Many of us learned from our dads that maintaining the family automobile was essentially a moral issue. You changed the oil regularly, rotated the tires, replaced wipers, obsessively cleaned the thing in the driveway every Saturday — not because it was fun, but because that’s what decent, God-fearing citizens do. A dirty, noisy, rusty car was the sign of hippies and deadbeats. The state of the Union depended on well-tuned station wagons and minivans.
Or, if this wasn’t your dad, you probably at least knew someone like this. Maybe it was your friend’s dad, or your mom, or your uncle. Just summon the image of that person on your street who channeled their OCD into Turtle Wax-ing. Probably with their t-shirt tucked into navel-high jeans.
Or, if you’d prefer a more secular motivation for automobile maintenance, think about resale. Why fuss over maintaining it when you’re going to sell it? Well, that’s exactly it. You’re probably going to trade it in to a dealer or move it privately someday. In fact, another appropriate title for this article could have easily been: “7 Ways You're Killing MY Car” It’s going to be someone else’s at some point, and a good technician or a reasonably informed buyer can tell if a car has been maintained regularly.
What’s that? You have a lease? Did you know some leasing companies charge for unperformed maintenance? Hey. Look. Just sayin’. Regardless of your situation, you don’t have to be a total obsessive about your vehicle. Just hit these 7 basics:
Change them before they go bald. Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure — usually 35 psi. Rotate them according to manufacturer recommendations. It may seem like something you can ignore, but bad tire maintenance affects fuel economy, braking, handling, and acceleration. And if you don’t fill them with air regularly, they wear out quicker.
Pro tip: Most gas station attendants will flip their coin-op air compressors on for you if you ask after you fill your tank.
2. Watch your fluids and filters.
It’s crucial to keep your car’s pipes lubed, hydrated and breathing well. It used to be that you were supposed to change your oil every 2,500 miles or so, but because of dramatic changes in engine technology many manufacturers are saying it’s more like every 7,500 to 10,000 miles. Oil is the obvious one, but there are other liquids in your car too. Coolant, transmission fluid and wiper fluids are just a few of the levels that need to be checked regularly. A good shop will look everything over during a standard oil change.
A small but important thing. Important enough that in many states your vehicle won’t pass inspection without properly operating wipers. Like anything with cars you can buy crazy expensive ones, but it’s not necessary unless you live in a challenging climate with lots of weather extremes. Utah, for example. Flip your wipers up off the windshield if you think it might freeze overnight.
4. Don’t ignore those warning lights.
Some vehicles can be a little annoying with their vigilant check engine, tires, and service indicator lights. However, don’t ignore them unless a trusted car tech looks into it and tells you not to worry. Tire pressure indicators sometimes go off aberrantly, but a check engine light is not something to blow off.
5. One foot on the brake.
Seriously, remember that grisly film from driver’s ed? While your braking technique may not be as important for modern cars, your attention to brake maintenance is very important. Squealing and squeaking can indicate an issue (not always), but things like grinding sounds and pulling to one side or the other when applying brake pressure can indicate a mechanical issue. Only get them fixed if stopping is a priority for you.
6. Keep it smelling good.
Keep your car clean, hang a Christmas tree air freshener and don’t smoke. A detailer can do some things to mitigate certain kinds of funk. Sure, it doesn’t affect the actual driving performance, but if you don’t shampoo that milk spill stat, ain’t nobody gonna buy your minivan.
7. Keep your receipts and maintenance records.
A canny car-buyer will want to know how well a vehicle they’re looking at has been maintained. It provides a certain amount of assurance in the cloud of doubt that is used car buying. So that manila folder you dutifully fill up with your records can be a big value-add when you’re selling your car.
Keep your hands on the wheel, your pants at dad-height, and your eyes on KSL Cars for more vehicle tips and suggestions.