For anyone who is not mechanically-inclined, doing basic “maintenance” on your car can sound intimidating. But you don’t necessarily need to be (or know!) a mechanic to keep up with your car. Fortunately, there are many simple things that anyone can do to keep a car running and looking nice.
If possible, it helps to start with an affordable, reliable and fuel-efficient car. A decent car may be a bit more expensive, but it’s a good investment and will make your ongoing maintenance just that much easier!
But no matter what age, model or shape your car is in, here are some fairly basic and simple things you can do to keep your car looking good and working well.
Most importantly, drive carefully! All the time. Drive safely (and defensively) to avoid costly accidents and tickets.
Follow the speed limit. Highways typically have the speed limit of 55 or 65 mph. Fortunately, 55 mph is actually the optimum speed for fuel efficiency, so no need to speed!
Brake and accelerate gently, since sudden starts and stops create wear and tear on your car, especially your brakes and tires. They are expensive to replace, not to mention priceless in an emergency!
Insure your vehicle. It’s risky and illegal to drive without insurance in all 50 states. But feel free to shop around to find the cheapest deal, or the best bundle, for you.
Keep your tires properly inflated, especially in extreme weather (very hot or cold!) Double-check the PSI (pounds per square inch) required for your tires, and remember that the front and back tires may have different requirements.
Keep your car tuned up with regular maintenance and oil changes. Preventative maintenance on your car is better/easier/cheaper than fixing problems later. You can always take it to the dealership or a quick-lube place (like Valvoline or Lube Stop) and have them change the oil and look it over for you. (They will often provide coupons for their services – check online). However, always do your research before you agree to let them do any work on your car.
Take a moment to read through your owner’s manual. Familiarize yourself with the car, especially all the lights and noises and such on your dashboard. Thus, if an unfamiliar warning comes on, you will know right away what the issue is.
As for gasoline, its fine to use the lowest octane required for your car (in fact, using a higher octane provides no benefit). But before you fill up, find the cheapest gas by looking up your town on an app like GasBuddy. Of course, make sure to fill up at a local station, since you don’t want to burn through all your gas driving to get cheap gas.
Wash your car periodically. Road dust, salt, squashed bugs and bird poop can damage the paint and finish on your car, which may eventually fade the color and lead to rust.
Clean out your car regularly. Throw away garbage (like fast food bags), and search for library books and other valuables under the seats! Vacuum the rugs and seats, and the little nooks and crannies around your console, to get rid of dust and other allergens. Not only does the regular cleaning out keep it looking and smelling nice for you, your passengers, and for future resale value, but it also removes extra weight from the car that causes drag and wastes gas. (Exceptions include a spare tire, car care kits, and first aid kits.)
Some other nice ideas include using car interior cleaners, such as Armor All on your leather (seats, steering wheel, console, etc.); Windex and RainX on the windows; shine for your tires; and a coat of wax for shine and protection.
You may consider joining a Roadside Assistance plan (like AAA, or other plans often provided by your insurance company) for even more peace of mind, should your car break down or battery die or other emergency.
If you would like to learn more about caring for your car, there are lots of things you can do. You can sign up for some basic maintenance classes, (or even more extensive classes at local learning centers like MCCTC). You can find lots of information online, and on YouTube videos, that can walk you step-by-step through simple repairs. You will learn how to do simple repairs on your car, change a tire, or whatnot.
And of course, visit the Automotive & DIY page on the Youngstown Library’s website for lots of valuable car information. We have lots of do-it-yourself manuals for car maintenance which includes illustrations, graphics, diagnostic and repair information for most cars. This includes the Chilton Library and SAMS PhotoFact Online, both provided through the Ohio Web Library, and the Small Engine Repair Reference Center.
I hope that you have learned some new things to try, some simple steps to keeping your car maintained, and are looking forward to many years of safe and happy travels!