There is nothing quite like opening the door and sliding into your brand new car. The smell, the crisp feel of the seats, the smoothness of the ride, and most importantly, everything works! Here are some new car maintenance tips you can follow to help keep your new car like new.
Regular car checks and maintenance
1. Rustproofing & exterior maintenance. Wash the underbody of the car and wax the paint to protect the color and clear coat from the sun and small debris damage. Small chips and marks from rocks can be fixed before they turn into rust and needed bodywork. Apply a rust prevention product directly to the metal, then dab paint on top. The paint which specifically matches your car can be purchased in small handheld containers with an appropriate applicator top from the dealership. Rustproofing undercoating should also be professionally applied. For a few hundred dollars you will keep the rust at bay for a few additional years extending the life of your car. It is most often recommended yearly but can be sufficient every other year if done correctly the first time.
3. Maintain the interior. Wipe the console and other plastic interior pieces with Armor All or a similar product. This will keep the plastic from drying out and cracking, and protect it from sun damage. Fabric seats can be Scotch Guarded or otherwise protected, and there are many leather protection products available for those with leather seats.
4. Tire maintenance. Proper tire pressure maintenance prevents many problems relating to suspension and alignment. Tires should be properly inflated and regularly checked for bulges, tread wear or other signs of wear. If your car does not come with a tire pressure sensor, you can easily purchase a tire gauge for less than $15 at most automotive stores.
5. Check & replace fluids. Oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid, and radiator fluid should be checked monthly. Fluids running dry is one of the major causes of car repairs. Most of the fluids can be self-checked by checking the levels on the dipstick associated with the system you are checking. Be sure to wipe off the dipstick, reinsert, then take out and check the level. Your new car manual will provide a maintenance schedule as to when each fluid should be changed.
6. Routinely check filters. The oil filter should be changed each time you change the oil. The air filter should also be checked and changed when it becomes dirty. A dirty air filter can cause engine misfiring, polluted spark plugs, rough idle, and can lead to problems starting the car.
7. Routinely check the battery. Dirt, debris, loose or corroded cables can lead to battery drain and issues starting. Depending on the type of battery, if the caps can be removed, the fluid level should be checked every few months. Batteries need to be changed every 4-5 years.
8. Check constant velocity joints. Often referred to as cv joints, constant velocity joints have rubber protection boots on the drive axles on front-wheel-drive and some four-wheel-drive automobiles. These boots should regularly be checked for holes, slits, and cracks. Dirt can get into the joints causing a grinding noise when you turn. If you are experiencing any of these issues, or if the boot is leaking, take your vehicle to the mechanic as soon as possible.
9. Brakes and rotors. If you are capable of checking the braking system yourself, do so. If not, take it to a mechanic every 6 months to ensure that there is no excessive wear and tear on your brakes, rotors or drums. Worn down, or inappropriately worn parts in the braking system can lead to braking slow down, and in extreme cases failure. Warped rotors can cause your car to pull to one side when braking. If you drive a lot, be sure to check the braking system and tires more frequently. Fast hard stops can warp rotors quickly which also leads to brake pad wear at a much faster rate.
10. Check the exhaust system. Look for rusted and loose parts. You can self inspect these by getting under your car, or have the system checked when you take your car in for oil changes. If the exhaust is making excessive noise, it needs to be serviced. Exhaust issues can lead to traffic citations in many areas.
11. Check the radiator. The radiator should be checked for leaks and debris. Periodically wipe off the radiator. If you notice any leaks on subsequent checks, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. A leaking radiator can lead to engine overheating and other damaged parts as coolant is corrosive.
Maintenance required every 2 or 4 years
1. Replace belts and hoses. This should be done every 2 years even if they don’t show signs of wear and tear.
2. Change the timing belt. This can be an extremely expensive repair if the belt breaks. Most manufacturers recommend replacement every 60,000 to 80,000 miles. Discuss checks and timing with your mechanic or dealership.
3. Change automatic transmission fluid. This may not be required on newer cars due to long-lasting transmission fluid, but otherwise should be changed every 30,000-36,000 miles. Change earlier if the color changes from pink to brown.
4. Drain and flush the cooling system. Don’t wait until the system fails and you have an expensive repair. Follow the manufacturer’s scheduled recommendation, usually every 30,000-36,000 miles.
Regular checks and maintenance can greatly extend the life of your car for far longer than you might think. The manufacturer always includes a maintenance schedule so at a minimum this should be checked and followed to ensure the optimum state of your car. If you need help keeping track, there are many apps available online that can help you.