Unless you’re building a spaceship in your backyard, the odds are that your car is the most complicated device in your possession. Putting a little extra work into your car every week can save you hundreds — if not thousands — over the vehicle’s life.
Most of us view maintenance as an occasional hassle, but following these three easy tips can prevent future issues. Think of them like the automotive equivalent of brushing and flossing your teeth. You probably — well, hopefully — brush twice a day, and perhaps you floss a few times a week to prevent cavities and to promote good gum health. Your car needs those periodic check-ins, too!
Here are three easy ways to check up on your vehicle once a week.
A Quick Visual Inspection
So many of us are guilty of only looking at the driver’s side of our cars, and, as a result, we’re only brushing the surface when it comes to noticing potential issues. Start high. Look at the window seals. A piece of loose rubber around a moonroof or a window could let water into the cabin, which could mean major electrical damage and a high risk of mold. Next, make sure that your mirrors, lights, bumpers and other trim pieces are secure. Headlights can work themselves loose, especially on older cars, high-mile cars and cars that have been damaged.
The next step is perhaps the most crucial: Look at your tire sidewalls. You’re looking for bulges or cuts, which compromise tire integrity and could cause a blowout at the worst possible time. Finally, look underneath the car for anything that’s gotten caught — think branches or bags — and for any plastic underengine panels that might have popped loose.
A Spirited Test Drive
The odds are that you and your car do pretty much the same thing pretty much every day: drive to and from work, maybe making a stop or two along the way. If most of your drive is in town, your engine is barely getting exercised, and that can lead to carbon buildup and, ultimately, reduced performance and increased fuel consumption.
Once a week, find an excuse to hop on the highway and give it a little gas. Let the engine rev high as you enter the road. If you see a puff of smoke come out of the back, that’s usually cause for some concern — but it’s probably something you wouldn’t have noticed driving at low city speeds. Additionally, highway-speed driving can uncover any potential steering or suspension issues, so feel closely for unexpected vibrations or tugging toward one side. Your car should be more than capable of cruising at 55 mph or even 75 mph.
Spirited doesn’t mean reckless, but it does mean with a little more vigor than normal.
Clean Up After Yourself
It’s amazing how much stuff our cars can accumulate over the course of a week. Take a moment or two to empty the door pockets, the center console storage bins, the trunk and the back seat. You could find that book you forgot to return to the library, that earring you thought you lost at a restaurant or that important document you thought you’d lost.