Back To Basics

By Chelle Cordero

March 1, 2018 4 min read

A new car is a major investment, and the last thing you want to do is to let it go to waste by not taking care of your new wheels. There are some simple things you can do to help extend the life of your car and get your money's worth.

A regular maintenance schedule is recommended by authorized mechanics. Jiffy Lube employees remind that it's important to keep an eye on the dashboard gauges and sensors for pertinent warnings and reminders.

Changing the oil regularly is key. It's not a pretty job, but if you can jack up one end of the car and drain the oil before replacing it with fresh lubricant, you will do a lot for your car to keep it running smoothly. The 2 Car Pros website offers a quick and easy tutorial on how to safely jack up your car. Dirty oil can clog up the system and contaminants will stop up the filter. AAA's website -- along with just about every other car maintenance site -- advises that a car's oil should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles; if you are using synthetic oil, you can easily go to 5,000 miles. It is also recommended that you change the oil after the very first 200 miles you drive it so that you are basically ensuring a clean beginning.

Manufacturers advise to plan to change the engine's air filter at least every other time you change your oil. A slightly dirty air filter won't compromise your automotive system, but a clogged filter will send particulates back into the system and can eventually cause oil starvation and a decrease in gas efficiency and acceleration power. Yourmechanic.com suggests that if your car has regular oil and you want to switch to synthetic, use a blend of regular and synthetic for at least two oil changes before going completely synthetic to ensure a smooth transition.

Buying premium, mid-grade or regular gas refers to the octane level and the price. The octane level refers to how high the air/fuel mix is before the spark plug ignites it, causing a knocking sound. Some experts say not to waste money on high octane unless your car is knocking after using a lower grade; octane level has nothing to do with fuel efficiency so long as the spark plug and ignition timing is in sync.

Check your tire pressure regularly with a simple tire pressure gauge to keep it within two to four psi of manufacturer guidelines (tires tend to lose psi slowly from temperature fluctuation and road use). Keeping the tires properly and evenly inflated not only improves gas mileage, but it is safer as the tire traction is maximized and there are less instances of blowouts. If you do get a flat tire, use a spare (usually called a donut) only long enough to get a new tire or your old tire repaired. Many service stations have free or low-cost air compressors for customer use in filling tires.

Don't forget the little things! Flush and change radiator fluid approximately once a year using a 50/50 distilled water and coolant mix. Check on the transmission fluid regularly and use the manufacturer's recommended type and levels. When you hose road salt and mud from your car, spray the underside to reduce corrosion. Check your windshield wipers for cracks and streaks and change the blades with the recommended size whenever necessary. Keep the battery terminals clean and tightly connected, and make sure to run the car at least every few days to allow the alternator to recharge the battery, and disconnect the negative terminal if you know the car won't be driven for three to four weeks.

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