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Blog category: Driving

10 Tips to Extend Your Vehicle’s Life

6 min read

Throwaway culture has become one of the defining characteristics of our modern world. With many household goods costing more to fix — if you can even find a repair shop — than to replace, it’s easy to see why. While it may make sense to toss a broken juicer or hairdryer and shell out for a new one, you want to prolong the life of bigger investments like your car for as long as possible. With vehicle repair costs skyrocketing, taking good care of your ride pays off in multiple ways. By investing time and effort, you’ll enjoy a safer, more reliable ride, increase your car’s resale value, and improve efficiency, which is good for the planet as well as your wallet.

It’s a no-brainer, right? So let’s explore simple ways to extend the life of your vehicle.

1. Regular Maintenance

It should come as no surprise that this one’s top of the list. Keeping on top of the tasks that keep your vehicle running well is key to your car’s longevity. (Also, performing regular car maintenance is part of your insurance contract and a condition of coverage.) Each automotive manufacturer provides car owners with recommended maintenance schedules, which you’ll find in the owner’s manual. This schedule will detail what maintenance services are recommended at certain milestones. Most drivers know that they’re supposed to get the oil changed every few thousand miles, but other systems need regular attention too. For instance, the air filter in your engine catches debris from the air and after 15,000 to 30,000 miles will get blocked and need replacing.

2. Tires

This is a big one as well. Proper tire care is crucial for maintaining the performance, safety, and longevity of your vehicle. Rotating your tires at regular intervals, typically every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, distributes the wear evenly so that the entire set wears out at the same time, extending the overall lifespan. Properly inflated and well-maintained tires contribute to better vehicle stability and handling, which aids safe driving, especially during adverse weather conditions. Under-inflated tires can decrease fuel efficiency so maintaining proper tire inflation levels can also help optimize fuel efficiency.

3. Safe Driving

Your habits behind the wheel can have a huge impact on your car’s lifespan… not to mention your own. Even if you consider yourself a good, careful driver, you may have picked up some less-than-great driving habits, especially if you’ve been licensed for a while.

  • Do you tend to speed up and then have to slam on the brakes when you come to a traffic light?
  • Do you let your engine idle while you’re waiting for someone?
  • Do you accelerate over potholes, speed bumps, or rumble strips?
  • Do you often forget to release the parking brake before driving?
  • Do you often shift into drive while the car is still moving backwards?

If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, consider the damage these two actions can do over time. Try to accelerate gently and keep your speed to a limit that will let you brake gradually when you need to come to a stop. By avoiding aggressive driving habits, you can prolong the life of both your engine and brakes.

4. Transmission

Keeping your transmission system healthy will keep your car healthy. Transmission fluid is the lifeblood of the system as it lubricates the gears, minimizes friction, and helps prevent overheating. As with other fluids in your car, it gets less effective over time so it needs to be checked and replaced regularly to minimize wear and tear. When you check the levels, also look at the color. Healthy fluid looks translucent and reddish, while a dark or burnt shade signals that it’s probably ready for a change. If you’re not sure, your owner’s manual will tell you how often you should be changing the transmission fluid.

5. Climate Control

As with the other systems that keep your car running, neglect can end up costing you in multiple ways. If you forget to replace the air filters, you could end up with nasty odors, decreased efficiency, and potential malfunctions that can be expensive to fix. Taking good care of your climate control contributes to the overall driving experience, not to mention your and your passengers’ comfort and safety. Who wants to have to roll down the windows on a 100-degree day because your AC’s on the blink or risk freezing in winter because of a broken heater?

6. Battery

Whether your vehicle is gas-powered, hybrid, or electric, maintaining battery health is crucial for a reliable and efficient driving experience. Put simply: if your battery doesn’t work, your car will not start. The hardworking battery powers the myriad electrical components in today’s vehicles. For conventional autos, try to limit short frequent trips as the battery may not have enough time to completely recharge. While hybrid and electric vehicles are less affected by short trips due to regenerative braking recharging the battery, optimizing your routes and charging schedules can still help your battery last longer.

7. Fuel System

If you drive a hybrid or a gas-powered model, rising prices at the pump make it more important than ever to maintain your car’s fuel delivery method. Like the transmission fluid, your vehicle depends on a healthy fuel system to keep it operating optimally. Follow your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations for fuel filter replacement timing, and always use the manufacturer-recommended octane. (Tip: using a higher grade than necessary can be as bad as using too low a grade.) If you drive in a cold climate, winter-grade fuel will help the engine and transmission reach optimal operating temps faster. Fuel additives like octane boosters and fuel system cleaners can help maintain optimal engine performance.

8. Exterior and Interior Protection

Regular washing and waxing help remove dirt and salt that can cause rust and paint damage. Park in the shade whenever possible to avoid damaging UV rays, and if you’re going to leave your car outside for an extended period, protect it with a car cover. For the interior, a sunshade will protect your dashboard, steering wheel, and surfaces from sun damage. Vacuum and clean the inside of your vehicle regularly to remove dirt and debris and use seat covers and floor mats to shield these areas from spills and general wear and tear.

9. Proper Storage

If you need to store your vehicle for a period, choose a clean, dry, well-ventilated location. But before you throw a cover on… some maintenance is needed. Clean the car thoroughly to prevent rodents and critters from moving in. Then change the oil and filter and top up all the fluids. Consider placing the car on jack stands to take the pressure off the tires and if possible, remove the battery and store it in a cool dry place. Depending on the degree of security at the storage space, consider adding an extra theft deterrent like a steering wheel lock.

10. Warning Signs

As the old chestnut goes, “Forewarned is forearmed.” Familiarize yourself with the meaning of the dashboard lights so you don’t get caught short. Pay attention to unusual noises such as grinding, squealing, or knocking as these can signal problems with the brakes, suspension, or engine components. Any vibrations or shaking could be a sign of issues with the tires, wheels, or suspension. If you experience problems starting your vehicle or if it keeps stalling, it could mean your electrical system is malfunctioning.

Your first line of defense when it comes to extending the life of your vehicle is to consult the owner’s manual and follow the recommendations and timing for maintenance tasks therein. And it pays to have a reliable, trustworthy mechanic in your contacts. Whenever you notice anything untoward when you’re behind the wheel, it’s best to take your car straight to a professional to get it checked out. If you follow these recommendations, you and your beloved car can ride off into the sunset for many years to come.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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