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10 ways to make your car last longer

By Mathilda Bartholomew | July 20, 2023

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Simple steps you can take to increase your vehicle's longevity

10 ways to make your car last longer

Several factors influence the lifespan of a car. Unfortunately, numerous car owners unknowingly contribute to the shortened lifespan of their vehicles through improper maintenance habits or neglect. This article aims to guide you on enhancing your car's lifespan through responsible practices and habits. By adopting these approaches, you can ensure your car enjoys a longer and healthier life on the road.  

1. Adhere to the service schedule

Regular servicing is crucial to ensuring your vehicle remains in excellent condition and has a prolonged lifespan. Service intervals are determined either by time or mileage, typically once a year or every 10,000 miles. To determine when your car requires servicing and what tasks are necessary, refer to the car's handbook. Additionally, many modern cars have dashboard warning lights that signal when maintenance is needed.

Budget-wise, you should plan for a 'minor' service annually and a 'major' service every two or three years. A minor service involves oil and oil filter changes, along with other fluid replacements if required. Depending on the car and mileage, a major service might include replacing the air filter, spark plugs, and cambelt. Even a minor service entails numerous tasks, including checks for oil and fluid leaks, tyre pressures and conditions, exhaust emissions, brake wear, and the proper functioning of steering, gearbox, clutch, suspension, lights, wipers, and horn.

2. Check warning lights immediately

Ignoring warning lights in your car can be tempting, especially if you don't notice any immediate performance issues when they illuminate. However, neglecting these warning signs can lead to premature and costly damage to your vehicle. The engine, braking, and power steering lights are particularly crucial as they indicate urgent faults that, if left unaddressed, could result in expensive repairs or even unsafe driving conditions. Brake and steering problems can compromise your control over the car, while the engine light could signal various issues, ranging from a loose filler cap to more serious concerns like a contaminated catalytic converter. Being attentive to unusual car noises can also help catch potential issues early, potentially extending the lifespan of your car. To stay informed about your car's dashboard warning lights, you can refer to our guide.

3. Resist the temptation to modify your car

As tempting as it might be, making alterations to your car is likely to decrease its reliability and reduce its overall lifespan. When you tune the engine for increased power, it places additional stress on various components, including the brakes, especially if you drive faster as a consequence. Upgrading to stiffer and sportier suspension also leads to added wear on the chassis, subframes, and bushes. It's essential to keep in mind that investing in modifications will probably not raise the value of your car; in fact, it may often have the opposite effect. As depreciation is a significant cost in car ownership, compromising the resale value should be a serious consideration.

4. Avoid driving over potholes

Potholes can cause significant damage to your car's suspension, tyres, and exhaust system. Driving over deep potholes can lead to misaligned suspension and damaged shocks. In some cases, catalytic converters may be scraped, resulting in holes and a decrease in engine power. To minimise wear and tear, it is advisable to choose roads with smoother surfaces whenever possible. 

5. Top up your car's fluids regularly

Maintaining the proper fluid levels in your car is crucial, as they are essential for its optimal performance. To ensure everything is in order, check your engine oil and car lubricants once every two weeks. Open the bonnet while your car is on level ground, remove the dipstick, wipe it with a rag, and then dip it back in. The oil level should fall between the minimum and maximum markers, and for petrol engines, the oil should appear light yellowy-brown.

If the oil is dark and dirty, it needs to be replaced. However, for diesel engines, dark-coloured oil is normal due to soot accumulation during the combustion process, so there's no need to be alarmed. Alongside engine oil, it's important to check the coolant reservoir regularly and top it up with a mixture of 50% distilled water and 50% antifreeze. Don't forget to inspect the windscreen washer bottle as well. We advise using a shop-bought screen wash for this purpose, as washing-up liquid contains salt and additives that can harm your car's paintwork.

6. Maintain your car's battery

If your car remains unused for extended periods, the battery can deteriorate and lose its charge. To prevent this, consider using a trickle charger to maintain the battery's charge when your car is parked in a garage for a long time. Alternatively, if you notice that the battery is holding less charge than usual, a battery conditioner can be beneficial. Jump-starting your car if the battery goes flat can place extra stress on the battery and may potentially harm the engine management system and other sensitive electronics, leading to increased wear. To take care of your battery, try to drive your car at least once a week if possible, especially during the winter months. This regular use helps to keep the battery in good condition and ensures its optimal performance.

7. Don't run your car on low fuel

If your fuel level becomes low, your car's fuel pump will start pulling in air, debris, and sediment that accumulates at the bottom of the fuel tank, in an effort to power your vehicle. These unwanted materials can lead to system blockages and gradual corrosion of your pump and filters, which may eventually hinder fuel flow, causing starting issues in your car. Diesel car owners should be especially careful with low fuel levels, as their engines' powerful injectors draw in significant amounts of air when the tank is almost empty, potentially preventing the engine from turning over.

8. Replace spark plugs and leads

As cars become ever more complicated, drivers are understandably less inclined to do their own servicing. However, replacing spark plugs and high-tension leads is another straightforward job you can do yourself to optimise your engine's performance. Bear in mind that you should always consult your vehicle handbook beforehand and stick to the service schedule though.

When inspecting a spark plug, check that it has: 

  • a light brown electrode and insulator
  • no signs of melting 
  • no signs of wear or deposits.

A spark plug in a poor condition either indicates wear over time and needs replacing, or can hint at the condition of your engine. 

If the plug is relatively new and has developed a significant gap between the electrode and the insulator, then it could be an indication that the engine is under-performing. If that's the case, you should consult your local garage.

9. Make simple and regular checks

One of the simplest and most efficient methods to extend your car's longevity is through regular inspections, which can easily be done yourself. By conducting essential DIY checks, you can identify potential issues before they escalate into costly repair problems and even prevent complications from arising in the first place. We suggest performing these inspections every two weeks, to ensure your car's well-being:

  • Fuel levels
  • Engine oil levels
  • Condition of rubber components (such as tires and wiper blades)
  • Coolant levels
  • Functioning of electrical components
  • Adequate screen wash
  • Cleanliness and condition of the engine air filter
  • Checking spark plugs (for petrol engines)
  • Brake functionality
  • Air conditioning system
  • Interior condition
  • Exterior condition

Keeping a close eye on these aspects of your car's health will go a long way in maintaining its lifespan and avoiding potential problems in the future.

10. Drive sensibly

Practising "mechanical sympathy" while driving is essential and should be a habit you adopt consistently. By doing so, you can reduce wear on various components and improve fuel efficiency. For instance, it's essential to avoid constantly driving without fully revving your engine, as doing so can lead to the build-up of carbon deposits, which might foul the valves, intake manifold, and other parts, resulting in reduced efficiency and potential misfires. Check out what other driving bad habits could be damaging your car.

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