Top 10 Car Maintenance Mistakes

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shrewdly following the maintenance schedule provided in your car's owner's manual can prevent lengthy or more expensive visits to the service shop.

Shrewdly following the maintenance schedule provided in your car's owner's manual can prevent lengthy or more expensive visits to the service shop.

Compared to the family trucksters of a generation ago, modern cars require about as much maintenance as a toaster. This is a real liberation from the oil, lube and tune merry-go-round that ruled not so long ago.

Curiously, many people haven’t adjusted their thinking to keep pace with new car maintenance schedules. The preoccupied still run their daily drivers without service until the dash warning lights burn out, while over-achievers fret about running synthetic oil more than 2,500 miles without a change.

Although maintenance intervals are now more widely spaced, even the newest cars require scheduled service to live long, productive lives. Whether yours is the latest model or you paid it off years ago, the trick is giving your car the maintenance it was designed to receive.

Surprisingly, the answer to what maintenance is required is hiding no farther away than the glove box. Every car is supplied with a maintenance schedule — in the owner’s manual or in a separate maintenance log book — that details that vehicle’s needs. A few minutes assimilating these requirements will help you avoid the following common car-maintenance pitfalls.

Proper Tire Inflation and Rotation
Tires leak naturally and need the occasional check. Figuratively speaking, underinflated tires suck up gasoline. Under- or overinflated tires wear out sooner, and deliver the same emergency maneuver handling as marshmallows. You probably aren’t going to check tire pressures monthly, but how about twice a year?

Furthermore, front and rear tires wear differently and should be rotated to even that wear. Your owner’s manual will have a recommendation on both pressure and rotation periods.

Wiper Tales
Here’s a news flash: It’s much easier to avoid hitting things you can see. Simple as it is, that’s the concept behind replacing your windshield wipers before they fossilize into noisy uselessness.

Fall is the ideal wiper replacement time: after the blade-baking summer and before the fall and winter nastiness. Depending on location, wiper replacement may be an annual affair in the Southwest to a biannual chore in northern climes.

Tune-Up Anachronism
There are no more “tune-ups.” Valves no longer need adjusting, ignition timing is computer controlled and there are no carburetors to fiddle with. About all that’s left of the old tune-up drill are the spark plugs. These are often good for 100,000 miles, so don’t change parts just to change parts. Instead, save up for those big 60,000- and 120,000-mile services when the timing belt, spark plug wires and coolant are due for replacement.

Octane Overdose
“If some is good, more is better” thinking does not apply to octane. Here the rule is to supply whatever octane the engine is rated for and call it done. Higher-than-required octane does not yield more power or mileage, only oil company profits.

Some engines are rated for premium 91 octane fuel but can burn 87 octane regular, thanks to the magic of knock sensors. In that case, run regular gas if puttering around surface streets, and premium fuel if full-throttle driving is part of your daily repertoire.

Oil Change Timing
Oil changes every 3,000 miles used to be required jobs, just like cleaning the accumulated fuzz from record player needles or defrosting freezers. Today, advances in engine design and lubricants make oil changes something to be done when the schedule calls for it, not when granddad says it’s time. Some cars call for 5,000-mile change intervals, some up to 15,000-mile stints. Others have a variable timer. Follow the schedule and use the oil called for by the manufacturer.

Tired Tires
Tires wear out, but they also time out. The tire industry says tires are toast after five years, but they’re selling tires. It all depends on heat, sunlight and ozone conditions. There’s little argument from any pundits that after seven years those black donuts are dried and better off holding down a farmer’s tarp than carrying your family around. If you’re not sure how old your tires are, a tire shop can read the date code stamped into the sidewall.

Dirty Air Filter
Semi-clogged air filters hurt fuel economy for the same reason you don’t like to run with a potato in your mouth. The question is, when is your filter dirty? Under a Norman Rockwell schedule of small-town errand running and church duty, an air filter might not see much grit. But grimy city surface streets or just looking at a dirt road on a map are often enough to overwhelm air filters. This one is about conditions. If you go near dirt, the air filter may need changing twice as often as the schedule calls for.

Ignoring Your Brakes
Note to the Wandering Unconscious: If you notice anything different about your brakes — sound, feel or response — they are telling you to visit a mechanic. Now.

Tighten Your Gas Cap
Is the Check Engine light on? Then make sure the gas cap is on tightly before calling the dealer. No joke, this is one of the most common ways of setting off your car’s diagnostic system, since a loose gas cap defeats the fuel system’s venting arrangement.

The Garage Is for Parking
Let’s review. Your house is your most valuable investment. Your car is likely your second most valuable investment. If you’re paying all that money, then why are you storing empty cardboard boxes, broken skateboards and plastic holiday wreaths in the garage? Pitch that junk and get the car in the garage!

This Article Is Credited to MSN Autos

Car Maintenance And Repairs

January 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Driving an automobile is a luxury that most of us take for granted.

Automobiles are the primary means of transportation in United States, with ninety percent of American adults owning or previously owning a car or truck. What we don’t realize is that operating a car or truck is a responsibility that can bring serious consequences. Every year in the United States alone, more than ten thousand vehicular accidents occur. It’s a tragic figure, especially when you consider that many of these accidents could be prevented with proper maintenance and routine check-ups.

Before hitting the road, be sure to conduct these checkups regularly:

Comprehensive Vehicle Inspection

Comprehensive Vehicle Inspection

Tires
Most Americans use all-season tires. These tires should carry you safely from season to season, but it is imperative that you check the tires regularly for wear or damage. Ideally, tires should be checked on a weekly basis.

Brakes
The brake system serves one main purposes: to slow down or stop the car when it is needed. If you step on the brake pedal and it goes all the way to the floor, you’ve got trouble. Late-model automobiles are equipped with a brake warning light. This dashboard indicator will light up if something is wrong with your brake system. If your brake warning light indicates trouble, it is imperative that you check the brake system immediately. Consult your owner’s manual for maintenance advice, and call an experienced mechanic for repairs. Brake repairs or replacements are no job for a weekend or hobby mechanic.

Headlights
Properly maintained vehicle headlights help you drive safely, and see more clearly. Replace your headlight bulbs at least once per year.

Wipers
Many people don’t think of changing their wiper blades until it is too late. This is one of the easiest and most inexpensive parts of the car to maintain. Change your wiper blades twice a year, in the spring and just before winter.

There are 10 common reasons why automobile owners visit the mechanic:

  1. Electronic/Ignition control
  2. Suspension/steering
  3. Electrical problem
  4. Brake system
  5. Oil change/filters/lube
  6. Exhaust system
  7. Radiator repairs
  8. Fuel system/carburetor
  9. Clutch/transmission
  10. Air conditioning system

Routine check ups and proper maintenance are less expensive than most consumers realize but budget restrictions are often the leading factors in keeping car owners from living up to their maintenance responsibilities. This does not need to be a problem, the key is to find an automotive service center that you trust that can understand your needs and budget to ensure that you and your vehicle stay on the road safely. Remember preventative maintenance to your vehicle tends to be far less expensive than waiting for something to truly go wrong and then having to have it repaired.

If your car is not performing to its full potential, remember the following tips to help you save money on repairs:

Preventive Maintenance
Be your car’s best friend, and you can save a bundle. By conducting regular preventative maintenance, such as regular oil changes and radiator flushes, you prevent unnecessary damage to the car and save a lot of money in the long run. Regular checkups by a reputable automotive repair center will keep your car running better and longer.

Conserve
Even automobiles need to take a break now and then. If you drive your car everyday the miles will add up quickly and damage can occur prematurely. To avoid this, consider carpooling with friends and coworkers. Ask around to form your own carpool group. You’ll all save on maintenance, and you’ll be able to pool your fuel and parking expenses.

Estimate
Before choosing a mechanic to repair your car be sure to get a written estimate. If the mechanic wants more than your budget can afford shop around. Compare estimates to find the best deal. Just be sure that you are comparing “apples to apples” and paying for quality service not just settling for cheap.

Do It Yourself
You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish after doing a little research. Read over your owner’s manual from time to time. Learn as much as you can about your car. Understand potential problems and how to solve them. For example, that mysterious clunking noise might be bothersome, but could be as simple to fix as tightening a bolt. Regular maintenance tasks like oil changes and radiator flushes are fairly easy to do if you understand your vehicle and take the time to do the job properly.

As an automobile owner, you have a responsibility to keep your car properly maintained at all times. Consider it an investment in your car’s future and yours, so stop by Heads Up Motorsports today to get your vehicle inspected and give us the opportunity to earn your business.

Transmission Maintenance Services to Reduce Vehicle Repair Costs

December 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Transmission Cutaway Illustration

Transmission Cutaway Illustration

When you turn the key in the ignition and your car won’t start, it can often be difficult to determine the exact problem because of the complexity of engines. But when your car starts and the transmission slips, it can only mean one thing – the transmission needs repairs. Some people drive around for months with annoying transmission problems until it gets bad enough to cause a serious safety issue.

Waiting for a serious vehicle problem is not a good course of action. A small problem can turn into an expensive problem. Fortunately, the transmission is like the car engine – give it some regular attention and you can avoid most problems. Yet it’s not unusual for people to perform routine maintenance on the engine or air conditioner and then proceed to ignore the transmission.

Extend Transmission Life

The kinds of transmission maintenance services which can extend the life of your transmission are not complicated if you know what you are doing and have the right tools. A trained automotive technician can satisfy both requirements and add the convenience of doing regular maintenance on your car before expensive problems begin to appear.

For businesses, maintaining the transmissions in fleet vehicles is even more important. Business vehicles are driven many miles in a variety of circumstances including up and down hills and in congested traffic requiring a lot of speed changes. Fleet vehicles are also driven by a variety of people and each person has a different driving style.

Proper maintenance of the transmissions in the fleet vehicles can keep your cars and trucks on the road where they are making the company money.

Regular transmission services may include the following.

  • Check transmission fluid levels
  • Change fluid and filter per maintenance schedule
  • Change fluid in torque converter
  • Check transmission sensors
  • Check modulator valves
  • Clean transmission using specialty cleaning fluid

A transmission should be flushed every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. If you don’t put many miles on the vehicle the rule of thumb is to flush the transmission every 2 years minimum.

On the Spot

Letting Heads Up Motorsports take care of your transmission needs provides some assurances you are getting the job done right. Though some try to do this kind of maintenance on their own, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

  • Clean job without messy spills
  • Able to check for signs of problems during fluid change such as metal shavings
  • Able to check for signs transmission is developing problems which could lead to future problems
  • Insures correct fluid is used for the make of vehicle and transmission

Making sure your transmission gets regular maintenance can save you a lot of money and problems over time. Unfortunately it is often one of those simple maintenance chores that doesn’t get done as frequently as it should. Heads Up Motorsports offers convenient and high quality transmission maintenance and rebuilding servicing to make sure you and your car stay on the road.

So stop into Heads Up Motorsports today for all of your transmission needs.

For more information on our transmission services visit our transmission section here.

Is Your Car a Mess? Organize Your Car in Five Steps

December 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Many Americans spend more time in their cars than in most rooms of their homes, yet they neglect their wheels when it comes to regular “housekeeping.” When it gets really messy, organizing your car can seem as daunting as keeping a closet in order. So we asked California Closet’s organizational expert Ginny Snook Scott how to sort out, size up, store and contain your car cargo in five easy steps. Then we added some ideas for finding the necessary gear to clear out the clutter.

Step one: Sort and clean up
Take everything out of the car, including car seats, music and miscellaneous items stored in the glovebox and door pockets. Don’t forget the trunk and cargo area! Chances are you’ll find all kinds of trash to toss. Organize the rest of the items into three piles: stuff you use all the time, things you use occasionally and items you might need in an emergency. Whatever doesn’t fall into these categories should be stored in your home or garage.

Step two: Analyze
Ask yourself, “How do I use my car?” Are you a salesperson who travels with a trunk load of samples, a parent with two toddlers in car seats or a realtor squiring prospective clients from property to property? Do you make a lot of short trips or are long journeys the norm? What are you always struggling to find? (Pen and paper? Change for the toll? Tissues? Your cell phone?) The answers to these questions should determine your priorities.

Step three: Prioritize
Depending upon your needs, go through your three piles and prioritize the most important items in each group. What do you need to keep close at hand and what can be relegated to the second row or back of the car? Pay attention to duplicates. For example, it’s a good idea to keep drinking water in the car, but not a bunch of half-empty bottles. When you bring three new CDs into the car, take three that you’re tired of back to your house. And just like seasonal clothes in a closet, many items such as ice scrapers and tire chains can be packed away in summer.

Step four: Contain your needs
Loose objects in the car lead to disorganization and mess. In the event of a sudden stop or a crash, they can also damage your car or, worse, injure your occupants. Automotive accessory shops offer a variety of cargo containers and organizers for every part of the car, from leakproof litter bags, CD storage and trunk organizers to drink coolers, folding hangers and kids’ entertainment centers. For the businessperson, the Lewis N Clark “Business Center” holds folders and has a writing surface and detachable portfolio. Talus makes a great line of car organizers, including the CarGanizer and the Kids Car Travel Organizer, which can make a world of difference. Sites for such storage products include The Busy Woman, The Container Store and Amazon.com.

Step five: Store
Store items you use regularly in places where you can reach them. Can’t find a place to store that big box of facial tissue? Try a “tissue cup,” a paper cup that fits into a cupholder and dispenses tissues one at a time. Of course, keep insurance information, maps, directions and other documents together in the glovebox. And be creative about storing lesser-used and seasonal items — there are often nooks and crannies around the spare tire or in the rear walls of the car that can hold a small first-aid kit, roadside flares or jumper cables. Your owner’s manual (now that you can find it) can be helpful in pointing out hooks and cubbies that might have been overlooked.

Finally, don’t put anything on the floor — even trash — unless it’s designed to sit there. Once you start messing up the floor, you’ll find it too easy to keep adding to it, and soon your car will be cluttered again!

This Article Is Credited to Edmunds

What To Do If The “Check Engine” Light Goes On

December 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

These tips can help you determine whether your vehicle has a loose gas cap or serious engine problems.

This Article Is Credited to Consumer Reports.

check-engine-light-image

Ignoring a check engine light could cause damage to expensive parts. It could also mean your car is getting poor fuel economy and emitting higher levels of pollutants.

You’re driving along in your car or truck and suddenly a yellow light illuminates on your dash telling you to check or service your engine. If you’re like most car owners, you have little idea about what that light is trying to tell you or exactly how you should react.

Call it the most misunderstood indicator on your dashboard, the “check engine” light can mean many different things, from a loose gas cap to a seriously misfiring engine.

“It doesn’t mean you have to pull the car over to the side of the road and call a tow truck. It does mean you should get the car checked out as soon as possible,” says Dave Cappert of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, a Virginia-based organization that tests and certifies auto technicians.

Ignore the warning, and you could end up damaging expensive components. It also can be a sign that your car is getting poor fuel economy and emitting higher levels of pollutants.

WHAT THE LIGHT MEANS

The “check engine” light is part of your car’s so-called onboard diagnostics (OBD) system. Since the 1980s, computers increasingly have controlled and monitored vehicle performance, regulating such variables as engine speed (RPM), fuel mixture, and ignition timing. In some cars, the computer also tells the automatic transmission when to shift.

When it finds a problem in the electronic-control system that it can’t correct, the computer turns on a yellow warning indicator that’s labeled “check engine,” “service engine soon” or “check powertrain.” Or the light may be nothing more than a picture of an engine, known as the International Check Engine Symbol, perhaps with the word “Check.”

In addition to turning on the light, the computer stores a “trouble code” in its memory that identifies the source of the problem, such as a malfunctioning sensor or a misfiring engine. The code can be read with an electronic scan tool or a diagnostic computer, standard equipment in auto repair shops. There are also a number of relatively inexpensive code readers that are designed for do-it-yourselfers.

Manufacturers originally used the OBD system to help technicians pinpoint and troubleshoot malfunctions. But the systems now are required under federal laws governing automotive emissions. Although larger trucks have been exempt from the requirement, that quickly is changing.

“The ‘check engine’ light is reserved only for powertrain problems that could have an impact on the emissions systems,” says John Van Gilder, General Motors’ lead OBD development engineer.

Exactly what the OBD system looks for depends on the make, model and year. The original systems varied widely in their capabilities. Some did little more than check whether the various electronic sensors and actuators were hooked up and working.

That changed by 1996, when, under OBD II regulations, carmakers were required to install a much more sophisticated system that essentially acts like a built-in state emissions testing station. The computer monitors and adjusts dozens of components and processes.

For example, it continually samples exhaust emissions as they come out of the engine and again when they leave the catalytic converter, a device that removes carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon pollutants from the exhaust. The system also monitors your car’s fuel system to ensure that gasoline vapors are not escaping into the atmosphere through a leak or even a loose or missing gas cap. In most cases, if a problem occurs, the computer will wait to see if it corrects itself before turning on the light. Modern OBD II systems are so thorough that state testing centers increasingly are checking for any stored trouble codes and foregoing the traditional tailpipe emissions test.

Some states are considering an advanced OBD system that would allow them to do away with emissions testing. If the “check engine” light comes on, the system automatically would send a remote signal to state officials, who would contact motorists who don’t have the problem corrected within a reasonable amount of time. Privacy advocates are criticizing the idea as being too intrusive. Depending on the system, officials might be able to trace where the vehicle had been.

Proponents say the system would free motorists from the time and expense of having to undergo annual or biennial emission testing, and it would help ensure that emission-related problems are detected and fixed more quickly. Oregon expects to launch such a program on a voluntary basis in less than a year.

Remote diagnostics already can be found on GM vehicles equipped with the OnStar communications system. When the “check engine” light goes on, GM car owners can notify an OnStar representative, who can read the trouble code and provide advice.

WHAT TO DO

If your “check engine” light illuminates don’t react like one Connecticut motorist, who simply poured an extra quart of engine oil into her 2002 Toyota Corolla. Although extreme situations, such as low oil pressure or an overheating engine, might trigger a “check engine” light, your dashboard has other lights and gauges to warn you about those problems and probably a lot sooner.

The best advice is to read your owner’s manual beforehand and learn the purpose of the “check engine” light and every other gauge and warning indicator on your dashboard. Periodically, you also should test the “check engine” light and other dashboard warning lights. Usually, you can do this by turning the key to the key-on/engine-off position. Consult the owner’s manual for more information. Replace any bulbs that aren’t working.

If the “check engine” light illuminates, it will either blink or remain constant, depending on the problem. Either way, you should have the vehicle checked by a mechanic, although a blinking light indicates a problem that needs immediate attention.

In late-model cars, a blinking light usually indicates an engine misfire so severe that unburned fuel is being dumped into the exhaust system, where it can quickly damage the catalytic converter, requiring an expensive repair. If that happens, you should reduce power and have the car or truck looked at as soon as possible. If the light is steady, the problem is not an emergency, but you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Today’s automotive computers often try to compensate when there’s a problem; so you may not notice deterioration in performance, even though your fuel mileage is suffering and your vehicle is emitting unacceptable levels of hydrocarbons and other pollutants.

“The customer is really, in a long run, potentially hurting their pocket book by leaving that light and ignoring it,” says Jim Collins, a national training team leader for Ford Motor Company. In some extreme cases, the car’s computer may reduce power for you, as it tries to limit the risk of damage.

If the check-engine light comes on, here are some tips on what you should do:

  • Look for a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Check your dashboard gauges and lights for indications of low oil pressure or overheating. These conditions mean you should pull over and shut off the engine as soon as you can find a safe place to do so.
  • Try tightening your gas cap. This often solves the problem. Keep in mind that it may take several trips before the light resets. Some vehicles have a separate indicator that warns of a loose gas cap before the condition sets off the “check engine” light.
  • Reduce speed and load. If the “check engine” light is blinking or you notice any serious performance problems, such as a loss of power, reduce your speed and try to reduce the load on the engine. For example, it would be a good idea to stop towing a trailer. Have the car checked as soon as possible to prevent expensive damage.
  • Contact OnStar, if available. If you have a 1997 or later General Motors vehicle equipped with OnStar and an active OnStar subscription, contact an advisor who can read the trouble code remotely and advise you about what to do.
  • Have the code read and the problem fixed. If you want to diagnose the malfunction yourself, you can buy a scan tool at most auto parts stores. Prices range from about $40 to several hundred, depending on the model and the features. The tools come with instructions on how to hook them up and decipher the codes. But unless you have a good knowledge of automotive diagnostics, you’re probably better off taking the vehicle to a professional. Some automotive parts stores will read and interpret the code for you without charge. Unless there is an easy fix, they may simply refer you to a mechanic.
  • Don’t go for a state emissions test. In a late-model car, an illuminated “check engine” light probably is a sure sign your car will fail the test. In some states, it’s an automatic failure, even if the problem was nothing more than a loose gas cap. By the way, don’t bother trying to fool the inspection station by disconnecting the battery or using any other method to erase the trouble code and turn off the “check engine” light. Your vehicle’s computer will let the inspection station know that its codes have been erased, and you’ll just have to go back again.
  • The most comprehensive method to know what exactly could be wrong with your vehicle is to take it to a reputable automotive workshop they will have all the equipment and knowledge to ensure that you and your vehicle stay on the road.

Stop by Heads Up Motorsports to have your vehicle inspected when your check engine light comes on, we will diagnose your problems and get you back on the road with our fast, friendly and affordable service.

How to Make Your Car Last Longer

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

While you can’t keep it on the road forever, here are 10 tips that can extend your car’s life and help maintain its value when you sell or trade it.

This Article Is Credited to MSN Autos

Getting from point A to point B by car costs a certain amount of dough, and thanks to a crumbling U.S. economy it takes more of your hard-earned money than ever before to do so. But while you can’t always control ownership costs such as fuel, repairs and insurance rates, one thing you do have power over is how long your 4-wheeled friend stays on the road before you have to send it to that great junkyard in the sky. To help, here are 10 tips that will keep your ride rolling well into its golden years.

1. Change Vital Filters and Fluids

Checking fluids and the air filter on a regular basis can increase the life of your engine.

Checking fluids and the air filter on a regular basis can increase the life of your engine.

Even the most mechanically challenged drivers know to change a car’s oil and oil filter on a regular basis. But other fluids (antifreeze, brake and transmission, for example) and filters also need regular maintenance. This is essential because over time they, too, lose important properties — such as their ability to remove heat and to lubricate, as well as the ability to prevent rust and freezing.

Changing your air filter helps your car breathe easier and its engine last longer. An engine needs an exact mixture of fuel and air in order to run, and all of the air enters the system through the air filter. Its purpose is to prevent dirt and other foreign particles from entering and possibly damaging the engine. “If your air filter is clogged, your engine is not performing properly,” says Jack Nerad, editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “It also hurts your fuel economy because the engine is working harder to get more air.”

2. Check Your Cooling System

Mechanics recommend a minimum 50-50 mix of coolant to water for most climates. For severe conditions, you can increase the mixture to about 70 percent coolant.

Mechanics recommend a minimum 50-50 mix of coolant to water for most climates. For severe conditions, you can increase the mixture to about 70 percent coolant.

Making sure your car’s cooling system is working properly and coolant levels are correct can potentially

save you thousands of dollars in repairs. “A cooling-system failure can result in your engine literally melting down,” Nerad warns. “Without proper coolant and maintenance of hoses, you can have lethal consequences.”

3. Take Proper Care of Your Tires

Keeping tires at the proper inflation pressure will increase their life, as well as improve fuel efficiency.

Keeping tires at the proper inflation pressure will increase their life, as well as improve fuel efficiency.

Tires are often the most neglected part of a car, and can be the least expensive to maintain. Take tire inflation, for instance. “Most people don’t pay much attention to keeping their tires at the right inflation pressure,” Nerad says. “And it’s not only bad for the car, the tires and fuel economy, but it’s also a safety issue. The simple step of keeping the tires up to proper pressure is valuable all the way around, and it essentially costs almost nothing.” Also, don’t forget to rotate your tires. Tire Rack suggests doing it every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, even if the tires don’t show signs of wear. This will help to ensure that your car stops properly, and is a job that can be done in your own driveway.

4. Pay Attention to the Gauges

Pay attention to your car’s gauges for any indication that something mechanical has gone awry.

Pay attention to your car’s gauges for any indication that something mechanical has gone awry.

If there is a problem with your oil pressure, cooling system or any other major system, your car’s gauges will tell you — if you’re paying attention to them. “The vast majority of people don’t,” Nerad says. “That’s why manufacturers went to ‘idiot lights’ to give a clear indication of when there’s a problem.”

5. Find a Mechanic You Trust

Not all mechanics are created equal; a good one could be the difference between keeping your car on the road as long as you need it and wasting your savings on a lost cause.

Not all mechanics are created equal; a good one could be the difference between keeping your car on the road as long as you need it and wasting your savings on a lost cause.

Find a repair shop and mechanic you trust. “And let that shop service your car all the time,” says Dave Jones, owner of Jones Automotive in Green County, Pa., and co-host of the Web site AskAutoPro.com. “When you get sick, you don’t go to a different doctor every time. Your doctor knows you from top to bottom, inside and out.” A good mechanic will get to know your car, look it over the same way each visit, and thus spot potential issues, Jones adds. Plus, having a good working relationship with your mechanic will enable you to make wise decisions when the time comes — and you won’t have any doubts about the truthfulness of the advice.

6. Get Regular Checkups

It's important to follow the scheduled maintenance for your car to keep it in top shape.

It's important to follow the scheduled maintenance for your car to keep it in top shape.

While your owner’s manual will have a maintenance schedule, another advantage of using the same mechanics on a regular basis is that they will be able to make sure you stick to that schedule — and take care of things the manual may not include. “If you go to different places each time you have your car serviced, they won’t know the last time you had something done,” says Aaron Clements, owner of C&C Automotive in Augusta, Ga., and a 31-year auto-repair veteran. “So you may end up paying for unnecessary repairs. Most shops have electronic records, so they know when each service was performed. The scheduled maintenance charts in owners manuals tell only part of the story. So it’s also a benefit to have a relationship with a service adviser who knows your vehicle and when to perform service in addition to what’s in the owner’s manual.”

And don’t put off the small things. A small problem can quickly balloon into a major catastrophe. For instance, a worn hose can be a simple replacement. Put off dealing with it until the hose bursts and you could have a nightmare on your hands, with associated financial implications.

7. Drive Smarter

Jackrabbit starts and hard stops are not only tough on your tires and brakes, they can have debilitating effects on suspension and other major systems.

Jackrabbit starts and hard stops are not only tough on your tires and brakes, they can have debilitating effects on suspension and other major systems.

The way you drive has an effect on how long your car — and your gas — will last. “You not only save wear and tear by having good driving habits, but also fuel,” Clements says. So drive gently. Accelerate slowly. Anticipate braking so you can avoid panic stops. Give your car time to warm up in cold weather so the oil is freely circulating through the system and fully lubricating internal components. All of these things will lessen the wear and tear on your car and possibly enhance fuel efficiency.

Also, make fewer short trips. Jaunts of less than 10 minutes can be particularly hard on a car because the engine never has a chance to heat up properly, which allows condensation to build up inside the engine and exhaust. When mixed with metal and oxygen, water will cause rust, which is bad for cars. Condensation inside the engine will also dilute the oil that lubricates it. Again, this is bad for the car.

8. Lose Some Weight

Driving around with a lot of extra junk in the trunk is like carrying a lot of extra weight around your waist — the stress can wear your car down and keep it from operating at tip-top efficiency.

Driving around with a lot of extra junk in the trunk is like carrying a lot of extra weight around your waist — the stress can wear your car down and keep it from operating at tip-top efficiency.

Extra pounds place extra demand on your vehicle’s powerplant, and can create suspension and braking issues. So don’t drive around with a lot of nonessential stuff in your car. Also, remove anything that causes additional aerodynamic drag, such as a bug shield, roof rack or cargo carrier. These have the same effect as adding weight; that is, they increase the demand on your engine, causing premature wear and tear and reducing your car’s fuel efficiency.

9. Keep It Clean

Regularly washing your car will help extend its life as well as support its resale value.

Regularly washing your car will help extend its life as well as support its resale value.

Kelly Blue Book’s Nerad also stresses taking care of the exterior of your car by regularly washing and waxing it. And don’t forget about the interior. “That’s an often overlooked area,” he says. “Spend time keeping it clean and clean-smelling without perfuming it, and vacuum the carpet on a regular basis. Get spills out immediately, because if you don’t they’re more difficult to remove.”

10. Keep It Under Cover

Sitting in the direct sun can cause many dash and interior materials to wear prematurely, as well as a car’s finish to fade. A cover will help; it will also keep your car cooler.

Sitting in the direct sun can cause many dash and interior materials to wear prematurely, as well as a car’s finish to fade. A cover will help; it will also keep your car cooler.

Nerad also suggests storing your car in a garage or under a carport or cover. “Keep your car out of the sun,” he says. “And keep it away from bird droppings and tree sap. Also be careful where you park to avoid dings,” he adds.