Like any other machines, vehicles also require proper maintenance to keep them running smoothly and be in good shape. Doing so will not only prolong the life of the vehicle, but it will also ensure your safety, your passengers, as well as everyone around you when you’re driving. This is especially true for used cars, so make sure you maintain a used car to keep it operational.
For a lot of vehicles, regular or routine maintenance starts at 5,000 to 10,000 miles. Of course, even those vehicles with that mileage need regular maintenance, let alone the used ones. Regular maintenance work does not necessarily require the help of a professional mechanic. A lot of those basic maintenance work can actually be performed at home—and you can DIY.
Here are some tips for maintaining a used car and keeping it operational.
How do you keep a car well maintained? – Maintaining a Used Car
For most repairs, you will need the help of a mechanic, but there is a lot of vehicle maintenance you can do on your own. Here’s a list of the things that you should do to keep your vehicle well maintained.
- Familiarize Yourself with your Vehicle Owner’s Manual
Every vehicle comes with an owner’s manual. It is a thick book that is instructional that is specific to your vehicle. It is packed with important information that can make you a better driver and vehicle owner, it includes maintenance and troubleshooting tips. It is usually kept in the glove compartment. In case you can’t find your copy, you can just download an electronic version online. Otherwise, your dealer can provide you one.
With the manual in hand, go to the maintenance schedule section. Remember the intervals for maintenance items like oil filter, engine oil, belts, tire rotation, hoses, etc. It is paramount that you follow these recommendations from your vehicle manufacturer to keep the engine running as smoothly as possible.
- Change your Engine oil and Air filter on Schedule
The lifeblood of your engine is the oil. It acts as a lubricant, which keeps important engine parts from grinding against each other and damaging the engine. Motor oil that has been neglected can damage your engine since the accumulated contaminants can generate friction when they rub against the engine parts.
Note: When choosing the type of oil to use on your vehicle, it is important to remember that as long as the oil meets the viscosity and service requirements stated in your owner’s manual, you can switch to petroleum-based or synthetic depending on what is convenient for you.
Inspect your vehicle’s air filter at least once a year and replace it if necessary. A dirty engine air filter can let the dirt and other particles pass through and enter your vehicle’s engine and reduce its efficiency. It is ideal to check the air filter when you change your oil. Make sure you learn about maintaining a used car's oil filter.
- Check Your Tires every month
The average weight of vehicles in the U.S. is 4,000 pounds, that is the average weight your tires are carrying every day. Your tires are the ones that keep your vehicle driving down the road. They need to be properly inflated to work accordingly and lessen the chance of a blowout.
It is pretty easy to add air to your tires, and you might have done it a thousand times already. However, not everyone knows the correct tire pressure they need, which is really important to take note of. You can find the ideal tire pressure on the card or sticker inside the driver’s door. Otherwise, you can just look into your owner’s manual to get that information.
To get an accurate reading, tires should be inflated when they are cold, or at least driven less than one mile. If that is not possible, an expert says, you can add 4 PSI to the recommended amount. Do not forget to check your spare tire or donut while you are at it, and confirm all pressures with a tire gauge once the tires have rested.
- Inspect your Belts and Hoses
This may be one step beyond basic routine vehicle maintenance, but it is best practice to vet the hoses and belts in the engine bay. These hoses are in charge of the coolant flow to ensure the engine does not overheat. If a hose shows cracks or bulges, has separated, then have it replaced.
Similarly, check the belts as too. According to experts, the timing belt can be found in most small SUVs and cars and is vital to the operation of your engine. Once this belt displays signs of wear, including glazing, cracking, and material loss or chunks are missing from the belt itself, it should be replaced immediately. If the timing belt snaps or breaks while driving, it can cause severe engine damage.
- Remove Rust or Corrosion from the Battery
Regarding the battery, what is necessary here is to ensure that the battery terminals are free from corrosion. Similar to the brakes, environmental factors can also cause a buildup that inhibits operation. A solution of water and baking soda along with a wire brush will solve your rust or corrosion problems. Maintaining a used car's battery is extremely important
- Check all other Fluids
Keep in mind that motor oil is not the only fluid that has to be checked. Experts recommend checking your vehicle’s transmission fluids, brake fluid, coolant and windshield washer fluid. Like motor oil, transmission fluid can be checked with a dipstick. Determine the levels of the washer and brake fluids, as well as coolant, by removing the related covers and doing ocular inspection. They should get as far as the designated fill line.
Caution: When checking coolant levels, NEVER remove the radiator cap, because you risk getting scalded if the cap is removed. In lieu, you can check the coolant level in the nearby transparent refill container. If it is below the fill line, then it’s time for a coolant refill.
- Replace Wiper Blades if Necessary
If the blades screech or the windows streak when the system is operating, it means they should be replaced ASAP. This is a very crucial vehicle maintenance measure. If you ever find yourself in a rainstorm, the wipers will help you maintain visibility. You never know when you may need the wiper blades so check them often.
- Always be observant for any Brake Issues
Brakes are an important component of every vehicle. You should always be aware of what your brakes sound like and feel every time you drive. If the brakes require more pressure to apply the brakes than normal or it feels spongy, they need to get checked by a professional. Brake sounds can tell you when maintenance or repair is necessary.
Here’s a useful info about the kinds of sound your brakes might produce:
- Rattling- A vibration or rattling sound indicates one of the rotors is worn out or warped and needs to be replaced.
- Grinding- This sound is not normal, however, it may not be a serious issue if brake grinding only occurs the first time you drive the vehicle in a day. When the vehicle is not driven for a day, rust can form on the brake rotors, especially when the humidity levels are high outside.The grinding sound is the rust getting rid of. The simple solution to this is to park the vehicle in a garage when it is raining, humid, or snowing.
- Squealing- Once you hear squealing, it means it is time for new brake pads because the one you have now is rubbing against the rotor and is worn out.
- Intermittent Sounds- when brake sounds come and go, it might be due to brake fade from overheating. When the brake fluid, rotors, and brake pads overheat, you may hear sounds, and the brakes will not feel as responsive. This issue should be checked by a professional mechanic who can diagnose the cause and fix it.
How often should cars be washed?
As a rule of thumb, it is important to wash your vehicle at least twice a month. Obsessive-compulsive (OC) individuals will do it once a week, or sometimes more frequently. Besides, irregular dirt such as bug guts and road salt need immediate attention to avoid metal or paint damage.
Here’s a list of common reasons to wash your vehicle more often.
- Brake Dust
- Removing Tar and other road dirt
- Mud and Dirt
- Animal Droppings
- Stagnant Water
- Tree sap
- To get rid of bugs and insects
- Road salt
Washing your vehicle is not only about vanity, it also means your vehicle’s life can be significantly extended too. Grit can gain access to your vehicle’s moving parts and the chassis, which leads to accelerated wear and corrosion. Bird droppings can be a disaster to the paintwork, and winter road salt is highly corrosive, so you should know what to do when stuck behind a gritter.
The stiff brushes of automated car washes may leave fine scratches, and they miss bits as well. While on the contrary, DIY or a hand wash is typically much more thorough. In addition, a once a year polish can give your vehicle a layer of protection and prevent corrosion from spreading.
It is also vital to keep the inside of your vehicle clean with a microfiber cloth. It can also remove any crumbs and dirt from floor mats.
Take note that using a protective spray on the dashboard plastics minimizes the possibility of discoloration or cracking, while placing a sunshade in the windshield on bright days helps too.
What can happen to a vehicle if it is not serviced regularly? – Maintaining a Used Car
A lot of people think that vehicle maintenance is all about occasional oil change and a full-tank refill capacity. However, routine vehicle maintenance is way more than that and it is really rewarding. On the other hand, if not done regularly, it can also pose some serious risks to you and your vehicle.
According to experts, everyone should know the risks of not regularly maintaining a vehicle, so that they can prevent avoidable problems from happening. This includes maintaining a used car (your car doesn't have to be new to require maintenance)
- Vehicle Damage
As mentioned above, not doing regular vehicle maintenance increases safety risks on the road. A sudden mechanical failure not only poses risk to the occupants but also to the vehicle itself.
For example, a tire blow-out could cause you to lose control of the vehicle and result in a collision, an unfortunate event that can damage your vehicle to a point that it is nothing more than scrap.
Consequently, even if the damage is repairable, it could cost you a lot and it will leave a permanent mark on your vehicle history.
- Maintains the value of the vehicle
It is pretty obvious that a vehicle in a bad condition will not have much value. This is really bad for you, especially if you are planning to resell the vehicle. No one would want to buy a vehicle with shorter life and high wear and tear. Even if there’s someone willing to buy it, the price will not be as high as the fair market value.
- Increased running Cost
If the vehicle is not regularly maintained, the vehicle is likely to have unidentified underlying issues which can result in sudden mechanical failure or breakdowns. The cost to fix the problem could be way higher than what you would rather pay on routine maintenance. Besides, such vehicles are not great at fuel economy—so you will end up paying more on gas.
Thus, it is always wise to spend small amounts regularly on maintenance than spending boatloads of cash in fixing avoidable issues.
How long can a car last with proper maintenance? – Maintaining a Used Car
According to Consumer Reports, the average life expectancy of a new vehicle nowadays is around 8 years or 150,00 miles. Of course, if properly maintained, some well-built vehicles can go 15 years and 300,000 miles.
Maintaining and keeping your vehicle in good condition is mostly achieved through routine maintenance. You can avoid serious vehicle problems by simply following the recommended actions given by your vehicle manufacturer. With the lists of actions we have provided, you are now ready to prolong the life of your vehicle.