Tips For Extending Your Cars Life

              Follow Your Service Schedule: Obviously this one's a no-brainer, but there are still too many car owners out there who pay little or no attention to their vehicle maintenance schedule as laid out by the manufacturer. This is particularly inexcusable in late model cars that do everything but drive themselves to the repair shop at the appropriate time. Between the service indicator lights located in the gauge cluster of many new cars to the lengthy intervals between required service (up to 100,000 miles in some models), there's no reason for skimping on proper maintenance.

             Check Fluids and Tire Pressure Regularly: Every car owner (myself included) has been guilty of going too long between vital fluid and tire pressure checks. Here's a task that takes maybe 10 minutes. With a rag in hand and the engine cool you open the hood and pull the oil dipstick. Wipe it clean, re-insert it, and pull it out again for a quick check of the most important engine fluid. Check the radiator overflow reservoir level and the brake cylinder reservoir. Check the power steering fluid level and, while you're at it, check the hoses and belts for any signs of wear or imminent failure. Go ahead and give the air cleaner a look, too. Start the car and after it warms up, check the transmission fluid level. Finally, with the tires cool, use a pressure gauge to make sure each tire has the proper psi according to the owner's manual and/or tire manufacturer. Ideally, this procedure should be done once a week but in the real world once a month would be acceptable (except for tire pressure which really should be checked at least bi-weekly).

             Go Easy During Startup: We've all heard the Slick 50 commercials, "Because starting your car is a terrible thing to do." It's actually not that terrible if you follow a few guidelines. First, a cold engine (one that's sat for more than five hours) will have little or no oil left on the moving parts because it has all seeped down into the oil pan. It takes only a few seconds after start-up for the oil pump to adequately lubricate an engine. During those few seconds, however, is when you should keep engine RPMs down to a minimum. How often have you heard (or even been?!) the person who starts his or her car up and immediately floors it? "Helps warm it up," is often the reason given for such behavior. "Helps blow it up," should be your response. Give the engine at least 30 seconds (longer if it has sat for more than 24 hours) before popping it in gear and roaring off.

           Use A Single, High Grade Fuel: It's tough to justify an extra 20 cents-per-gallon just to get that high octane rating and, if you drive a Cavalier or Neon, it's probably not worth it. Alternatively, if you're tooling around in a 911 Turbo or Viper GTS, using the highest quality fuel available is another small investment that will give big returns on both performance and long-term engine life. Late model, high compression engines have knock sensors and other high-tech devices to theoretically keep them from hurting themselves on today's low-grade gasoline. Do they always work? Probably, but if you own a car like this do you really want to find out the hard way? Also, whether you drive a Viper or Neon, sticking to the same brand of gasoline can reduce the chance of deposits building up within your fuel system.

              Drive Smart: No, I'm not talking D.U.I. (although driving drunk is quite stupid), I'm talking smart from a vehicle longevity standpoint. Look, if you've got a new Camaro               Z28 or Mustang Cobra I know you aren't going to ease it away from stoplights and upshift at 3,000 rpm every time you take a spin. Just try not to dump the clutch at seven grand and bounce it off the rev-limiter every time you're out on the town. The same goes for braking and shifting. The occasional speed-shift and panic stop isn't going to hurt anything but a constant "Ricky Roadracer" attitude will take away from potential drive time while greatly adding to vehicle down time. Relax, make a regular check of the gauges (that's what they're there for) and save the enthusiastic stuff for a sanctioned race event or, at the very least, that occasional deserted road. Your car will thank you for it.

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