7 ways to get more life out of your car

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7 ways to get more life out of your car
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A car is usually the second biggest purchase in your life — after your home. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get the most life possible out of your car?

It turns out you can. By following the advice below, you can ride it until the wheels fall off!

Read more: Low gas prices + these hotel deals = cheap Memorial Day vacation!

Try these 7 ways to extend the life of your car

Get free or discounted auto repairs done by the manufacturer

Vehicle recalls get a lot of publicity in the news, but too often people just ignore them in their daily lives. It’s estimated only one out of three people will comply once notified of a recall.

But in the world of car maintenance, not everything is a full-blown recall. Many times when there’s no official recall, there still might be a TSB (technical service bulletin) from the manufacturer.

Thousands of TSBs are issued each year, as automakers become aware of systemic problems reported by mechanics and consumers. You can preview both full-blown recalls and TSBs for your vehicle by make, model and year by visiting the Center for Auto Safety website at AutoSafety.org and also at ALLDATAdiy.com.

Another good resource to know about for TSBs is SaferCar.gov. In addition, Consumer Reports also has a write-up about so-called ‘secret or hidden warranties.’

By knowing if there’s an active TSB, you can take it to the dealership and show it to them. With known issues like TSBs, very often you can get free or discounted repairs, even if you’re out of the manufacturer’s original warranty period.

Avoid extreme driving conditions if you can

Severe driving conditions can take a toll on just about every part of your car — both inside and out.

What exactly are severe conditions? AAA defines them as the following:

  • Drive on short trips of less than five miles in normal temperatures or less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures.
  • Drive in hot weather stop-and-go traffic.
  • Drive at low speeds of less than 50 miles per hour for long distances.
  • Drive on roads that are dusty, muddy or have salt, sand or gravel spread on the surface.
  • Tow a trailer, carrying a camper (if a pickup truck) or transport items on a roof rack or in a car-top carrier.
  • Making ‘jack rabbit’ stops and starts — the kind people tend to do when racing from traffic light to traffic light.

Don’t let your gas get below a quarter tank

Did you know that running on nearly empty can actually damage your car?

‘The gasoline acts like a coolant for the electric fuel-pump motor, so when you run very low, this allows the pump to suck in air, which creates heat and can cause the fuel pump to wear prematurely and potentially fail,’ Consumer Reports writes.

In addition, if you have dirt in your fuel tank then running close to empty could result in a blocked fuel filter.

Don’t top off your gas tank

If you’re in the habit of topping off your gas tank when you fill up at the pump, you’ll probably want to stop.

‘By topping your fuel tank off, it can either overwhelm your evaporative system and break something or cause a hazardous leak by the excess pressure in the system,’ accoring to Ed Nemphos, owner of Brentwood Automotive in Baltimore.

When you top off the tank, you’re causing pressure to build up. That gas can flood the carbon filter vapor collection system, which is meant solely for vapor. The overflow can in turn harm your car’s performance and maybe even damage the engine.

Look for cheap replacement parts at salvage yards

If something breaks on your car and the estimate you get from the body shop or mechanic is too large, what about doing the work yourself? This works particularly well if the fix is a minor one. Because nobody really wants to be charged $100 to change a light bulb or a car horn!

Here’s a real-life story about how this worked out for one of Clark’s listeners. ‘Back when I lived in Atlanta traffic, I listened to Clark everyday. I drove a Honda and the horn button was broken,’ Kati W. told Team Clark.

‘I originally contacted the dealer and they estimated the repairs to be around $170 and said the airbag would need to be re-packed. Based on Clark’s advice to another listener, I went to a Honda only salvage yard in an Atlanta suburb. They found the part I needed, charged me a dollar and it took me about 30 seconds to attach it!!! I honked my horn all the way home in tribute to Clark!’

Make sure you’re on top of oil changes

A recent Consumer Reports study put the brakes on the myth of the 3,000-mile oil change. Most owner’s manuals for newer vehicles will tell you it’s acceptable to go 5,000 miles between oil changes under normal conditions.

Between 5,000 and 7,500 mile intervals have become something of the new norm for oil changes. In fact, the magazine did not find any noticeable difference in engine protection whether you changed the oil every 3,000 or 7,500 miles.

But just because you don’t have to change your oil as often as you grew up thinking you did, don’t fall into the trap of going too long between oil changes. Experts say a $20 oil change is the best preventative maintenance you can do.

Hide your owner’s manual!

Part of keeping your car on the road for as long as possible means avoiding having it stolen by car thieves, right?

Well, here’s something you may have overlooked. Police say that hiding your owner’s manual out of plain sight is one of the best things you can do to deter would-be thieves.

‘The owner’s manual has a special PIN number, sometimes your registration and VIN, and [thieves] will try to contact [the] manufacturer to get [the] keys replaced,’ according to Terry Hughes, police chief in Indian Shores, Fla. ‘And most times, the owner’s manual still has a valet key in there, and [car owners] don’t know it’s in there.’

So hide those manuals!

Read more: 10 cars you’ll most regret buying

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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