Extend Your Car Life

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Extend Your Car LIFE : Some General Tips

Drive less. Especially, avoid short trips. Cold starts are hard on engines, your gas mileage, and the environment. Short trips can also significantly shorten the life of your muffler. Basically, you get condensation in the exhaust when you start a cold engine, and if you don’t run the car for long enough to evaporate all of the condensation out of the system, excessive amounts of water can accumulate in your muffler, and rust a hole through it. Avoid starting a cold car just to pull it into the garage, for instance.

Consider walking to the nearest store for a change. Combine short errands, and, if you have multiple vehicles, drive the one more recently driven when you go out again. Do drive a car at least every week or so, since cars that sit for longer than a week or two at a time have other problems, such as fluids gradually draining out of systems. Consult a mechanic if you will store a car for an extended period.

Check the fluids: You should check the level of your antifreeze, oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid, very regularly: like every time you buy gas. Even if your car doesn’t leak fluids, it can develop a leak and quickly have a dangerously low level of something. You should also check the color of some of these fluids. Some of these have see-through plastic tanks that you can look through, and some have dipsticks. Antifreeze should be either pink, green, or yellow (Pink for newer cars with “Dex-Cool”, green for old cars with plain Ethyl-Glycol, and green or yellow for cars that have been flushed and filled with universal antifreezes…brown antifreeze should always be flushed, it either has rust or a lot of dirt in it, probably both. Also, never mix antifreezes; if you don’t know what color antifreeze your car has, buy a universal brand.

Oil should be relatively clear, not black – black oil has been left in the engine for too long. Oil that looks white and milkshake-like has water in it, probably from an internal antifreeze leak, or very rarely, just a large amount of condensation. Transmission fluid should be bright red, and should not smell burnt…it probably needs to be changed if it’s brown or smells burnt.

Change the oil regularly: This will improve your gas mileage and protect your engine. The recommended mileage between oil changes is 3,000 – 5,000 miles (or 5000 – 8000 kilometres) or every 3 to 6 months.

Doing this could make it possible for your vehicle to attain 200,000 miles. Change the oil filter as well – there is no sense in putting clean oil through a dirty filter, and filters are very cheap and available at any parts store. Please check your service manual, or contact your dealer for your car‘s specific needs.

Change the air filter: This is something you can do easily at home without using tools, and should be done approximately every 12 thousand miles.

You can buy a matching filter at nearly any auto parts store and your owner’s manual will show you where your air filter is located. A dirty, dusty filter can lower gas mileage.

Flush the fluids every two years: power steering fluid, and brake fluid, cooling system. Check this timetable against your owner’s manual. Newer cars generally allow longer intervals between changes.

Monitor your brake pad thickness and don’t let the pads wear down to metal – this will cause damage to your brake rotors (“discs”) at least and possibly your calipers as well. Rotors and calipers are much more expensive to replace than pads.

There is no such thing as “cleaning” a brake pad while it is still on a car – the friction between the pad and rotor will eradicate any outside substance almost immediately.

Rotate the tires. Changing tire position reduces uneven wear and tear on the tread, thus extending the life of the tires. The recommended rotation cycle is twice a year or every 6,000 miles. Rotate them diagonally – front right to rear left and front left to rear right. However, this pattern can change depending on the drivetrain of the vehicle, and the type of tire.

Your vehicle manual will contain detailed rotation information. Keep in mind some tires (especially on sports cars) are directional and are meant to spin only one way. They will have a large arrow on the sidewall to indicate this.

Keep the tires inflated. Under-inflated tires can reduce the tire life by 15% and will slightly decrease your gas mileage, perhaps by 10%. Inflating tires is perhaps the easiest of all activities, and many stores sell tire gauges for a very small cost. Checking your tire pressure every other time you get gas will reduce tire wear and prevent these issues. Monitor your tire tread with a penny. Insert the penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head down. If the top of his head is not obscured by the tread, your tires need to be replaced. Basically, if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you must replace your tires.

Keep the front end aligned. If you notice your car shaking while driving at high speeds (not while braking – shuddering while braking indicates warped rotors), or if your tread is wearing unevenly, then you may need an alignment.

This is also key to extending the life of your tires and will keep the tread even for increased safety.

Get your car off to a good start every time you drive it. Start the car and drive off slowly and gently until the car reaches operating temperature. This reduces the strain on the engine while the oil is still cold and thicker. Another option is to use electric engine space heaters, and start the drive with a warm engine. Accelerate promptly to the target speed. For most modern cars, idling a cold engine is both counterproductive and wasteful. Additionally, as you accelerate, release the gas a bit to cause the automatic transmission to upshift while you are not pressing hard on the gas. This causes less wear on the internal clutches. It is easier on the clutches for the car to shift when you ease up on the gas.

Use your parking brake. Even if you are driving a car with an automatic transmission, use your parking brake regularly, especially if you’re parked on an incline. It helps keep the brakes adjusted in the rear of the car and makes them last longer.

Do not use your parking brake in the winter time because your brake will freeze and it will be stuck until it thaws out.

Wash your car: Road salt, sludge and pollution can lead to costly body work. Without regular cleaning, you can start to notice rust on the bottom of your doors within four years. Another three to four years and the corrosion will creep to underbody components, like brake lines.

It can cost thousands in rust-related repairs if you neglect to wash your car, especially near ocean/gulf shorelines where the road sand or morning dew might be salty.

READ Manual READ YOUR MANUAL if you have questions and if the manual does not answer your question then CALL A PROFESSIONAL to help you

Extending your car’s life and your investment

By Claes Bell

There’s no debate that owning a car can be a pricey proposition. According to the Automobile Service Association, or ASA, Americans spent $37 billion on general maintenance for their autos in 2005. But how can consumers avoid paying too much while still keeping their car well-maintained?

Start with oil and filter changes every 3,000 miles if you use conventional oil, or every 5,000 miles if you use synthetic oil. Proper lubrication prevents wear on expensive engine parts and can even save you money on gasoline by improving your engine‘s efficiency.

Make sure that with every oil change, your mechanic checks your transmission fluid (the liquid that lubricates your transmission), coolant (the blend of water and antifreeze in your radiator) levels, and brake-fluid levels. Cars lose some of these fluids over the course of normal driving, but big drops in the levels can clue you in to problems before they become serious.

Also, make sure your mechanic inspects your brakes, suspension and exhaust systems with every oil change. Diagnosing problems with these components early can often prevent the kinds of catastrophic breakdowns that lead to big repair bills and even car accidents.

Because these regular inspections are so important, it’s better to get your oil changes done at the same full-service garage you go to for your major service. It may cost more than a drive-through specialty shop, but meaningful, regular inspections by an experienced mechanic can save drivers thousands of dollars over the lives of their cars.

“It’s better to go to a full-service mechanic for regular maintenance, because they’ll actually look at your car and see what you need,” says Danny Vogt, a veteran mechanic and owner of Danny’s Automotive in Lake Worth, Fla.

Auto maintenance
While the prices for common car chores will vary depending on where you live, these are the ranges of prices you can expect to pay, according to mechanics and dealers we contacted.
Costs of routine maintenance
1. Conventional oil and filter change: $20 to $30
2. Synthetic oil and filter change: $40 to $50
3. Replace transmission fluid: $50 to $70
4. Total transmission fluid flush: $120 to $140
5. Replace brake pads (depending on car make): $140 to $200
6. Coolant flush: $70 to $100

This works the other way, too. Sometimes parts last longer than your car‘s manufacturer says they will. A full-service mechanic often pays closer attention to the actual condition of a part when deciding to replace it than a drive-through oilchange specialist, who will typically try to sell extra parts and services by simply reading you a list of parts that are due to be replaced according to your car‘s maintenance schedule.

In addition to regular oil changes, it’s also a good idea to have your tires rotated at 6,000-mile intervals, or with every other oil change, to avoid the excessive wear in one spot that can lead to blowouts.

Beyond these basics, every car has maintenance needs specific to its make, model and mileage. The beginning of the new year is a perfect occasion to dust off that owner’s manual and check your car‘s maintenance schedule. If you’ve misplaced your manual, schedules for most vehicles are also available on the manufacturer’s Web site. In the meantime, here’s a general idea of what you’ll need to do this year at various mileage levels to maintain your car.

Zero to 29,999 miles:
Most cars still under warranty. Find a good mechanic for afterwarranty upkeep.
Typically, cars in this category are still under warranty. Most cars will not need any major repairs or maintenance during this time, and if they do, the dealer will be obligated to take care of them. It’s not too early, however, to start looking for a good mechanic to use over the long term. AAA and the ASA both publish online databases of approved mechanics. Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of NPR’s “Car Talk,” have also published an index of good independent mechanics.

But, for many, the best way to find a good mechanic is to talk to car-savvy friends and family. “Word of mouth is still the best way to find an honest mechanic,” says Gary Searles, owner and operator of My Chauffeur, a West Palm Beach, Fla.-area transportation service. “Don’t believe advertising.”

This is also a good time to start keeping track of major maintenance you have done on your car.

Not only can it help keep you from missing important maintenance events for your car, but it can also save you money. Some mechanics may try to replace fluids and parts more often than is strictly necessary. Having some kind of record helps make you a smarter consumer.

30,000 to 59,999 miles:
Check spark plugs, air filter, coolant, brake shoes, pads and transmission fluid.
This is when most warranties begin to expire and the burden of major repairs shifts to the owner. An important milestone for nearly all cars is 36,000 miles. This is usually the last service a car gets before the general warranty runs out, so if there are any major repairs to get done, do them now.

If you haven’t replaced your spark plugs yet, have them checked by that aforementioned trusted mechanic. If they do need to be replaced, save time and money by getting high-mileage, platinum plugs that can last up to three times longer than conventional plugs.

The engine‘s air filter and coolant should be replaced sometime this year. Your original brake pads and shoes will probably be close to worn-out as well. If your car is making a squealing sound during breaking, this is probably the case. Change them to avoid having to replace the brake rotors, a much more costly repair.

Also, ask your mechanic about replacing your transmission fluid. A car‘s transmission is one of the most expensive and complicated components to replace, and regular flushing and replacement of transmission fluid can help extend its life dramatically.

“I change mine every 25,000 miles,” says Searles. “It’s the reason a lot of my cars are on their original transmissions well past 100,000 miles.”

60,000 to 89,999 miles:
Check brake pads and shoes, tires, transmission fluid and coolant.
If it’s been 30,000 miles or more since your last set of brake pads and shoes, you’ll probably hear that tell-tale squeal again soon. Before you replace them, though, just make sure that they’re actually worn out. Sometimes a buildup of rust or dust can cause brakes to squeal even if there is still wear left on the pads and shoes. This is when having a good mechanic is essential, as a bad one might try to do unnecessary work.

If you haven’t replaced your car‘s original tires, this may be the year. If you can stick a penny (Lincoln’s head first) into the tire’s grooves and see the top of Honest Abe’s head, you need new tires. You can save money on a new set by shopping around online. Sites like TireRack.com and Sears.com offer an opportunity for consumers to compare prices and specs to find the best tires for their car. Tires sent from an online store can always be installed for a reasonable fee at a local shop. Just make sure they’re the right size for your car.

Don’t forget to replace your transmission fluid and coolant if you haven’t done so recently.

Car owners often say they’re taking their cars in for a “tuneup.” This term is fairly general and it usually means changing spark plugs, installing a new filter, changing the PCV filter (a part of the ventilation system for the engine), and some parts of the distributor. If you opt to do this, it should be done every 60,000 miles.

A better approach, though, is to take the manufacturer’s recommendations for routine maintenance and do those jobs in the time frame suggested.

90,000 to 119,999 miles:
Check timing belt, water pump, transmission fluid, coolant and spark plugs.
For most cars at this mileage, it’s time to change the timing belt, if you haven’t done so already. Many automakers recommend replacing the timing belt between 90,000 and 100,000 miles, and it’s best to heed the manufacturer’s recommendations.

“If that belt fails while you’re driving, you can bend your valves and cylinder heads,” says Vogt. “If that happens, you’re looking at $1,000 or $1,500 in repairs.”

Replacing the belt can be expensive because of the labor required to access it, but it beats rebuilding a mangled engine. Save time and money by having your mechanics replace your water pump at the same time so that they won’t have to take your engine apart again to replace it later on.

If you haven’t done it yet, replace your car‘s transmission fluid and coolant. Depending on your driving habits and your car‘s make and model, you may also need new spark plugs.

120,000 to 149,999 miles:
Check oil, air filter, tires, brake pads and shoes, fluids and CV joints.
Changing your oil and filter regularly will become increasingly important for extending the life of your engine this year. You may be due for another set of tires, as well as new brake pads and shoes. Check to see how long it’s been since you had your car‘s transmission fluid replaced. If it’s been a while, chances are you should do it again. At this mileage, many transmissions begin to show their age.

If your car is front-wheel drive and makes a rhythmic clicking sound in tight turns, your car will probably need new constant velocity or CV joints this year. Get them both replaced at the same time to avoid premature wear on the new parts.

150,000 and up:
Check oil and air filter, transmission fluid, tires, spark plugs.
Congratulations! If your car is in this category, it has or will soon exceed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s average lifetime mileage for a passenger car (152,137 miles). You must be doing something right. Continue regular oil and filter changes and inspections. Many engineoil manufacturers such as Castrol, Quaker State and Valvoline have introduced oil specifically designed to keep high-mileage engines running smoothly. If it’s been more than 30,000 miles since you last had your transmission flushed and the fluid replaced, consider doing it this year. Check your tires for wear and have your mechanic inspect the car‘s air filter, spark plugs, brake pads and shoes.

Hopefully, these general guidelines will help you save money on the care and keeping of your auto in the long term.

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