74 Tips To Extend the Life of Your Car

The ultimate auto care guide.

from Long Life For Your Stuff

Car Exterior
22. Protect car paint from the sun

Paint does more than make your vehicle look great. It’s also the first line of defense against rusted body panels. Of course, the best way to protect the paint is to park the car in a garage. If that is not possible, park in the shade or purchase a car cover. The sun’s ultraviolet rays break down paint and cause it to fade. Some car covers protect your car from more than sun, moisture, bird droppings, and dust — they also have a thin layer of cushioning that will guard against light impact, such as from a tipped bicycle or small falling tree branch.

23. Touch up nicks sooner rather than later

Touch-up paint won’t adhere well to rust. So be sure to keep some matching touch-up paint on hand so you can touch up any minor nicks, often found around door edges, before rust has a chance to form.

24. Tape saves light covers

A cracked taillight or turn-signal cover, if left alone, may allow your light compartment to fill with water and cause some real damage. A good short-term fix is to tape over the crack. Use the red or orange tape that’s made for this purpose.You can purchase it at many automotive parts stores.

25. Avoid light fixture problems

When changing a bad bulb, clean dirty or corroded sockets with fine steel wool or a small wire brush.Wipe the socket clean of debris before installing the new light bulb.

26. Fix small windshield chips

Got a rock chip, crack, or ding in your windshield? Bring your car to a windshield repair shop. For far less cost than replacing the windshield, they can fix chips and cracks, even quite long ones. The repairs not only keep the chips and cracks from spreading and restore structural integrity, they also improve clarity.

27. Fill with washer fluid only

Don’t add water to the windshield washer reservoir. It won’t clean as well as washer fluid, and it may freeze in cold weather and damage the system. Don’t try to run your windshield washer system once you suspect there’s no more fluid in the tank, or you may damage the washer fluid pump.

28. Fix the washer fluid tank

Cracked washer-deicer fluid tanks are fairly common once a car is of a certain age. A good remedy — until you can buy a new tank or find one at the junkyard — is to insert a plastic freezer bag into the tank and fill it with the washer fluid.

29. Don’t try to carry too much

Never exceed your car’s roof load specifications or weight limits.You can find them in your vehicle owner’s manual. Check the weight limitation of your roof rack as well. Typically the range is from 150 to 200 pounds (68 to 90 kg). That’s the equivalent of eighteen 8-foot 2 x 4s (2.4-meter 38 x 89s) or three sheets of 3/4-inch (17-mm) plywood. If you have to deliver a heavy load from the home or garden center, consider having it delivered. It will save wear and tear on you as well as your car.

30. Keep an old blanket handy

Protect your car’s roof from scratches with an old blanket before tying lumber, bicycles, or luggage to your roof rack.

31. Secure loads to avoid dents and scratches

The beginning of the end for the finish on many cars and trucks — and for wagon and hatchback interiors for that matter — is an improperly stowed load. Invest in the appropriate racks for bicycles, cargo, and luggage. A good trick to keep tall objects from sliding around in a pick-up truck bed is to use a shower curtain rod (or two) as a brace. Just push the cargo against the front wall of the truck bed and install the rod behind it. Twist to secure. Cargo nets will also help keep objects from banging around and damaging a truck bed.

32. Inspect wheel-well splashguards

These guards, however flimsy on many of today’s cars, help keep water and winter’s salty slush from splashing up into the engine compartment, where it can damage sensitive electrical components. Unfortunately, these guards tear off easily — sometimes without the driver knowing it. Check for damage to these guards when you wash your car. Re-secure with the appropriate fasteners or replace as needed. As added protection from splashed-up muck, slush, and debris, install mud flaps (also called splash guards) on your vehicle.

33. Wash in winter, too

If you rarely wash your car during messy winter weather, you are not alone.The cars you see on the road make it obvious that lots of folks figure,”Why bother? The car is going to look awful the next time I drive it.” The problem with this thinking is that washing is more important in the winter than other times of the year. All that sand, slush, and ice mixed with road salt is exactly what makes your car rust.The fastest corrosion occurs when the temperature repeatedly rises above and then falls below freezing. Especially during the messy months, be sure to rinse the undercarriage and hard-to-reach areas that are susceptible to rust, such as the bumpers and inside the wheel wells. If the temperature outside is going to stay above freezing long enough for your car and driveway to dry, fill a bucket with warm water and tackle the job at home. If not, pay a visit to your local car wash and be sure they dry the car thoroughly.

34. Wax to protect your car’s paint job

No way around it! Waxing your car is work. But it’s satisfying work that will help keep your car looking new. Car wax preserves paint by slowing oxidation and forming a barrier against bird droppings, sap, and pollution. Plus driving a nice shiny car is just plain fun.

Here’s what to do to ensure the maximum in protection:

  • Liquid and spray waxes are tempting to use — they make the car shiny with less work than rubbing in paste wax. But there’s still no beating paste wax for the hardest, longest-lasting finish. Look for paste with a high carnauba wax content.
  • Apply a thin, even coat of wax to the car’s surfaces with a damp sponge. Avoid applying too much, or it will be difficult to remove and some residue will inevitably mar your finish.
  • To avoid fine scratches, use a clean, soft cotton or microfiber cloth to remove wax once it has dried.
  • Apply an extra coat of wax to the nose and hood. The wax film in these areas wears away quickly.

35. Give your car a new skin

New self-adhering urethane films have been developed to protect the most vulnerable painted areas on your car from stone chips and other minor abrasions.You can wash and wax these surfaces, just as you would the rest of the paint job. While it’s best to have these films professionally installed, you can peel them off yourself. One product is made by 3M, and you can learn more by going to 3m.com and searching for Scotchgard Paint Protection Film Solutions.

36. Don’t let tools mar your car’s finish

If you plan to service and make repairs to your car, invest in a fender cover. It drapes over your fender, providing a safe place to rest your tools without causing scratches. It will also prevent your belt buckle from marring your paint as you lean into the engine compartment to work.