Topics:Repair and Maintenance Budget Safety Voided Warranty Mileage Car Value Car Trouble Car Resale Money Saver Buying Tips Winter
By Riley Clark
March 15th, 2021
By Riley Clark
March 15th, 2021
Are you looking into buying a used car and want to know its warranty status? Are you wondering if your current car still has an active vehicle warranty? Are you trying to guide a family member or friend through the car-buying process and want to check all the boxes? Are you purchasing a pre-owned vehicle and want to check if there is still a warranty on it? Whatever your reasons for being curious about the status of your extended warranty, here are four things you need to know to get the most accurate information about a car's warranty: 1. Look at your VIN number Your car’s VIN number is necessary in order to find out if your car is still under warranty. A VIN number is a unique 17-digit code where each digit or group of digits has a meaning and is given to all vehicles driven in the United States. A car’s VIN number can be located in the following locations on your car: Lower left hand side of the dashboard — Look at the left corner of your dashboard where the glass meets the dashboard. Under the hood — Pop the hood and check in front of the engine for a small metal plate with a number printed on it. Under the windshield wipers — Check on the outside front area of your car below the windshield wipers on the driver-hand side. Under the spare tire — Lift up your spare tire and check under the tire for your VIN number. The spare tire is typically located in the trunk of the car. Driver’s-side door — Open the door and the number will be found where the door latches or inside the doorjamb where the car side mirror is located when the driver door is shut. Wheel well — Go to the wheel well that surrounds the back tire on the driver’s side. If you check these possible locations and you still can’t find your vehicle’s VIN number, try calling the dealership directly and asking where your specific car 's VIN number is located. Simply tell them the make and model of your car, and they should be able to tell your where the VIN number is located. Other places to look for the VIN number include the vehicle’s title, registration card, and your insurance card. 2. Check the miles driven on your car To find the miles driven on your car check the odometer. The odometer is typically found behind the steering wheel. 3. Call the dealership Whether you bought your car directly from the dealership or you bought it used, you can call the corresponding dealership of your car to find out when the car was originally purchased. Any dealership, for your specific make of car, can lookup when your vehicle was purchased no matter which location it was purchased from. Make sure to have the VIN number and the mileage of your car handy. The dealership should be able to determine what the warranty is on your car and if it is valid according to the information you provide. Bryan Rodgers, owner of a dealer repair service stated, "Once you have your VIN, call your dealer and ask when your warranty expires, as they will have that information for you. If you really can't seem to find your VIN, simply drive your car to your dealer, and they'll help you find it and let you know then if you're under warranty or not." Note that the warranty is also found in your vehicle’s owner manual, but it is wise to find out directly from the dealership instead of relying on what the warranty in the manual says. Consumers can purchase cars up to a year before the designated model year, so it is difficult to know when the exact date of purchase was without calling the dealership. 4. If needed, get a Carfax report on your car If the dealership is not sure whether or not your car is still under a basic warranty then you can get a Carfax report on your car. Getting a Carfax is simple: go to Carfax and type in your VIN number or search by license plate and state. Aside from your warranty information a Carfax report will also check for major accidents, open recalls, total loss, airbag deployment, service history, estimated miles driven per year, multiple owners, registration history, rebuilt, mileage rollover, hail damage, last reported mileage, vehicle service, mileage rollback, not actual mileage, lemon status, length of ownership, structural damage, state ownership, flood damage, salvage titles, junked, and commercial or personal use. The price of obtaining a Carfax for a single vehicle is $39.99. What to do if your car warranty is expired If you call and find out that your car is not still under a limited warranty, we advise thinking about getting a new extended warranty. However, there are a number of different options available to you: Follow your car maintenance schedule One of the most important things to do is to follow your car’s maintenance schedule and to ensure that genuine parts are being used. Make sure to go the manufacturer's website before getting a repair to ensure that your mechanic has the parts that you need. Defects in materials can cause major damage to your car. You can find your car’s specific maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual or google to find your vehicle's correct owner's manual. Here’s a nearly comprehensive list of different car owner’s manuals. Start a car repair fund Start to set aside money every week or month and put it in a fund specifically set aside for unforeseen car repairs and regular car maintenance. Do not touch this account unless you use it for car service. You will be more prepared for planned and unplanned maintenance requirements for your vehicle. Get a car warranty For extra protection you can get an extended warranty on your car. This typically constitutes of a monthly cost and the protection against car repairs varies with the different type of car warranty you get. With a car warranty, you will be able to tailor it to fit your specific needs. Most don't cover routine maintenance from normal vehicle wear and tear but they often a car warranty covers major problems with your engine, battery, etc. The company will take care of much of the paperwork, and many of your necessary repairs will be covered by your warranty. Many car warranty companies provide this service apart from your car’s dealership and they often include extra service such as roadside assistance. Typically the dealership will have high fees and you can obtain a car warranty from other sources for less. Learn how you can get the same protection from other car warranty companies for a fraction of the price.
Whether you’ve had car problems on a road trip or in-town, these stories are relatable. If you’ve had the good fortune to never have encountered a car problem, you can still learn from the misfortunes of others. Here are some of the best ways to be prepared should problems arise. Tire trouble Unavoidable problems Lost without GPS Fuel mix-up Tire trouble Tires play an important role in a car’s ability to get us from point A to point B. If your tire blows out, comes off, or deflates while you’re driving, you could be in danger of an accident. Tire blow-out Becky Beach, Finance Blogger“Over the Labor Day weekend, I was driving to Galveston with my 3-year-old son, Bryan. We had a tire blow out so almost caused an accident. Luckily, I swerved to the right shoulder at the last minute, and we parked safely. I had a jack and donut tire in the car so proceeded to change the tire. We were in the middle of nowhere in West Texas at 4 p.m. on a Friday. I was almost finished changing the tire when a truck driver pulled up behind me to offer assistance. I'm wary of strangers so said I had everything under control. Drivers should always be cautious when others offer help on the side of the road. If you really need help, then call roadside assistance. Many insurance plans offer this for free. Strangers may be dangerous, especially to women who are traveling alone with small children. I have a kit in my car that comes with jumper cables, flares, a reflective vest and other safety equipment. It's a good idea to keep these kits in your car if you have an emergency. I then drove to Discount Tire Company and had to purchase a new tire. By having my jack and donut tire, I saved lots of money. Otherwise, I would have had to spend $100+ on a tow truck to get me to the tire place. After the car had the new tire, we proceeded to the hotel in Galveston with no more mishaps.” Flat tire Kelly Beasley, CampAddict.com co-owner“I was pulling my trailer to Banff, Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway. I realized I had a flat tire on a right-hand curve. (The worst) There really wasn’t a median so I was partly in the road. It was after dark, of course. I had NO idea how to get the tire down from under my truck. I started to read my manual, but thank goodness a Canadian police officer came by. He kept us safe. He also changed the tire for us! Knowing how to change your own tire is a very basic skill. It's also a skill that could save your life, depending on the situation. Make sure you know where it is, how to get it out, and how to get it on.” Tips Check your tires before you drive. Make sure you have the right pressure in your tire and good tires suitable for the road. Check to make sure that the tires are secure, just to be on the safe side. Have a spare tire kit and know how to change your tire. Unavoidable breakdowns Even with the best preparation and maintenance, your car can still give you trouble on the road. Shattered windshield Charles McCool, Travel Happiness Advocate, McCool Travel“On my last road trip with my car (a brand new Subaru Outback), the windshield shattered. That was heartbreaking and I tried to get it fixed in another state. They could have done it if I stayed an extra three days. Instead I set up an appointment to do it at home. My insurance covered it, except for $100 deductible.” Brake malfunctions Rhett Grametbauer, Author of 25,000 Miles to Glory“I had the dream of visiting every NFL stadium and to live that dream from the driver's seat of a 1967 VW Bus. The VW Bus had more tows than months on the road, left us stranded on the side of the road in rural locations across the country, and cost a small fortune to repair. Worst of all, the brakes went out on the VW Bus three different times. The unmistakable feeling of driving a vehicle that you may or may not be able to stop is a sensation that I will always remember. The most horrifying experience was outside of Atlanta when the brakes went out, and I found myself racing towards a cement wall. It's not often you know you are going to crash and it's just a matter of how bad it's going to be. At the end of the road, right before the cement wall, I turned left, avoided a tree and safely landed the VW Bus into some harmless shrubs.” Acceleration problems John Z. Wetmore, “Perils for Pedestrians” Producer “Years ago, my old Toyota Camry started having acceleration problems when I was in the Colorado Rockies. I looked under the hood, but could not spot anything that looked abnormal. I limped with my flashers on into the town where I spent the night. The next morning, I went to the one mechanic in town. He couldn't help, so I had a 50 mile tow into Denver. It turned out it was a worn distributor shaft. The dealer replaced it, and the car ran fine. I had had the car checked out before I started the trip, but the shaft hadn't reached the state where the wear was critical until I was half way through my trip. Sometimes breakdowns are unavoidable. If you have slack in your schedule, getting delayed a day or two won't ruin your trip.” Rising temperature gauge Debbie Wright, Auto Repair Shop Owner and Car Blogger“The temperature gauge was rising as I was heading up the hill on my drive home. I knew better than to continue driving, so I pulled over on the side of the highway. There I was, unprepared as I sat in the car. The sun was setting and the weather was getting cold. Because I had this car for sale, I had taken everything out of the car, including my phone charger, my sweater, and my phone charging cord. I was concerned about the low charge on my battery. I was prepared in that I did have numbers to tow companies stored in my phone. It took three calls to find a tow company that could tow my car sooner than later. I then called my daughter to come pick me up.” Tips Have a charged phone with you. Keep an emergency kit in your car with snacks, water, food, first aid, etc. Be alert on the road. Lost without GPS We rely heavily on technology, especially as it’s gotten easier to use and is generally reliable. Be aware that technology doesn’t always work well everywhere, and be prepared with some not-so-technically advanced solutions. Matt Woodley, MoverFocus.com founder“My fiancé (now wife) and I were once on a road trip a few years back in a remote area when the GPS ceased to work, and we were out of cellphone reception too. It was at this time we realized we also didn't have a map book for the area we were in, and we had to drive without directions for several hours before we regained cell phone reception and could then use Google Maps and find out where we were and needed to go. We learned our lesson and now make sure we have a physical map book with us when we're traveling to an unfamiliar location. It's easy to take technology for granted, but there's really no substitute for a good ol’ fashioned map book.” Tips Download your map and directions on your phone. Print out directions in advance. Keep a map in your car. Wrong fuel The right fuel keeps your car running well. The wrong fuel, on the other hand, can cause some serious problems. Saurabh Jindal, Talk Travel Founder“Once, while driving in India, I had an issue while stopping at a fuel station to fill the tank. In India, fuel stations have people who fill the tank for you (rather than you doing it on your own). My car had a gasoline tank, and very recently the company had launched the diesel version of the car also. Now maybe because he got confused, but the fuel assistant who was filling my car tank started filling diesel in it even though I had asked specifically for gasoline. Fortunately, I noticed immediately and asked him to stop. Now the issue was how to get the diesel fuel out. Since my tank was almost empty, and very little diesel (less than a litre) had gone in, the fuel assistant, turned on the car and then turned it off — repeating the same thing multiple times. He did this without putting the car into any gear with the sole aim of completely burning the fuel. He was finally able to rid the tank completely of every drop of fuel and then filled it correctly with gasoline. He told me that this is a common error, and if the fuel quantity in the tank is small, it gets resolved by burning the fuel. This was a one time experience for me, and I have no idea how I could have resolved it without the fuel assistant. I mean, if by mistake I had done the same, I don't think I would have know then as to how to resolve it. Though now, I know how to go about it. I then put up a sticker on my car fuel tank cap with a capital G to show that it needs gasoline. I also started getting double confirmation with the fuel assistants before they filled my tank.” Tips Know what kind of fuel your car needs, especially if you’re driving a rental car or a friend’s. If you accidentally put in the wrong fuel, don’t drive the car. If you do, the whole fuel system will have to be cleaned. That’s expensive. Check out these other articles for more tips on avoiding car trouble: Expert Tips for Summer Road Trips8 Tips for Winter Road Trips
Buying a car is a big investment. Your car gets you everywhere you need to be. It's important to take steps to protect your investment to ensure reliable transportation. It's always a good idea to keep an eye on your car's resale value. Car warranties, especially if they are transferable to a new owner, also help add value to your car. Many extended warranty companies offer additional benefits, including 24/7 roadside assistance. These benefits offer peace of mind on the road. There are additional ways to keep your car safe from exterior damage, interior damage, and theft. Taking action to protect your car can help safeguard your car and its resale value. Exterior damage The exterior of your car is the most visible. Preventing damage to the car's exterior will keep your car looking nice and appealing. A nice looking car that has no damage is easier to sell than one that does have visible damage. Richard Reina, Product Training Director at CARiD.com“It's a fact of life that you can't control how others are on the road. With busier roads, city parking, or parking lots in general, it's crucial to protect the exterior of your car. Scratches, dents, and scrapes are very common and also negatively affect the car's resale value.” Protective coatings Protective coatings can protect your car from minor scratches, small rock chips, and sun damage. There are several kinds of protective coatings you can put on your car: paint protection film ceramic coating nanotechnology windshield coating Paint protection film Installing paint protection film on your car's exterior protects it from minor scratches. It's almost like permanently saran-wrapping your car to keep it looking good. The film is sticky, so installers use soap and gel so that they can place and stretch it smoothly over all of the car's surfaces. If you decide to install it yourself, you'll definitely want to invite friends and family to help. Expert insight Laura Gonzalez, Marketing Manager for Audi Spokane“A clear protective film goes directly onto any part of the cars exterior body panels. There are many brands that offer the film including 3M and many dealerships offer this as an option that buyers can add to new cars. The only downside is that it can be costly if you pay someone to do it and it is not exactly easy to do at home. It will also need to be replaced every couple of years as the film itself will show signs of wear.” Ceramic coatings Ceramic coatings offer similar protection to film. However, the ceramic coating is applied to the car's exterior and bonds with the car's paint. It's slightly easier to manage because it does not have to be stretched like film does. Expert insight Laura Gonzalez, Marketing Manager for Audi Spokane“A ceramic coating is essentially a superior alternative to wax. It hardens to a clear thick finish that can last a couple of years. It will protect your car's paint from sun damage, dirt, and other contaminants. The downside is that there are special steps that must be taken in order to properly prep the paint so the sealant will last. These steps can be out of many people's ability and having it professionally installed can be costly. One of the most popular is ceramic coatings is CQuartz.” Windshield coatings The more sensors your windshield has, the more expensive it is to replace it if it cracks due to rack chip damage. Fortunately, you can have protective coatings applied to your windshield that make it stronger, which decreases the risk of rock chip damage that can lead to windshield replacement. Retailer insight Charles Bonfiglio, Tint World Automotive Styling Centers President and CEO“If you've bought a new car and want to protect your investment, consider applying undetectable, impact and scratch resistant windshield nanotechnology. Just be sure to do your research on the installer and manufacturer, as the product is only as good as the installation, and some films don't have the longevity to create a decent return on your investment.” Aftermarket back-up cameras and sensors Many newer cars come with sensors and cameras that make it easier to drive safely and avoid exterior damage when backing up or pulling into a tight parking space. Even if you drive an older car, you can have these features installed in your car. If your car is under warranty, keep in mind that aftermarket installations are not usually covered. In some cases, they can also void the warranty. Be sure to talk to your warranty provider before installing any aftermarket additions. Retailer insight Richard Reina, Product Training Director at CARiD.com“Rearview cameras come standard in many new vehicles, but for older or used cars, aftermarket offerings can add an extra level of safety. An example is Rear View Safety® - Custom Rear View Mirror Camera System, which provides a clear view and additional security. There are also similar offerings available for blind-spot monitoring and 360-degree vision.” Interior damage The next part of your car you need to protect is the interior. This means keeping your car clean and keeping up with regular maintenance. Maintenance tracker Car maintenance, like oil changes, needs to happen regularly to help the mechanical parts of your car function smoothly. Having a maintenance tracker can help keep you on track. Retailer insight Jake McKenzie, Auto Accessories Garage Content Manager“The best way to retain your vehicle's resale value is to keep up to date on maintenance and take care of issues sooner rather than later. One of the best ways to do that is with a performance programmer such as the DiabloSport Trinity 2. This handy device will give you minute-by-minute diagnostics of the inner workings of your engine, allowing you to not only stay in the know about your engine, but fine tune your vehicle to reach peak efficiency.” Floor and cargo mats If you're an adventurer or live in snowy climates, you can track all kinds of dirt, snow, and ice into your car. If you don't protect your carpets, the water and dirt will be absorbed by your carpet. Your car's interior won't look new and the carpet can stain. Retailer insight Richard Reina, Product Training Director at CARiD.com“All-weather floor and cargo mats are extremely important and useful. In fact, many people don't realize the importance of cargo mats, but the trunk of a vehicle can gather debris just like your passenger mats, from transporting everything from outdoor gear to groceries. WeatherTech® - Cargo Liner provides complete protection against dirt, spills and grease.” Tossits garbage bags Another way to keep your car looking nice is to keep the trash out. Keeping a trash bag in your car and regularly cleaning out trash when you get gas will make the space in your car nice. You also won't find trash in odd places. Tossits are garbage bags that rest on the back of a headrest. These bags are leak-proof, which means you can throw away anything and not worry about it getting all over your car later. They're also great if you have passengers with you who get carsick. The bags tear off and seal, which makes it easy to throw them away. Founder insight Ben Riggan, Tossits Co-Founder and CEO“We all knew people with messy cars, even ourselves. We are parents and we were tired of driving a mobile landfill created by our children in the back seat. We were tired of always finding wrappers, juice boxes, tissues, and miscellaneous debris left behind by our kids and even us. We all live a busy life-style, spending a lot of time in our vehicles. We needed a simple solution to help keep our cars clean…and TOSSITS was born. We have found many more uses since the creation, most coming from our children. From car sickness, to dirty diapers, to wet shoes, Tossits quickly became a must have for our friends and family. Now we want to provide all parents, commuters, and vehicle enthusiasts with the same simple life hack for keeping a clean car." Theft If your car is stolen, you lose your transportation. If you can't get your car back, you won't have a car to sell or trade-in when you get a new one. Fortunately, there are security cameras and systems that you can install in your car. PureGear PureCam Connected Car Security System PureGear PureCam is one security camera systetm to consider. It allows car owners to record and view events inside and nearby the car in realtime. Car owners can sign up for a data plan through PureGear PureCam which allows them to store and view footage. Car owners can also use SIM cards to store data. PureCam also works like a Wi-Fi hotspot, which is an added convenience. Footage is also uploaded, so you can access it any time. Ease of access makes PureCam a nice option when looking for a good car security camera. Developer insight Arthur Chen, PureGear Senior Product Development Manager“PureGear developed PureCam because we saw a gap in the market for a 4G/LTE connected car system—not just a dash cam—but a system that would provide complete security and peace of mind for the driver. We also saw a growing demand for dash cams, a trend led by consumers. According to the CTA, U.S. wholesale shipments of dash cams are expected to hit 285,000 this year, up 20 percent from 2017. This follows market trends we're seeing as well. And Google's 2018 Automotive Trends Report noted that consumers want that "second set of eyes" while on the road. Dash cams offer protection and proof, in case of an incident.” Owlcam Owlcam records everything that happens to your car. It captures footage when your car is damaged while parked, records what happened during an accident and when a police officer pulls you over, and deters thieves because everything is recorded. Owlcam will even send footage to your phone instantly so that you can take quick action. Owlcam has a data plan that its users can purchase. The data plan allows instant communication when something happens to your car. If you don't have the data plan, Owlcam will still record, you just won't get instant updates. Owlcam also has a 911-assist feature which can be added for an additional cost. Developer insight Anthony Hodge, Owlcam CEO and Founder“Owlcam is the first smart dash cam. We invented Edge AI technology that no traditional dash cam has. We pack together a 4G LTE connection, a huge processor, and inside and outside HD cameras so you can get alerts and video from your car directly to your mobile phone quickly and easily. Everyone wants video security in cars and trucks because crashes and break-ins are far too frequent. Only Owlcam can make both a 911 Assist call when a possible injury crash is sensed and send the video automatically to your phone. In a break-in, only Owlcam sends you a notification if activity is sensed when the car is parked and lets you LIVE view to see exactly what is happening, even if your car or Owlcam is stolen. In both crashes and break-ins, Owlcam delivers critical video proof you need for police and insurers, so you can protect yourself.”
Guest Post by Mike Jones Are you in the market for a new car? With low prices and no shortage of certified dealerships, there are plenty of reasons to consider turning a used car into your new car. However, when you start doing research on the used cars that are out there, including their make, model, color, and safety features, — there’s one important thing to pay attention to — their mileage. Purchasing a car with high mileage can cost you thousands of dollars in the long run and create maintenance problems for you down the road. Thankfully, technology has advanced greatly over the past decade or so, prolonging the lifespan of our vehicles. Some newer cars get as many as 200,000 miles. However, even while today’s cars no longer head to the scrapyard after 100,000 miles, there are still some issues to be aware of. The engine’s burning oil This is one of the most common issues with high-mileage cars. High mileage can wear out the piston rings that seal your engine’s combustion gases. If a car hasn’t been properly maintained or has used poor engine oil, it’s likely that the engine burns through oil more quickly than normal. If you’re looking to purchase a used car, don’t forget to check the oil. Is the oil level low? Slide the dip stick between your fingers to check the oil quality. Does it appear dirty or gritty? Is the color clear or dark? Does it smell burnt? These are signs that there may be an issue under the hood. Transmission fails Once your vehicle reaches 100,000 miles, transmission failure becomes much more likely. It’s important that you keep up to date on the transmission’s maintenance to prevent premature failure. Change the transmission fluid. Some cars only require this every 100,000 miles, while others may require it every 30,000. If you hear any bangs or groans coming from your transmission, get it checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible. These noises could foreshadow a more serious problem.Try to keep towing heavy loads, like trailers, to a minimum. Heavy pulling can shorten the life of your transmission. Sometimes, a transmission cannot be repaired. Instead, it has to be replaced — at a price tag of several thousand dollars. Timing belt breaks The timing belt is critical to your engine operating smoothly. If you hear a ticking noise as you drive, see leaking oil from the front of your motor, or experience engine misfires, it means your timing belt is failing. This usually happens between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. If you suspect that your timing belt is failing, get it replaced before it breaks and causes serious damage to your engine. Mechanics recommend being proactive and getting your timing belt changed at least every 100,000 miles. Water pump leaks Any car with 60,000 to 90,000 miles has a risk of water pump leaks. The water pump is perhaps the most important element of your car’s cooling system. It circulates the engine coolant, which helps prevent the engine from overheating. With high-mileage cars, it’s important to change your coolant and antifreeze regularly. Flushing your coolant system can also help prolong its life. Look for steam rising from your radiator and water or rust under your hood. These are tell-tale signs of a leaking water pump. Rust spreads Any car that is driven as lovingly as a car with over 100,000 miles on it is bound to have rust, especially if the car was driven frequently in rain or snow. The problem with rust is that it spreads. Surface rust in your vehicle’s paint is a relatively easy fix. You can sand off the rust, prime it, paint it, and buff it. However, issues arise if surface rust is left untreated. Rust bubbles form. They can eat away at your vehicle’s metal, leaving gaping holes that only welding can repair. Is a high-mileage vehicle safe to buy? These problems may leave you wary when it comes to buying a used car; however, a used car is still a popular, practical, and cost-efficient option. When looking at a car’s mileage, it’s important to note the difference between a high-mileage car that has been properly maintained and a high-mileage car that hasn’t. If the previous owner took their car to a mechanic for regular oil changes, inspections, and maintenance, you should have nothing to worry about, even if the vehicle has 100,000 miles on it. On the other hand, you probably shouldn’t buy a car that hasn’t been properly maintained, even if it only has 50,000 miles on it. If you’re in the market for a used car, be sure to do the following: Ask dealerships or sellers for background info on the vehicle, like its Carfax. This allows you to see whether the car’s been maintained or whether it has been in any accidents. See if the vehicle has an extended vehicle warranty or vehicle protection plan attached to it. These plans can help cover the costs of unexpected repairs. Take the car to a trusted mechanic before you purchase it. They can see whether there are any maintenance issues you should worry about. Today’s high-mileage cars have a surprising amount of life left in them. They may just need a little extra care, consideration, and maintenance. Mike Jones is the president and CEO of autopom!, a BBB Accredited A+ rated provider of vehicle protection plans for both new and used cars. Click here to learn more about autopom!
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. Mechanical 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. Cosmetic damage 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.
Whether driving through muddy streams, hilly sand dunes, or dusty red rocks, off-roading enthusiasts agree that there’s nothing wrong with getting a little — or a lot — dirty.However, the thrill of the ride can come at a high price. Vehicle damage incurred while off-roading is not usually covered by car insurance, manufacturer warranties, or extended car warranties.Furthermore, making modifications to your vehicle in some cases completely voids extended warranty coverage. This is the case for a variety of vehicles, including the top off-roading Jeeps, Toyotas, and other SUVs and trucks. So what’s an adventurous soul to do? You need to know the specific limits of your vehicle and the terms of your insurance, your manufacturing warranty, and your extended car warranty. Read on for basic rules regarding how off-roading and modifications impact car warranty coverage. Off-roading damage coverage An extended car warranty, sometimes called a service contract, is designed to offset repair costs after a manufacturer’s warranty expires. It covers a certain number of years after you reach either a certain mileage or number of years from the manufacturer’s warranty period. The investment payout from having a car warranty can be hefty even with a single repair, such as needing a complete transmission replacement with a Jeep warranty.Car warranties only protect against manufacturer defects, not damages or parts that will need to be repaired periodically. So if something unexpected happens off the road, such as a huge rock chip in the windshield of your 4Runner or a blown gasket of your Wrangler, you’re out of luck with warranty coverage. In fact, even unlucky off-roading weather conditions — such as excessive water from a storm or flood — falls outside normal operating conditions where a car warranty can be applied.According to the DMV, an original manufacturer’s warranty may even be permanently voided due to “misuse of a vehicle, including off-roading.”Unfortunately, car insurance generally does not cover incidents that occur off-road, either. Whether you’re an off-roading veteran or a rookie, it’s a good idea to purchase specific off-road car insurance to avoid crippling costs from an unexpected accident. Common modifications and their implications While most cars or trucks are equipped to handle your average bumpy dirt road, making modifications to a vehicle’s original state can extend nature’s playing field and amplify off-roading fun. However, major modifications and even some minor ones can void original or extended warranties. At the very least, modifications limit your coverage options if you’re shopping for a car warranty.Modifications to the following can cause a vehicle to become ineligible for a car warranty: Tire and wheel size Increasing the tire and wheel size can cause inaccurate odometer tracking. Car warranty companies need to be able to determine the exact mileage of a car, and there’s no sure way to tell if an odometer has been tampered with.Larger tires put a strain on the drivetrain, sometimes requiring re-gearing and/or an axle swap to handle the heavy tires. Additionally, large and bulky treads can limit road traction, adding strain when the car’s systems would work fine under normal conditions.Instead of altering the tire and wheel size, consider a standard-size, all-terrain tire that can drive well on paved roads but also offers good traction with bad weather conditions and some off-road use. Suspension lift kits Lift kit installations go hand in hand with increased tire and wheel size. Aside from the annoyance of requiring maintenance and causing a bumpier ride, adding a suspension lift kit to your SUV or truck will likely void a warranty simply by virtue of the fact that the suspension has been adjusted beyond factory specifications. A number of issues can arise from suspension height or torsion bar modifications that might otherwise not occur. Intake and exhaust modifications Intake and exhaust modifications are usually done to increase horsepower, improve miles per gallon, and increase acceleration from idling position. Since cold and dense air is better for good engine performance, replacing a restrictive factory intake system with a less restrictive one makes sense for performance.However, less restrictive intake systems, like an open cone filter, are not water resistant and can cause hydro locking. These modifications also put increased wear and tear on the engine and drivetrain. Maintaining car warranty eligibility The bottom line is that both off-roading and its accompanying modifications increase liability. Regardless of how well-suited your vehicle is for adventurous pursuits, the wear and tear and adverse conditions increase your odds of needing repairs that may not be covered. And modifications decrease warranty providers’ confidence in the longevity of original vehicle parts.If you’ve modified your vehicle, you don’t need to automatically assume you won’t qualify for a car warranty. Car warranty administrators have different tolerances for vehicle modifications, so it’s worth a shot to see if the modifications are considered acceptable.However, if you’re considering a modification, it could make your vehicle ineligible for continued or future coverage, so communicate with your warranty company about what is acceptable to maintain coverage and what is not. Then you can determine whether the modification is worth missing out on the benefit of a car warranty.