10 Ways to Boost Your Car’s Longevity

Here is some collective wisdom outlining the best ways to keep your vehicle running long after today’s ridiculous 84- and 96-month car loans have been paid off.

You wouldn’t sell your home just because the rain gutters are clogged with leaves or the kitchen faucet drips. So why would you trade in your car after just three or four years of relatively trouble-free ownership? Today’s automobiles are so well made – many of them, anyway – that they’re intended to travel at least 300,000 kilometres before they meet their fate in the scrapyard crusher.

Racking up that kind of distance requires a little regular maintenance, along with some spit and polish – no kidding, a clean car will last longer – as well as a bit of research. Here is some collective wisdom outlining the best ways to keep your vehicle running long after today’s ridiculous 84- and 96-month car loans have been paid off. Even if you’re apt to trade it in early, you’ll garner more value if your vehicle has been fussed over. And you can take that to the bank.

Read the owner’s manual

Retired teacher Irv Gordon – whose world-record-holding 1966 Volvo 1800S has traveled more than 5 million kilometres to date – once told us that if the U.S. government wanted to keep all of its secrets airtight it would print them in an owner’s manual, because nobody ever opens it. But you should to familiarize yourself with your car’s maintenance schedule, which was written by the engineers that designed your vehicle. Ignoring routine service is the number-one reason for big repair bills. You might also uncover some features of your automobile that you didn’t know about – an unexpected reward for cracking open that mysterious tome in the glove box.

Flush your engine coolant regularly

An overheated engine is one of the most common reasons why you’ll see vehicles abandoned on the side of the highway. It can be a catastrophic event, destroying gaskets and stressing engine components beyond repair. Heat is the dreaded enemy of any engine, and coolant plays a vital role in maintaining longevity. Smart owners flush out their cooling system and replace the coolant every three to four years, even the long-life stuff. Change any suspect hoses while the system is empty. In addition to regulating heat, fresh coolant replenishes lubricants and rust inhibitors in the system. Many engines today are at least partially made of aluminum, a metal that corrodes more than you think.

Avoid running your vehicle on empty

Keeping a tiny reserve of fuel in your tank increases the odds of moisture, dirt and rust entering your fuel system. Condensation can form inside a mostly empty tank in cold, damp weather, which will introduce water into the fuel system and, eventually, rust. Not letting the fuel level fall below one-quarter full goes a long way in keeping your system clean and healthy. And get in the habit of buying your gas at busy, high-volume gas stations where the fuel hasn’t had time to accumulate water and other contaminants.

Change your battery before it gives up the ghost

It’s no secret today’s automotive batteries aren’t as robust as they used to be. Automobile manufacturers are squeezing every penny out of their suppliers, so batteries are getting cheaper with less lead content. It doesn’t help that engineers want lighter components to boost fuel economy, so batteries are getting smaller. Motorists have noticed batteries sometimes die soon after the factory warranty expires. Prevent starting problems by replacing your battery before its fourth or certainly its fifth winter. Gamble with your battery life and you may end up stranded in a parking lot late one winter night with no one to blame but yourself.

Motor oil gives your engine life

It’s the lifeblood of your expensive engine, so change your oil at the recommended interval specified in your manual, along with the filter every time. The 5,000-km change interval everybody recommends, by the way, is a relic. Today’s motor oils are chock full of additives to make the slippery stuff last longer. Stick to your manual’s service schedule. Many new models today specify synthetic oil, something you can introduce in your older car to gain some longevity down the road, better cold-weather starting and slightly improved fuel economy. Resist the recommendation to get an engine oil flush; some technicians warn against it, since you may not be able to get every drop of the caustic cleaner out of the engine.

Change your transmission fluid

It’s wise to change the automatic transmission fluid after just the first 10,000 kilometres to remove any metallic debris left over from the manufacturing process. After the initial change, the fluid and filter should be replaced every 50,000 km. For a manual gearbox, change the lubricant after the first 10,000 km and again after every 80,000 km. Monitor the fluid condition using the dipstick, if there is one. Foaming fluid may indicate an overfilled case, while a burnt smell indicates high operating temperatures that will shorten the life of the autobox. Changing the fluid regularly and adding a small transmission oil cooler will help protect a very expensive part of your vehicle.

Flush your brake system

It’s important to remove moisture contamination in your braking system. Brake fluid is glycol-based and absorbs water by nature. This occurs whether a vehicle is driven a lot or just sits in the garage. Moisture enters the system past seals and through microscopic pores in hoses. It also enters every time the fluid reservoir is opened, so don’t do it unnecessarily. As the fluid soaks up moisture, it thickens and becomes less able to withstand heat and corrosion. The result is a significant drop in the brake fluid’s boiling temperature, which could overheat in the calipers and compromise braking performance – and your safety. Experts recommend changing the brake fluid every two to three years to minimize fluid boil and internal corrosion.

Keep the love of your life clean

Take care of your car’s paint finish by regularly washing and waxing it, especially during the harsh winter months. Wipe off acidic bird poop the moment you see it. And try to park in the shade; the sun’s ultraviolet rays will break down the paint, causing it to fade. Inside the cabin, wick spills out of the upholstery immediately because they’re more difficult to remove later – and may develop a stink. Consider having your car detailed annually, including steam-cleaning the carpet, shampooing the upholstery, buffing out scratches and removing small dents. Detailing may very well rekindle your love affair with your ride, and the enduring shine will pay off come trade-in time.

Keep a tire-pressure gauge handy

One tire manufacturer estimated that one-third of all tires on the road need some air. Under-inflated tires wear out quicker and have a tendency to blow out easier. Just ask Firestone, the maker of the ill-fated Wilderness AT tire linked to so many Ford Explorer rollovers back in 1999-2001. Buy a $10 tire-pressure gauge and check your tires at least monthly, even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system in your vehicle. Look for corroded aluminum wheels and other sources of tire leaks. A nitrogen gas fill is resistant to temperature fluctuations, but that’s $40 lost in thin air if your rims leak. To help your tires wear evenly and last longer, rotate them every 10-15,000 kilometres.

Online forums dispense advice about your car

As a limitless depository of our collective knowledge, the Internet is changing everything. It’s easy to find like-minded people sharing ideas and advice on any topic, especially cars and trucks. Seek out online forums about your own vehicle – no matter how obscure the model – and you’re sure to be greeted by an enthusiastic community of owners. You can learn about potential problems inherent in your car and how to prevent them or fix them correctly, based on the experiences of other owners. If you’re in it for the long haul with your present car or truck, know that you’re not alone on your journey.

Paint Meters Uncover Used Cars’ Worst Secrets

Avoid running your vehicle on empty

Keeping a tiny reserve of fuel in your tank increases the odds of moisture, dirt and rust entering your fuel system. Condensation can form inside a mostly empty tank in cold, damp weather, which will introduce water into the fuel system and, eventually, rust. Not letting the fuel level fall below one-quarter full goes a long way in keeping your system clean and healthy. And get in the habit of buying your gas at busy, high-volume gas stations where the fuel hasn’t had time to accumulate water and other contaminants.

Change your battery before it gives up the ghost

It’s no secret today’s automotive batteries aren’t as robust as they used to be. Automobile manufacturers are squeezing every penny out of their suppliers, so batteries are getting cheaper with less lead content. It doesn’t help that engineers want lighter components to boost fuel economy, so batteries are getting smaller. Motorists have noticed batteries sometimes die soon after the factory warranty expires. Prevent starting problems by replacing your battery before its fourth or certainly its fifth winter. Gamble with your battery life and you may end up stranded in a parking lot late one winter night with no one to blame but yourself.

Motor oil gives your engine life

It’s the lifeblood of your expensive engine, so change your oil at the recommended interval specified in your manual, along with the filter every time. The 5,000-km change interval everybody recommends, by the way, is a relic. Today’s motor oils are chock full of additives to make the slippery stuff last longer. Stick to your manual’s service schedule. Many new models today specify synthetic oil, something you can introduce in your older car to gain some longevity down the road, better cold-weather starting and slightly improved fuel economy. Resist the recommendation to get an engine oil flush; some technicians warn against it, since you may not be able to get every drop of the caustic cleaner out of the engine.

Change your transmission fluid

It’s wise to change the automatic transmission fluid after just the first 10,000 kilometres to remove any metallic debris left over from the manufacturing process. After the initial change, the fluid and filter should be replaced every 50,000 km. For a manual gearbox, change the lubricant after the first 10,000 km and again after every 80,000 km. Monitor the fluid condition using the dipstick, if there is one. Foaming fluid may indicate an overfilled case, while a burnt smell indicates high operating temperatures that will shorten the life of the autobox. Changing the fluid regularly and adding a small transmission oil cooler will help protect a very expensive part of your vehicle.

Flush your brake system

It’s important to remove moisture contamination in your braking system. Brake fluid is glycol-based and absorbs water by nature. This occurs whether a vehicle is driven a lot or just sits in the garage. Moisture enters the system past seals and through microscopic pores in hoses. It also enters every time the fluid reservoir is opened, so don’t do it unnecessarily. As the fluid soaks up moisture, it thickens and becomes less able to withstand heat and corrosion. The result is a significant drop in the brake fluid’s boiling temperature, which could overheat in the calipers and compromise braking performance – and your safety. Experts recommend changing the brake fluid every two to three years to minimize fluid boil and internal corrosion.

Keep the love of your life clean

Take care of your car’s paint finish by regularly washing and waxing it, especially during the harsh winter months. Wipe off acidic bird poop the moment you see it. And try to park in the shade; the sun’s ultraviolet rays will break down the paint, causing it to fade. Inside the cabin, wick spills out of the upholstery immediately because they’re more difficult to remove later – and may develop a stink. Consider having your car detailed annually, including steam-cleaning the carpet, shampooing the upholstery, buffing out scratches and removing small dents. Detailing may very well rekindle your love affair with your ride, and the enduring shine will pay off come trade-in time.

Keep a tire-pressure gauge handy

One tire manufacturer estimated that one-third of all tires on the road need some air. Under-inflated tires wear out quicker and have a tendency to blow out easier. Just ask Firestone, the maker of the ill-fated Wilderness AT tire linked to so many Ford Explorer rollovers back in 1999-2001. Buy a $10 tire-pressure gauge and check your tires at least monthly, even if you have a tire pressure monitoring system in your vehicle. Look for corroded aluminum wheels and other sources of tire leaks. A nitrogen gas fill is resistant to temperature fluctuations, but that’s $40 lost in thin air if your rims leak. To help your tires wear evenly and last longer, rotate them every 10-15,000 kilometres.

Online forums dispense advice about your car

As a limitless depository of our collective knowledge, the Internet is changing everything. It’s easy to find like-minded people sharing ideas and advice on any topic, especially cars and trucks. Seek out online forums about your own vehicle – no matter how obscure the model – and you’re sure to be greeted by an enthusiastic community of owners. You can learn about potential problems inherent in your car and how to prevent them or fix them correctly, based on the experiences of other owners. If you’re in it for the long haul with your present car or truck, know that you’re not alone on your journey.

Paint Meters Uncover Used Cars’ Worst Secrets


  • FILED UNDER
  • maintenance
  • owner’s manual
  • engine coolant
  • oil change
  • high mileage
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