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Car Maintenance Tips

Properly maintaining your car is key to keeping it in top condition. It can also help ensure your safety, the safety of your passengers and your fellow drivers. Here are some ways to help keep your car running smoothly.

The Car Maintenance Checklist

Consider adding these items to your vehicle maintenance "to do" list:

Inspect and Maintain Tires

Knowing how to maintain your car's tire pressure can help reduce wear on the tires and helps ensure you're getting good gas mileage. Checking your tire pressure includes finding the recommended pressure, checking the PSI and inflating or deflating your tires accordingly.

A flat tire is a hazard that can be dangerous to you and your car. There are several preventative steps you can take to help avoid a blowout, including rotating your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles and watching for tire recalls.

Change the Oil

Routinely checking and changing your car's oil is essential to keeping its engine in running condition. Check your oil each month and change it as directed in the car's owner's manual.

You can change your oil yourself or take it to a service center. If you choose to do it yourself, learn the necessary steps to drain the fluid, set the correct oil level and dispose of old oil.

You should also know which type of motor oil is best for your car, regardless of whether you change the oil yourself or take it to a service center. This generally means considering three things — the oil viscosity, whether to use synthetic versus non-synthetic oil and your car's mileage.

Check the Fluids

There are several fluids that should be kept at the appropriate levels to help keep your car running properly. According to Popular Mechanics, you or your mechanic should check:

  • Engine oil

  • Coolant

  • Power steering fluid

  • Brake fluid

  • Transmission fluid

A leak with any of these fluids can affect the way your car drives. If you spot a leak, you may be able to identify the fluid by its color. This can help you and your mechanic determine where the leak is coming from. It can also help speed up the repair process.

Test the Lights

A broken or burnt-out bulb is a safety hazard and might get you a ticket. Learn how to thoroughly inspect each bulb on your car. If a bulb is out, take your car to an expert to determine whether it's the bulb or the fuse that needs replacing.

Headlights are key safety lights on your car. Consider taking a few extra steps to help keep them shining bright, such as cleaning the lenses and replacing bulbs as they start to dim.

Replace Windshield Wipers

If your wipers aren't working like they used to, don't let the problem linger. Damaged or worn out blades can reduce visibility during a heavy rain or a snowstorm. Knowing how to inspect your wiper blades regularly and replace them when necessary is one way to help keep your car safe.

Change Your Engine Air Filter

A dirty engine air filter can allow dirt and other particulates into your car's engine and reduce its efficiency. Inspect your car's air filter once a year and replace it as needed.

Regular Checkups

Some routine car care tasks can be done at home, but others require trained technicians. Take your car to a technician if the check engine light comes on. Trained technicians can diagnose the problem through the car's on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) port.

A qualified repair shop will also be able to inspect and replace other core components like the alternator and the wheel bearings. Scheduling regular tune-ups will help ensure that your car gets other maintenance items repaired as well.

Have Your Brakes Checked

Your car's brake pads also require regular inspection. While driving, listen for any brake noise and pay attention to shuddering or vibrating from the brake pedal. If any concerns arise, consult a service center as soon as possible

Wash Your Car

Your car is subjected to all sorts of elements, from road salt and ice melt in the winter to tree sap and bird droppings in the summer. Some of these hazards are not only unsightly but can cause damage to paint and the undercarriage, according to AccuWeather.

Keeping your car clean may help prevent long-term damage. Find the car washing method that works for you and regularly wash your car.

Check Belts and Hoses

Keeping your car's belts and hoses in good shape can help keep your car running and may help you avoid a breakdown on the road. For example, if your serpentine belt breaks while you're driving, it may cause many of your car's systems to fail.

Having your belts and hoses checked at every oil change will help ensure that they're in good condition and don't need replacing.

Review Your Car Insurance

Just like regular car checkups, it's a good idea to review your car insurance policy from time to time. This can help ensure your policy's coverages, limits and deductibles are up-to-date and suitable for your current situation.

Keeping your car in good shape can help keep you and your passengers safe. And remember, if you're ever unsure about how to inspect or replace a car part, be sure to contact a local mechanic for help.

Article Originally published allstate.com

How to protect your car from rust

Rust never sleeps: Here's how you can protect your car

No matter what type of automotive rustproofing protection you favour (electronic, one-time spray, factory coating or annual treatments) there are large gaps in warranty coverage from even the best companies out there. First things first; if you operate a vehicle on public roads 12 months of the year, there really is no such thing as rustproofing. About the best we can hope for is to slow down Mother Nature’s ravage of our daily drivers so that the loan payments end before the sheet metal. We really can’t stop rust altogether.

All rustproofing suppliers offer pretty much the same warranty; they will repair or replace outer sheet metal panels if rusted through from inside/out and if all other guarantee conditions have been met (annual inspections, reapplications, etc.). But what about all the other steel and iron on the vehicle? Cast iron and steel suspension and steering components, fuel and brake fluid lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and straps can all be affected by rust and can bring major repair bills. Is there anything we can do to extend the life of these components?

1. Park carefully. Parking your vehicle on grass, dirt, snow or poorly drained surfaces is just asking for rust to come and take up permanent residence in your vehicle. As our vehicles spend most of their idle time at our place of residence, tackling the home-parking front can go a long way to keeping rust at bay. If you think investing in a driveway improvement is too expensive, ask your regular repair garage for some cost estimates on replacing brake rotors, exhaust systems, suspension control arms, fuel tank and the like and you’ll quickly find the financial justification. Don’t rest easy if your parking lane is paved. Old cracked asphalt surfaces can provide just as much moisture to the undercarriage of your chariot as a dirt field in spring. Even applying a layer of asphalt sealer can help out.

2. Keep it clean. Most of us like to keep the paint work and interior of our vehicles clean, but what about the underbelly? If you drive on gravel or dirt roads or take an off-road adventure from time to time, the mud and gunk that can collect underneath your vehicle will act as a moisture trap increasing the speed with which your wheels will head to the scrap yard. Check horizontal surfaces under the car/truck such as control arms, skid-plates, axles, etc. from time to time and do a little down-and-dirty cleaning when needed. If you don’t have a pressure washer, a garden hose and stiff brush will do. You may have to jack the vehicle to improve clearance, so make sure you take the necessary precautions with proper jack supports and wheel chocks and have a spotter standing by.

3. Keep it full. One of the most expensive repairs a driver can face because of rust is the replacement of a fuel pump module (the electric fuel pump and level sender unit located in the tank). While the interior parts of this piece (which can range in price from $300-$1500 plus labour) are well protected, its metal top plate and output lines are very exposed and prone to rusting. Fuel tanks and their parts can be attacked from two sources of moisture leading to rust. The first is external and the second is internal condensation caused by the difference between liquid fuel and outside air temperatures in a humid environment. Keeping the fuel tank topped off during the wet seasons can help to reduce the condensation effect. It also provides better traction in snow and on icy surfaces.

4. Blow it clean. On trucks and SUVs with large fuel tanks, the dirt, dust, and road grime that can collect on the top of the tank can lead to premature rusting of the fuel pump module. The labour involved in periodically lowering the tank to inspect and clean off its top can be pricey and can make it hard to justify as a means of extending the life of the pump module. A safe DIY method involves spraying compressed air on top of the tank while it’s mounted in its location to dislodge any debris or gunk. Use safety goggles and go easy on the air nozzle trigger as small stones can hurt when propelled by compressed air.

5. Spray it on. While no rustproofing company will guarantee undercarriage components against rust, that’s not a reason to not have the more vulnerable iron and steel parts treated. You can purchase aerosol cans of rust inhibitors at most auto parts stores, or you can have the pros take care of it for you. If doing it yourself, avoid getting any spray on brake rotors, drums, linings, or calipers. Keep it off hot surfaces such as catalytic converters and exhaust components as well as away from electrical wiring and connectors. Don’t overdo it. It’s better to perform annual touch-ups rather than try to lather on enough protection for the next decade.

Article Originally published driving.ca

Compare Costs Buy New Car vs. Used

Buying used can save you thousands upfront and over cycles of ownership, but buying new has other advantages.

While buying new cars is enticing, you should take a cold, hard look at how much you could save over time by buying used cars instead.

The average person owns 13 cars in a lifetime, each costing an average of $30,000, according to a report by the National Automobile Dealers Association. If each of those cars was 3 years old, instead of new, you could save nearly $130,000 during your lifetime.

The real money-saver in buying a used car is wrapped up in a sinister-sounding financial word: depreciation.

Car buying’s dirty little secret

Once you fully understand how car depreciation sucks money out of your wallet, you’ll learn how to save boatloads of cash over your lifetime. You often hear that a car loses 20% of its value as soon as you buy it. Yes, in just one minute, a $30,000 car will lose $6,000 as you gleefully drive off. By the end of the first year, mileage and wear and tear could bring that to 30%, or $9,000. Why don’t you feel this big hit? Because it takes effect much later, when you sell or trade in your car.

Take a look at two similar cars, one new and one used.

New-car depreciation: You buy the car for $30,000 and sell it three years later for $15,000. The car has cost you $15,000 in depreciation.

used-car depreciation: Now let’s say you buy the same car, but it's 3 years old when you buy it. You could buy the car for $15,000. Three years later you could sell it for $10,000. So the used car depreciation cost you only $5,000.

Now, if you’re paying attention, you would quickly say, “But driving a brand new car is much better!” You’re absolutely right. So, if driving a new car is worth an extra $10,000 to you, go for it. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Forget the old used-car stigmas

It used to be common for people to put down used cars by saying that it was just a way to buy someone else’s problems. That’s not true anymore. Here are two updates on old knocks against used cars of recent vintage.

Reliability: Cars have never been more dependable than they are today. It’s not uncommon for some cars to deliver more than 100,000 miles before needing major repairs.

Maintenance: All cars require regular maintenance such as oil changes, tire rotation, brake jobs. But you can drive today’s cars much farther in between these scheduled maintenance visits. Even tires and brake pads last much longer than before.

More used-car advantages

So it’s pretty clear that buying a used car is much cheaper and that cars in general are more dependable. But take a look at these other advantages:

Lower car insurance rates: When a vehicle is worth less, it costs less to insure it when you're buying collision and comprehensive coverage. You can also drop collision and comprehensive coverage, which pay for repairs to your car, and save even more.

Registry renewals are cheaper: The cost of registering a used car goes down every year.

Move up to a luxury car: Because you can save 30% or more, you can shop in a higher class of cars.

Less stress: Got a ding in the door? Who cares? But when it’s the first dent in your new car, it’s a huge bummer.

New-car advantages

While nearly everything about used cars costs less, buying a new car has its advantages.

New-car shopping is easier: All new cars are assumed to be perfect, so evaluating the condition isn’t a factor. No need to take it to a mechanic. Also, it’s easier to figure out what you should pay for a new car, even if the negotiation process is still a pain.

More used-car options: Automakers offer plenty of incentives to lure buyers, such as cash rebates. New car loans have better interest rates. This means you'll likely pay thousands of dollars less than the frightening sticker price once you negotiate a final price and apply the incentives.

Advanced technology: New features for comfort, performance and safety are introduced in new cars every year. You’ll need to wait several years to get them in used cars.

Peace of mind: A new car will likely be more reliable than a used one, even though pre-owned cars are much more dependable than in the past. If a new car breaks down, you can have it fixed for free under the included factory warranty, at least for the first 36,000 miles or three years that most carmakers offer.

Prestige: Let’s put it this way: You don’t hear many people bragging about the used car they just bought.

An exception to the rule

Not all cars depreciate at the same rate. Some brands are known for holding their value exceptionally well. When you add in possible new-car incentives and low-interest used-car, there are times when buying a new car doesn’t cost much more than buying a 1- or 2-year-old car.

You can find how much cars depreciate on several automotive websites, such as Kelley Blue Book’s 5-Year Cost to Own or Consumer Reports’ Cost of Vehicle Ownership.

What it means for you

Depreciation is a silent killer to your automotive budget. But by buying cars that hold their value, you can minimize the effects. If you’re still on the fence, use a car loan calculator to see how much less your monthly payment would be if you bought used instead of new.

Article Originally published on Nerdwallet.comBy Philip Reed
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