Your car can be one of the most costly assets you own. Walking away from the mechanic with a bill over $200 seems to be the norm these days.
Lowering your mechanic bill and extending the value and life of your car isn’t difficult if you are a little proactive.
1. Lighten The Keychain
How many trinkets do you have on your keychain? Those decorative keychain accessories add unnecessary weight to your keys and can actually damage your vehicle’s ignition. Over time, the added weight will ruin the tumblers in the ignition and it can lead to ignition switch failure. Try to keep your keychain to one or two keys and you’re chances of needing a new starter will decrease greatly.
2. Wash And Wax
Your paint isn’t just for looks. It’s your car’s protection against the elements. Keeping your car clean does more than just look pretty; it actually makes the paint last longer and do its job better. A coat of wax also helps your car to withstand the sun, rain, snow, salt, and dirt much better. Try to wax your car with real wax (not the spray stuff) 1-2 times a year. This will keep it from rusting away and help you to get a premium price when you’re ready to sell it.
3. Cover Your Seats
Is your car full of messy children and car seats? Are French fries permanently lodged between your seats or embedded in your carpet? The best way to protect your interior is to lay a blanket under your car seats. This will keep the candy and crumbs from staining your seats.
4. Keep Tires Inflated Properly
You know it’s important to keep tires inflated properly, but how often should you check them? A good rule of thumb is to check every month, especially in the hot and cold seasons. Improperly inflated tires cause them to wear faster and will cost you over the life of your vehicle
Bonus Tip** If you need new tires for a car you might only drive for a year or two more, ask around for used tires and save upwards of 50%. This can save you a lot of money as you prepare to buy a newer car.
5. Clean Your Engine
Your engine can get filthy and removing that extra grime can help it to run cooler and keep the belts and hoses from cracking. Most auto supply stores sell engine degreaser that you can use in a car wash bay to wash away all the dirt that’s built up on your engine. If you’re consistent in cleaning your engine once a year, you’ll likely save money in the long run.
6. Stay Cool
Use a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze to keep your car running at its best. Don’t just use 100% water or 100% antifreeze. Your car needs a mix for best results and long-term performance. Checking the levels often in the summer (bi-weekly) and flushing the system every 60,000 miles is the best way to keep your car’s cooling system working properly.
Have you done any of these preventative tips for your car? Do you have any tips for remembering to keep up with these maintenance items?
Mike - Saving Money Today says
I never thought about the weight of a key chain damaging the ignition, but it makes sense. I don’t have anything on my car key at all, but I borrowed my sisters car once and there was so much stuff on it that it was resting on my leg. I don’t know how she drives like that.
i’ve owned several cars over the years…so has many family members and friends.
in 35 years of driving and swapping auto stories with said family, friends – and even strangers – i have yet to know or hear of an actual person ever having their ignition switch ruined by an abundance of keys.
Peter Anderson says
I was skeptical of that, but a quick search found lots of reports of people having this problem because of keyrings that were too heavy. The key is, however, that they had to be pretty heavy. Here’s an article with the Car Talk guys talking about this issue:
heavy keys damage ignition
Here’s some more suggestions:
Bearings that don’t move for awhile tend to have problems, so turn on the A/C once a month during the winter to get the A/C unit working.
Same thing for 4WD. During the summer months, I put it in 4WD once a month to engage the front wheel drive mechanisms.
Be faithful with oil changes and use synthetic oils to extend the life of your engine. Automatic transmissions fluid changed are often neglected, which causes excessive wear.
Khaleef Crumbley says
I probably have the heaviest key chain that you’ve ever seen on a man who is not a janitor – because I have an little emergency kit on it.
There are all good suggestions, and I really like them because they are so easy to implement!
Ronald R. Dodge, Jr. says
First item, I can see to some extent, but to say to take it down to 1 or 2 keys, I hardly think it would be necessary to take it down that far. I have had both of my vehicles for over 80k miles and not a single bit of problems. Even with prior vehicles, I never had such ignition problems. I have several keys on there that deals with both vehicles, different things for the house, 2 different work sites, and what not. As such, I do have more keys than most other people. However, I am not about to separate such keys as I’m the type that don’t want to be wasting time with having to go here for one set only to go there for another set.
While this would be important to do with older cars that still has sheet metals for their exterior walls, many current vehicles out there on the roads are made of either fiberglass or plastic, thus you don’t have that rust issue so much anymore. The main area where you will still have that rust issue are under the vehicle and anywhere near the wheels. Paint and Wax obviously aren’t going to protect those areas cause of the dirt, salt, and grime all being kicked up by the tires and what not. Yes, the frame of the vehicle is still made of steel, but that’s more or less protected by the plastic and such.
Item 3, maybe, but it’s more clutter and annoying at times than anything else. If it’s like anything else, it won’t get used properly by the kids, thus the seats will still get exposed.
Items 4 and 6, those are must do items regardless. If you don’t do those items along with proper oil changes at the proper times, then you are asking for major problems down the road. Now I haven’t had to check the levels often, but I still ckeck them no matter what when ever the oil is changed, which is only done by me. As for the tires, I do check them much more often as they are needed to be checked much more often.
Item 5, I don’t by into such things. It’s just like the various other claims used by places like the Valvoline Instant Oil changes as they claim putting in certain stuff will increase your mileage rates and charge you a higher amount for such items when they do your oil chances, but then the FTC has reported none of any such solvents really do what they claim they do. They don’t even help one bit, so such items are really a big waste of your money.
As such, the only items that you really have to do to help the vehicle last longer are items 4 and 6 along with other proper maintenance stuff as needed.
Item 1: I question
Items 2 & 3 aren’t needed as far as having the car last longer, but if you going to sell the vehicle, you would still want to do this.
Items 4 & 6 are needed among other things
Item 5, I won’t by into such gizmo solvent claims.
But then for me, I own vehicles until they won’t run anymore, which I did lose two vehicles due to their life having been essentially all used up at over 200,000 miles each, and I lost one vehicle due to it getting totaled in an accident that involved a total of 4 different semis, which my wife and kids were all very fortunate the one semi hit the back right corner of the mini van as it did else they could have all been killed or severely hurt in that wreck.
Thanks for the tips, Right now my car is in the shop because of oil in the engine, I wish I had known about engine degreaser :-) but now that I know it will save me money in the future.. Also thanks for the tips about keys, I have a ton of grocery, rewards, and other cards weighing down my key chain.
Where did you get these “tips”? 1955 Car & Driver?
Weighty key chain? Urban myth. Anti-freeze mix? If you’re not reading the directions, you’re a moron. You can buy a 50/50 mix and just pour it in. Wash and wax? When was the last time you saw a rusty car? My 13 year old van is just starting to show rust around the wheel well. I go to a car wash once or twice a year.
The car’s starter is almost always under the hood and separate from the ignition switch.