10 Car Tune-Up Tips

Keeping your car for as long as possible, versus upgrading every few years, can be financially lucrative. If you’re going to be driving the same car for many years, here are some simple ways to keep your car in good shape. Check out our tips below:

Change The Oil

One of the most important things is to change the oil often. Car owners should change the oil according to the recommendations in their owner’s manual. 

It used to be that most car manufacturers said you should change your oil every 3,000 miles. But oil in those days wasn’t nearly as good as it is today. Also, modern oils are usually made from synthetic materials that lubricate better and last longer. 

Most synthetic oils can last at least 5,000 miles and sometimes 10,000 miles between changes.

Even newer engines can burn up to a quart of oil every 5,000 miles. It’s bad for the engine to run with low oil, so consistently topping it off will help the engine last longer. 

You also should check the owner’s manual to find out which oil weight is best for your car. Many newer vehicles use 0W-20 or 5W-30 synthetic oil, but go with whatever your owner’s manual advises. 

New engines almost always use synthetic oil, so don’t put conventional oil in the engine, or it could cause serious damage. 

You should also change the oil filter with every oil change and the car will last much longer. 

Also, remember to check the threads on your oil pan and plug to make sure it isn’t stripped or worn out. If it isn’t firmly seated, it can leak a lot of oil and damage the engine. 

Check The Fluids

In addition to changing the oil, you should keep an eye on these fluids to ensure they are topped off: 

  • Coolant
  • Power steering fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid

If there is a leak with any of these crucial fluids, you could damage your vehicle, and it won’t last as long. Also, take note if you see any puddles under the car. 

Black fluid is usually oil, while coolant is green. Transmission and brake fluid are usually red. If you see puddles of pure water under the car, it’s probably coming from the air conditioner compressor, and that’s normal. 

Check The Brakes

Modern car brakes last longer than ever, but your brake pads and rotors will wear out eventually. The front brakes usually wear out faster than the rear.

You should check your brake pads and rotors every 10,000 miles. If you can’t do this yourself, have a mechanic check them when you rotate your tires, which should be every 5,000 or 10,000 miles, depending on the car. 

Let It Warm Up Briefly

The most wear on an engine happens during a cold start. When the engine is cold, the oil is thicker and it’s just sitting at the bottom of the engine when started. It takes one or two seconds for the oil to pump and lube the engine. 

It needs time to warm up enough to lubricate critical parts. But this doesn’t mean you should let it idle for 20 minutes to warm up. It will take a long time for an idling engine to reach operating temperature. 

Instead, let the engine idle for 30 seconds to a minute. This allows the oil to move around the engine and fully lubricate the essential parts. But you aren’t done yet! 

After the initial warm-up, take take the first mile or two slow as the engine reaches operating temperature. When the engine isn’t fully warm, the oil still doesn’t lubricate as efficiently. 

Don’t Go Cheap On Parts

Car parts can be expensive, and it’s tempting to want to save money with cheap parts. But if you use inexpensive parts or fluids, you could cause a lot of damage. Some of the damage may take months or years to manifest and this could make the car fail faster. 

Also, buy recommended parts for your vehicle. While there are quality aftermarket part makers, it’s often best to buy parts made by the car company because they more precisely fit your vehicle. 

Don’t Speed

Driving too fast is one of the main reasons why engines wear out. Speeding and sudden stops and starts put wear on the engine, transmission, and brakes. Hard acceleration makes it more difficult for the engine oil to work and sudden upshifts and downshifts wear out the transmission prematurely. 

Slowing down also saves gas as well as increases engine life. And you don’t have to worry about traffic tickets. 

Wash It

Sure, you don’t need to have perfect paint on your car for it to last a long time. But you are more likely to hang on to it if it looks good. 

That’s why you should wash your car at least once or twice per month. The paint is subject to dirt, debris, salt, tree sap, bird droppings, and the sun. Keeping the paint clean can reduce long-term damage. Waxing it every quarter makes a big difference, too. 

Also, it’s very important when keeping a car for many years to garage it as much as possible. Even with waxing and washing regularly, sitting in the sun for years will eventually fade the paint. 

Drive A Lot Of Highway Miles

This is more of a ‘make the car last forever’ tip than a tune-up tip. Stop and go driving is awful for your car. 

Think about it. When you drive 300 or 400 miles on the highway, there are fewer starts with a cold engine, little wear on the brakes, and minimal transmission wear because it’s in high gear for hours. 

But if you drive the same distance in the city, you will have way more cold engine starts, higher brake wear, and countless transmission gear changes. Modern vehicles are made to last a long time, but the more you use critical parts, the faster they wear out. 

Reduce The Number of Short Trips

Short trips, where the engine isn’t fully warm, are what kill engines. Help to extend its life by combining your daily short trips. 

For example, if you find you go out to do short errands more than once per day, it may involve starting a cold engine several times. 

It’s better for your engine life to plan your trips to be done at once.

Keep A Maintenance Log

It’s important not only to do regular maintenance but to keep a record so you know what was done and when. 

Just keep a log on your phone or on a notepad of every maintenance item you do. That way, you will remember what needs to be done in the future. 

If you don’t keep records of every oil change, for example, it’s easy to forget after a few months when you changed it. You could easily go over your mileage, and that will reduce the vehicle’s life. 

One of the biggest reasons that engines fail is that drivers don’t change the engine oil often enough. Even the best synthetic oils wear out eventually. If the oil isn’t changed at least every 10,000 miles, the engine won’t last nearly as long. 

Many auto enthusiasts say you should change even synthetic oil no more than every 5,000 miles. 

The End Of The Line

Even the most reliable and well-maintained vehicles won’t last forever. When do you know it is time to bid your vehicle goodbye and get something else? 

Experts say the guidelines below may suggest the time has come to haul it away: 

  • It needs an expensive engine or transmission repair that costs far more than the car is worth. There are some cases where you might pay more than the car works to fix an issue if the long-term reliability of the vehicle is outstanding. 
  • Rust has damaged the frame of the vehicle, making it dangerous to drive. 
  • It’s unreliable even after being repaired. 
  • It was in a serious crash or flood. Even if the car is ‘fixed,’ it may have permanent damage that cannot be repaired. 

Remember these tips and there’s a great chance you can make your car last (almost) forever. 

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