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A 63 Piece Guide -Maintaining your Car from the Cradle to the Grave

| 19 Jul 2013 | No Comments

Like the human body, a cars needs change from its beginnings to its end and that’s why we’ve create the cradle to the grave guide to extending the life of your auto.

New Car

New cars need to be broken in and can’t just be pushed to their limit from the moment they leave the lot. So, here are some tips for the initial period.

· During the first 100 or so miles, keep the speed below 60mph or as recommended by the manufacturer

· Don’t tow trailers or use the roof rack to carry heavy materials

· Avoid leaving the car idle as the oil pressure will not be sent to all parts of the engine

· Don’t accelerate hard and keep the RPM below 3000 for the first dozen or so hours of driving


Now that your car is broken in you may think you can do as you like, however if you’re looking to increase its lifespan, follow these everyday tips:

  • Don’t push the car’s engine from cold

· Most of the wear and tear to a drive train occur within the first ten minutes, so accelerate slowly from the off.

· Warming a car via idling it doesn’t work well. The engine doesn’t reach optimum temperature and so this leads to oil contamination, soot deposits on the cylinder walls and a incomplete combustion

  • Push your gear stick to neutral when stopped

· Pushing the car when the weather is hot or cold will cause more damage to it then when it’s a temperate climate

· Take care of your tyres by driving smoothly, avoiding potholes and keeping the car well within its limits.

· Don’t hold the car at full lock for more than a few seconds as it damages the power steering pump.

· If you need to do errands, do several at once, rather than one at a time. This will prevent a lot of the aforementioned issues caused by starting a car from cold.

· Always buy petrol at a good quality and reputable petrol station, otherwise you may receive dirty petrol.

· If the tanker is at the station, go elsewhere. The filling of the tanks will cause sediment in the petrol station to dislodge and this may cause issues for your car.

· Pick a good quality car insurer. Often price is only a partial factor in value – remember that.

· Log your cars fuel performance, a move one way or another could be a sign of a problem

In Storage

If you’re keeping your car in storage, then there are a number of things you need to do to prevent damage.

· Fill the petrol tank to stop condensation accumulating

  • Wash and wax the car to protect the pain
  • Disengage the handbrake to prevent rust

· Place the car on jack stands to take the weight off the tyres

· Disconnect the battery and place it on trickle charge

  • Put a rag in the exhaust to prevent damp

Everyday Preservation

Of course, keeping your car in top shape is all about how you store it day to day – here are some everyday preservation tips for new, used UK cars and motor imports.

  • Ideally park it in a garage as it is safer there
  • If not place it in the shade
  • Vacuum and clean the car every time you wash it

· Clean your gauges regularly to ensure they can be read accurately. Do so with a soft cloth to prevent scratches

· Protect carpets with floor mats and replace them when they wear

· Clean your rubber mats with a power hose to dislodge dirt and ensure they are clean

· Place a protectant such as Armour All or silicone on door and window seals to prevent them perishing.

· Use leather protectant on the seats to prevent them drying out

  • If you have a baby place towels under baby seats
  • Touch up scratches sooner than later
  • The same is true for windshield chips

· Place washer fluid only in the windshield fluid tank

  • Clean sockets after replacing a bulb – always
  • Keep an old blanket in the boot

· Never exceed load specifications as it will damage tyres, shocks and add to wear and tear

· Make sure splashguards are okay and re-secure if loose. Salt from the road and grit will destroy paintwork

· Wash your car in winter too as corrosion happens fastest in winter. Cleaning is not just for aesthetic purposes it also helps keep paintwork pristine

  • Wax in winter


Your tyres are your cars only point of contact with the road and so need to be maintained and kept in top shape – here’s how.

· Keep the valve caps on to avoid moisture and leaks.

· Inflate your tyres regularly and check on a monthly basis

· Check for uneven wear as your wheels may need to be tracked

· Make sure tyres never get near the legal thread minimum

· Rotate tyres regularly to get the most wear from them

· Check tyres when cold as they inflate when warmer and the reading isn’t accurate

· Lube lug nuts to prevent them becoming corroded and then issues if you burst a tyre

  • Check your wheel alignment every 30,000 miles

· Top up brake fluid as per manufacturer’s instructions

  • Bleed anti-lock brakes every three years or so

Midlife Crisis and Onwards

· Change your oil regularly to prevent engine issues and abrasion in the engine that will shorten the car’s life

  • Don’t overfill the crankcase with oil

· Change your air, oil and fuel filters regularly and don’t forget about them

· Change the transmission fluid and filter as recommended by your manufacturer

· Check the hoses beneath the bonnet every month or so to ensure there are no breakages or that they are melted or weak

· Check the drive belt tension once a month to ensure that it’s tight enough but not too tight

· Replace the timing belt as per the manufacturer’s advice, a failed timing belt may mean the end of a car

· Run the A/C in winter to ensure the compressor doesn’t seize

· Keep a close eye on your car’s battery, inspecting it for dirt, loose terminals, or damage

  • Don’t ever mix the coolants or they won’t work

· Flush coolant as it will degrade with time and then fill with a new coolant. Generally, this will need to be done every 5 years.

  • Don’t under-dilute coolant

· Check power steering fluid and inspect the hose for leaks

By following all of these tips you should give your car the best chance of living a long and healthy life.

Cormac Reynolds is a writer and journalist and has worked in the motor industry for a decade.

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