We all know it’s important to perform regular vehicle maintenance in order to ensure safety and efficiency, but if you’re a first-time car owner, it might not be as clear what you should be doing to keep your car in good shape.

You may be wondering what you need to take care of, outside of your annual inspection on your own time. Here‘s a list of simple ways to ensure your vehicle is running at its best, helping you increase performance, efficiency, and safety. These tips are especially helpful for first-time car owners but can be helpful to any car owner looking for ways to keep their vehicle in good health!

Check the Tire Pressure

Be sure to check your tire pressure once a week using a gauge. Every vehicle is made to run on a certain pressure and poor tire pressure can decrease fuel efficiency by up to 2 miles a gallon. Check the owner’s manual to find the proper tire pressure for your car. While you’re working on your tires, be sure to also check for signs of uneven wear.

Maintain Oil and Other Fluid Levels

Changing your oil every 3,000 miles is important to keep it running well. Be sure to change your oil whenever necessary and use the grade your car maker recommends. Another fluid that you should keep an eye on is coolant. Levels should remain within 1 inch from the top of the radiator filler neck, and fluids should be free of any contaminants. Flush or refill your coolant levels every 40,000 to 100,000 miles.

You should also know how to examine the transmission and brake fluid levels and conditions. The fluid should be clear and have a smooth texture. Low transmission fluid often causes a delay when the automatic transmission needs to shift gears. On the other hand, low brake fluid can lead to a dangerous inefficiency in the car’s braking power.

Replace the Air Filter

Replace the air filter once a year or after 12,000 miles (and more frequently if you live in an area with high levels of dirt or smog) to allow more air to enter the engine and increase power and energy.

Change the Spark Plugs

Your spark plugs help increase performance. You should change them once they become dirty so that they will work better, increase horsepower, and give you better fuel economy.

Test the Brakes & Pads

You should regularly test the brakes and take note of how responsive they feel. A delay in brake responsiveness or unpleasant grinding noise will indicate the need to have the vehicle looked at by a professional. Next, check the brake pads. On most car models, they can be seen through the wheel. If the pads are less than ¼ inch thick, they are probably ready to be replaced.

Don’t ever ignore break noises. Your breaks should be checked every 6,000 miles to ensure safety. Also, ask your mechanic to test the brakes and pads if the car has been in an accident or when it’s taken in for an oil change.

Prevent Major Car Problems

Many vehicle problems can be nipped in the bud. Addressing problems in time will help reduce the risk of an accident or more expensive repair. If you know what signs to look out for, you can take the car in for a tune-up before it’s too late.

Go over the following warning signs:

  • “Check Engine” light and other dash indicators,
  • Grinding brake sounds,
  • The smell of smoke or burning oil,
  • Delayed braking,
  • Difficulty turning the steering wheel,
  • The feeling that the car is being pulled to one side,
  • Leaking or puddles left under the parked car.

Regular maintenance is imperative to preventing bigger car problems. Check for the following signs of wear and tear on vehicle components:

  • Shallow tire treads,
  • Uneven tire wear,
  • Squeaking or streaking windshield wipers,
  • Dim or broken headlights, tail lights, brake lights and reverse lights,
  • Worn engine belts.

Be Prepared

Car owners should always be prepared for the unexpected. Make sure your vehicle is equipped with an emergency kit, including a tire pressure gauge, flashlight and set of jumper cables. Keep a list of phone numbers for roadside assistance, trusted mechanic, tow service, and oil change center.

Best Practices for Car Washing

Invest Your Time In Hand-Washing Your Car

Did you know that experts recommend washing your car weekly? If you are going to wash your car this often and prefer using automatic car washes over hand washing, then make sure you take your vehicle to a touchless car wash rather than a standard one. The contact between your car and the brushes can wear down your auto body paint and cause damage quickly.

Each time you wash your car, dry it with a microfiber towel that’s made for car paint. Drying helps to not only protect the paint, but can also make your car look cleaner and avoid nasty water spots that can set into your paint after a while. We recommend using a microfiber towel instead of a chamois because the microfiber is gentler on your vehicle’s paint than cotton towels – or even chamois towels.

Don’t Skip the Polish

After washing your car, it’s time for the polish. Actually, experts recommend polishing your vehicle about once a year. Polishing brings out the shine in your car by adding luster, but it doesn’t protect it like wax does. If you own a darker car, adding polish will bring out the shine. We recommend using a high-quality polish such as Mothers California Gold Micro-Polishing Glaze.

Pick one section of the car to start on to add the polish. Apply the polish to a foam application pad and polish the car using a circular motion. When you notice a haze start to appear, it’s time to wipe it off. We recommend using a microfiber towel.

If you will use a machine polisher, make sure you use exactly the right type for your car. Pay special attention to the pad, polish and technique that you use. Using a machine polisher the wrong way can leave marks on your car that can cause the paint to look awful when the sun hits it.

*IMPORTANT: Make sure to get the polish off before it completely dries. Trying to take dry polish off of your car could scratch your auto body paint.*

Wax On, Wax Off

This is a must – make sure you keep up on regular maintenance. What’s regular maintenance you ask? For starters, we recommend waxing your car at least three times a year or at least every 6 months according to Mike Bumbeck of Automedia.com in his article “Top Ten Car Care Tips” over at the Kelly Blue Book Website.

Choose the correct wax color for your car, and apply and remove it carefully and completely. Waxing your car helps to restore color and gloss to your auto body paint, and prevent oxidation. Waxing your car can also make your car appear shinier, and bring back that brand-new car look. Some brands of wax we recommend are Mothers California Gold Synthetic Wax and Turtle Wax ICE Premium Care Liquid Wax.

These waxes are Polymer-based and synthetic and usually provide longer protection and are super simple to use when it’s hot and sunny.
In addition to regular washing and waxing, make sure you hose off the winter salt and grime that comes with winter weather. And don’t forget to wash underneath your car too!

No Laundry Soap or Dish Detergent!

When you wash your car, avoid using a household detergent or cleaner. These household cleaners will strip away the wax on your car and could permanently damage the car’s paint. Instead, purchase a cleaner that is specifically made for cars in order to keep your paint looking new and preserve the beauty of the paint job. We recommend Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash. It won’t strip the wax off of your car and it will lift dirt and grime gently away from the body.

Remove any oxidation or contaminants with a detailer’s clay. Use the clay with your car wash soap as you are washing your car to remove additional particles that may damage your car that may not be visible to the average eye.

Keep Your Car Dusted

In between washings, you may notice that your car has a tendency to gather dust, especially in the summer months. Purchase a car duster and keep your car dusted of any dirt particles each time you drive. A relatively inexpensive duster that really does a great job is the California Duster. When you park your car after driving, pull out the car duster and make a quick swipe over the car. This will stop any dirt or particles from setting into the paint before you have a chance to wash your car.

By using the right ingredients and performing regular aesthetic maintenance, you can ensure that your car’s paint looks brand new for years to come. With a big investment like a car, you want to be sure to get your money’s worth by performing regular and thorough maintenance.

At Badell’s Collision, we’re committed to providing you with useful recommendations that will further the lifetime of your vehicle. If you ever need auto body repair, dent repair, vehicle painting, or glass repair services, visit our Aston or Malvern, Pennsylvania auto body shops or use our online estimate form.

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