

  1. Maintain your car’s battery

Your car’s battery serves a simple but noble job, and is, arguably, one of the cheapest critical components to replace on your car. Signs of bad wear include calcified acid around the battery’s edges, along with excessive acid deposit on the positive (plus) and negative (minus) terminals, usually resulting in a poor voltage output overall. Popping the old battery out for a new one means proper voltage is restored, as well as a clean engine bay. 

  1. Add a stone/bug deflector

Nothing messes up the front end of a car or truck on a daily basis than stone chips and dried-up insect guts. A plastic deflector (it usually mounts onto the hood) still won’t protect your car’s bumper and hood from damage 100 percent, but it will certainly reduce costly stone chips on both your car’s front end and windshield. 

  1. Replace your windshield wipers

After a while of sitting in heat, cold, and wet and dry conditions, the rubber lining on your wipers will eventually start to crack and disintegrate, leaving behind streaks or even scratching the glass. For a few bucks, it’s an easy fix that spares you the trouble of having to squint through squiggles for visibility. 

  1. Have your brakes regularly serviced

Regardless of whether your car is equipped with disc brakes all around or just drums in the back, both need regular servicing for a single reason: dust. As the pad and disc wear out against each other, all that dust accumulates in and around the caliper, causing squeaks and eventually seizing up the brake cylinder. If new brakes aren’t in the budget, a quick scrub and a spray of some brake cleaner will keep you going for a little while longer. 

  1. Replace burned out bulbs

Sounds pretty intuitive, but some cars may not always be able to tell you (with a warning light or odd clicking noise) if a bulb’s out. The easiest way to check is to have someone inside the car operate the brake lights, taillights, reverse lamps, turn signals, high-/low-beams and fog lights, if equipped. Always check for any corrosion or humidity both inside the bulb hub and lamp assembly, especially if the same bulb keeps burning out. 

  1. Have it rust-proofed

Winter is a messy affair, and traditional rust-proofing can be just bad. Fortunately, there are more efficient and less sticky alternatives, such as an oil spray, a fairly transparent, almost odorless and cheaper method of proofing that usually covers the entire undercarriage, door sills, locks and hinges and wheel wells. Even if you car isn’t a daily driver, it’s important to keep rust off of it as much and for as long as possible. 

  1. Perform regular transmission fluid/filter service

Unlike engine oil, a car’s transmission fluid/filter doesn’t have very close service intervals, but keeping up with its maintenance schedule is critical to avoid any overheating and internal damage. Pull out the transmission fluid stick (usually marked red or orange) to see the colour of the fluid itself. If you notice a strong burning smell and heavy discoloration (normally the oil is reddish pink) then it’s time for a full oil and filter change. 

  1. Clean the interior regularly

For many people, cars are a part of life — we drive home, to work, on road trips, pick up friends, pick up the kids, go camping, go off-roading, and so on. Your car’s interior will, as a result, be prone to wear. If ignored, it can get pretty decrepit-looking — which is why keeping a regular interior cleanup schedule on your car is always good practice. If leather seats are equipped, be sure to spray them occasionally to revitalize the leather (which prevents cracking and wrinkling). 

  1. Store it safely

If you won’t be driving your car for extended periods of time (months or even years) it’s important to consider storing your car properly without having to face any costly repairs later on. A car cover is always recommended, but don’t rely solely on that for full protection if your car is being stored outside. 

  1. Protect your dashboard

When your car sits in the sun, the dashboard is exposed to heat, which can lead to fading and warping in the material (or “puffing” in leather-wrapped dashboards). A sun shade (or shield) is very handy, as it keeps your dashboard cool and protects it against heat damage. Dashboard protection sprays also help, and they can restore the shine of your dashboard as well. 

  1. Keep the car as stock as possible

You may be thinking, “Well, that’s no fun!” but the reality is, if you fiddle with the car’s factory settings, it’s likely that its long-term reliability will be compromised. And if you want to sell the car later down the road, remember that any modifications inside and out can significantly drop its overall value.