Guest Post by Richard Reina
Many of us rely on our cars to get around every day, and whether it’s a quick trip to run errands or multi-day road trip during summer vacation, driving takes a toll on our vehicles. External factors such as road conditions, weather and your driving habits, can also impact the health of your vehicle.
Of course, sudden or unpredictable events such as fender benders or encounters with potholes are often hard to avoid and can damage your vehicle. However, other damage happens due to wear and tear; when a car’s systems are worn down and not properly maintained, they are more likely to experience problems that can result in costly repairs. The good news is all drivers can keep up with some simple maintenance tasks to help avoid wear and tear damage. Generally, these tasks can be divided into one of two categories: prevention of mechanical damage and prevention of cosmetic damage.
This is by far the more serious of the two categories. Damage to your car’s mechanical systems, tires and lights can result in roadside breakdowns or even accidents. Keeping up with basic maintenance can help prevent this from happening. This includes the following:
- Oil changes — Oil is crucial to keep your engine running smoothly, and driving for too long without changing your oil can lead to major issues. Modern vehicles no longer require oil changes every 3,000 miles, like cars of the past did. However, you should be keeping track of how long it’s been since your last change. Check your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended schedule: many cars can go about 10,000 miles between changes these days. If you know the proper quality and viscosity of oil to use, you can even perform a DIY oil change to save money.
- Tire pressure — Driving with tires that aren’t adequately inflated can have a domino effect on other areas of your vehicle. Tires with low pressure don’t grip the road as well and can negatively impact your car’s handling, particularly if one tire is drastically less inflated than the rest. This is an easy fix, however. Use a tire pressure gauge to assess each tire and then compare it against your manufacturer’s recommendations, usually located on the inside of your driver’s door jamb. A variety of reasonably-priced, portable tire pressure gauges and pumps are available. Consider keeping one in your trunk so you’re always prepared. One disclaimer to note — if you refill a tire and its pressure drops again within a short time, you might have a leak and should consult your mechanic.
- Brake pad changes — If you routinely let your brake pads wear very thin before changing them, you can cause damage to other areas of the vehicle, such as your rotors, and even risk a collision due to unreliable braking. Pad wear varies too much to state a replacement interval. However, a good rule of thumb for checking pad thickness is to do it at every oil change.
This category includes damage to your vehicle that isn’t going to cause immediate danger or risk a breakdown. However, it’s still something most drivers will want to take care of eventually, for aesthetics and to preserve the car’s resale value. Examples of cosmetic damage include paint chips, fading, dents and interior stains. Similar to mechanical damage, you can do the following things to minimize your risk of cosmetic damage:
- Visit the car wash regularly — This is incredibly important during the harsh winter months. Salt and sand from road surfaces can settle on your vehicle’s exterior. You might think, “what’s the point of going in for a car wash when it’ll only get dirty again?” This may be true but allowing these materials to build up for months can lead to dull and fading paint and the start of corrosion. A regular wash and wax will help preserve your vehicle’s finish and get ahead of minor damage. Additionally, if you live in an urban area and frequently park outside, consider investing in a washable car cover to protect your exterior from road dust, salt, and debris.
- Guard your exterior — If you frequently park on narrow streets, making your vehicle vulnerable to scratches and dings, it might be a good idea to purchase add-ons which protect your exterior from cosmetic damage. While they may look clunky, bodyside moldings and bumper protectors are easy to find online for all vehicle sizes and do wonders to keep your vehicle looking new and preserve its resale value.
- Protect your interior — Keeping your seats and floor mats clean might not be as much of a priority for some drivers. However, if your car is used to transport children, school projects, and sports equipment during all seasons, it can be easy for dirt, slush, and spills to cause ground-in stains that are hard to remove. If you have plans to trade in or sell your car, a dirty interior can decrease the vehicle’s value. To mitigate the build-up of debris, make sure you opt for the interior vacuum when you visit the car wash. If you and your passengers are prone to spills, it might make sense to keep some multipurpose cleaning wipes in your car to address stains quickly or take it a step further by investing in seat covers and removable, washable floormats.
All drivers want to keep their cars looking and running well, a goal which is sometimes easier said than done. However, by keeping up with basic maintenance and investing in the proper accessories, you can get ahead of damage and your car will look its best all year round.
Richard Reina is the Product Training Director at CARiD.com and an auto enthusiast and expert with over 30 years of experience working with cars.