How to maintain a car

Just like we take care of ourselves, eat the right things, and stay in shape, the same basic concepts apply to keeping our cars in the best possible condition.

It’s always painful to have to dig into savings to pay for car repairs and even more difficult lately with how the economy is performing. But, to make sure we keep the value of our cars (possibly your most important asset) and minimize repair costs, here are a few simple, easy-to-remember tips on how to keep your car in a tip top condition.

1. Oil

Oil is the blood of your car, and without it, the car isn’t going to go far or quietly. Have your mechanic demonstrate how to check your oil properly, and have the oil changed every 3,000 – 3,500 miles. While oil manufacturers have claimed that their oil can last 10,000 miles, it is generally best to use the same oil for no more than 5,000 miles to maximize engine reliability and efficiency over the long term. Check the oil regularly, about once a week, and change the oil or have it changed when you reach the 4,000 – 4,500 mile (6,400 – 7,200 Km) limit.

2. Maintain brakes, belts, and battery in good condition

How to maintain a car

The braking systems of modern cars are designed to be replaced periodically to maintain maximum braking efficiency. If you notice ANY problems with the brakes, take your car to have the brakes checked immediately. If the brakes fail, you can have a very serious crash.

3. Heed warning signs

If your car’s dashboard lights illuminate, give your trusted mechanic a ring. (You can also check your handy owner’s manual too – ”learning the basics about your car and the repairs you need will help establish a rapport and show your mechanic you know what you’re talking about.). Delaying a repair could trigger irreparable damage to the car and result in a painfully more expensive fix. And make sure you know the fair price to pay for any upcoming repairs or maintenance by checking the repair price before you take your car in to the shop.

How to maintain a car

4. Always use reputable mechanics

Similar to having a great doctor we see for our annual exam, it’s important to find an honest, trustworthy expert auto technician. A fabulous mechanic will help make sure your car is kept in good working shape. To find a good mechanic, take a look around for dealerships that sell the particular car, comprehensive auto shop directory. The old-fashioned referral from a friend works well too.

How to maintain a car

5. Keep the car body intact

While most people wouldn’t appear in public unkempt, the cosmetic appearance of our car is important as well. Simple things such as keeping your car washed, regularly waxed, and ensuring dents and dings are taken care of, you’ll better preserve the value of your car as well as prevent long term issues such as rust and fading.

6. Keep the interior clean

Clean and vacuum the interior as needed. The interior is often a point of selling power when it comes time to trade the car in or sell it. While many may not care about the oil or tires, if the CD player won’t work, or the interior looks a little dirty, the deal is off. It’s been said that the value of the car is held in the cabin, and that statement holds true. If you ever want to trade the car in or sell it, every quarter spent at a pay vacuum will be paid back to you with interest!

7. Use the right tires with the right inflate

How to maintain a car

Make sure they are properly inflated to the manufacturer’s specified pressure. Tire gauges are cheap and easy to use. Tires should be replaced when tread wear indicators are showing between the treads. Ask your local tire dealer if you are unsure how to identify tread wear indicators. Check your tires every other day for pressure and every week for wear or damage. Have them replaced when they become worn beyond acceptable limits

8. Ensure windows are clear and functional

Make sure that all windows, mirrors and lights are clean and not broken. Replace any broken lights or mirrors as soon as possible. Have small windshield cracks by a windshield repair center to determine whether the windshield can be repaired or needs to be replaced. Check regularly for cracks and damage

9. Keep all fluids topped up

How to maintain a car

Source: Avantgarde – Fotolia

The other lifeblood of the car are the fluids that the drive train must have. Coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, and other fluids need to be checked at a minimum of once per week. Ask your mechanic to demonstrate the method to check these.

10. Emission control systems

Depending on where you live, you may be required to get your car checked for emissions periodically. Generally, a professional must perform the diagnosis. Oxygen sensors and EGR valves are two common culprits

In this increasingly hectic world, owning a vehicle is perhaps one of the most convenient and comfortable things. It is an easy mode of transportation and helps you get from point A to B in a short period of time. However, it is important for car owners to know that with owning a vehicle come a set of responsibilities as well. This is mainly because no matter how much you try to prevent faults and issues, cars eventually do start giving trouble in due time. This article provides you useful tips on how to maintain a car and when to perform regular maintenance checks.

How to maintain a car

Car Maintenance Tips

Follow these car maintenance tips to learn how to take good care of your car and increase the longevity of your vehicle.

Get to Know Your Vehicle – Read the Owner’s Manual

Of course, you might already know a lot about your vehicle, but to gain more valuable information it is imperative to take a comprehensive look at the owner’s manual. Store it in your glove box and if any issues or problems do occur, make sure to browse through it. The owner’s manual gives you useful tips on how to prevent problems and use various features of your vehicle. Additionally, it provides you a helpful car maintenance checklist (mentioned below) and even has a map of all your engine components, so you can learn how to check and top the essential fluids in the car.

Adherence to Servicing Schedules – Be Smart and Responsible

Ah, here it goes again, another fault! Why does your car happen to give so many problems? Well, have you been taking your car for regular servicing? Perhaps not, but bear in mind to always do so. This is mainly because skipping on quarterly/monthly schedules will only aggravate issues in your vehicle. Keep in mind that similar to any other appliance, your vehicle also requires regular tuning and servicing. Therefore, be smart and responsible and stick to your regular car maintenance schedule as advised by your automobile manufacturer or written in the owner’s manual.

Additionally, don’t forget to have your car serviced at a reliable repair shop. Find a knowledgeable and trusted mechanic to meet all your vehicle’s service and maintenance needs. You can consider asking your friends for recommendations or search online.

Battery Assessments – Look for Warning Signs

The battery is an important component of your vehicle without which it can almost be impossible to power and drive a vehicle. Any trouble with the battery can result in burned-out fuses and wires, thus leading to even more complicated problems and expensive repairs. Therefore, it is essential for car owners to assess their car battery at least once in every month. Look for warning signs, such as dangling wires and corrosion. Loose electrical connections should be attended on a priority basis. If you do find signs of corrosion, it’s time for you to visit your mechanic.

Regular Oil Changes = A Healthy Engine

How to maintain a car

Mechanics Working On A Vehicle

Have you ever wondered how some car owners drive for hundreds and thousands of miles without facing trouble, while others pay thousands in repair bills? What’s the secret here? Regular oil changes! It is one of the main concept to keep in mind when learning how to maintain a car. All moving components inside your engine are lubricated by oil. Driving miles upon miles makes the engine oil extremely dirty, thus causing it to lose its lubricating qualities. This causes the engine to wear faster, resulting in more problems. Therefore, to avoid this from happening, keep in mind to regularly have the engine oil changed. This way, you can keep your engine lubricated and clean from the inside, leading to a healthier engine.

Change of Fluids – Extend the Life of Your Vehicle

The health of your engine cooling, power steering, anti-lock braking, and automatic transmission systems depends on the condition of the fluids. Similar to engine oil, other fluids in your vehicle begin to lose their lubricating qualities over time. Therefore, all vehicle fluids should be replaced at regular intervals. You can consider using a dipstick to check the fluid levels and fluid color before refilling. If the level is low or the color black, top up accordingly or change the fluids.

Additionally, if you use your vehicle for towing or other power-draining activities, consider installing an additional transmission fluid cooler. This way, you can prevent any overheating issues which can cause considerable damage to your vehicle.

Tire Assessment and Rotation = Smooth Drives

The tires are the foundation of your vehicle, without which it can be impossible to drive a vehicle. They balance your car and facilitate movements accordingly by working with your vehicle’s suspension system. However, this doesn’t mean they are ‘immortal’, as tires are subject to maximum wear and tear. Therefore, it is imperative for vehicle owners to check the tires regularly for warning signs. To maintain proper alignment, consider rotating your tires every three to four months. Additionally, to avoid any road-grip issues, make sure to check and maintain proper air pressure.

Replace Oil and Air Filters, Timing Belts, and Spark Plugs

Air filters and oil filters tend to get extremely dirty over time, thus causing loss of engine power and lower gas mileage. Spark plugs and timing belts too begin to deteriorate over time, thus causing numerous shifting and power issues. Therefore, when it comes to auto maintenance, replacing your vehicle’s spark plugs, timing belts, oil and air filters on time can save you a lot of costly repairs and can help maintain your vehicle’s engine efficiency.

Keep Your Vehicle Clean – The Cleaner, the Better

For optimum performance, it is essential to keep your vehicle clean both from the inside and out. Dust and air react with oxygen which causes rust on the exterior of your vehicle. Additionally, there are a lot of wires and electronics under the dash. Electronics plus water will always cause trouble. Therefore, keep in mind to wash your car on a regular basis to prevent rust and keep the interior clean to avoid any electronic issues and ensure your vehicle stays smell-free. Also, don’t forget to change your cabin filter after every 15,000 miles.

You can either perform these tasks yourself or have a professional do them for you. For maintenance schedule, check in your car brand vehicle guide for a checklist to learn how to maintain a car properly. Nevertheless, by following the car maintenance tips mentioned above, avoiding expensive repairs and maintaining your vehicle won’t be a problem.

Hope you gained some information from this article. Please share this article with others so they can benefit too!

Just like we take care of ourselves, eat the right things, and stay in shape, the same basic concepts apply to keeping our cars in the best possible condition.

It’s always painful to have to dig into savings to pay for car repairs and even more difficult lately with how the economy is performing. But, to make sure we keep the value of our cars (possibly your most important asset) and minimize repair costs, here are a few simple, easy-to-remember tips on how to keep your car in a tip top condition.

1. Oil

Oil is the blood of your car, and without it, the car isn’t going to go far or quietly. Have your mechanic demonstrate how to check your oil properly, and have the oil changed every 3,000 – 3,500 miles. While oil manufacturers have claimed that their oil can last 10,000 miles, it is generally best to use the same oil for no more than 5,000 miles to maximize engine reliability and efficiency over the long term. Check the oil regularly, about once a week, and change the oil or have it changed when you reach the 4,000 – 4,500 mile (6,400 – 7,200 Km) limit.

2. Maintain brakes, belts, and battery in good condition

How to maintain a car

The braking systems of modern cars are designed to be replaced periodically to maintain maximum braking efficiency. If you notice ANY problems with the brakes, take your car to have the brakes checked immediately. If the brakes fail, you can have a very serious crash.

3. Heed warning signs

If your car’s dashboard lights illuminate, give your trusted mechanic a ring. (You can also check your handy owner’s manual too – ”learning the basics about your car and the repairs you need will help establish a rapport and show your mechanic you know what you’re talking about.). Delaying a repair could trigger irreparable damage to the car and result in a painfully more expensive fix. And make sure you know the fair price to pay for any upcoming repairs or maintenance by checking the repair price before you take your car in to the shop.

How to maintain a car

4. Always use reputable mechanics

Similar to having a great doctor we see for our annual exam, it’s important to find an honest, trustworthy expert auto technician. A fabulous mechanic will help make sure your car is kept in good working shape. To find a good mechanic, take a look around for dealerships that sell the particular car, comprehensive auto shop directory. The old-fashioned referral from a friend works well too.

How to maintain a car

5. Keep the car body intact

While most people wouldn’t appear in public unkempt, the cosmetic appearance of our car is important as well. Simple things such as keeping your car washed, regularly waxed, and ensuring dents and dings are taken care of, you’ll better preserve the value of your car as well as prevent long term issues such as rust and fading.

6. Keep the interior clean

Clean and vacuum the interior as needed. The interior is often a point of selling power when it comes time to trade the car in or sell it. While many may not care about the oil or tires, if the CD player won’t work, or the interior looks a little dirty, the deal is off. It’s been said that the value of the car is held in the cabin, and that statement holds true. If you ever want to trade the car in or sell it, every quarter spent at a pay vacuum will be paid back to you with interest!

7. Use the right tires with the right inflate

How to maintain a car

Make sure they are properly inflated to the manufacturer’s specified pressure. Tire gauges are cheap and easy to use. Tires should be replaced when tread wear indicators are showing between the treads. Ask your local tire dealer if you are unsure how to identify tread wear indicators. Check your tires every other day for pressure and every week for wear or damage. Have them replaced when they become worn beyond acceptable limits

8. Ensure windows are clear and functional

Make sure that all windows, mirrors and lights are clean and not broken. Replace any broken lights or mirrors as soon as possible. Have small windshield cracks by a windshield repair center to determine whether the windshield can be repaired or needs to be replaced. Check regularly for cracks and damage

9. Keep all fluids topped up

How to maintain a car

Source: Avantgarde – Fotolia

The other lifeblood of the car are the fluids that the drive train must have. Coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, and other fluids need to be checked at a minimum of once per week. Ask your mechanic to demonstrate the method to check these.

10. Emission control systems

Depending on where you live, you may be required to get your car checked for emissions periodically. Generally, a professional must perform the diagnosis. Oxygen sensors and EGR valves are two common culprits

John Kress

What is necessary to maintain a car you’re not driving?

It’s a question you probably didn’t think about until the coronavirus pandemic, but it has caused some of us to abandon our wheels for the foreseeable future.

Money expert Clark Howard says recent experiences got his mental wheels turning about the subject.

“I have two friends who in recent days went to start their cars only to find they had dead batteries,” Clark says. “Why? Neither of them had driven their vehicles in weeks.”

Clark says that in both cases, the vehicles in question were older, the batteries had died, and neither would start with a jump.

So how do you keep something like this from happening to you? Team Clark talked to an expert to get some answers.

Taking Care of Your Car When You’re Not Driving It

Mike Bland is the owner of Motor City South, an auto repair shop in Atlanta, Georgia. He says there are four big things you can do to keep your wheels in the best possible shape if you’re not going to be driving for a while.

1. Take Your Vehicle for a Spin Every Now and Then

The most important thing you can do for a car that you’re not driving regularly is to drive it occasionally.

“Taking your car for a spin around the neighborhood or to the store for some supplies — if it’s safe for you to go — will ensure that your battery stays charged,” Bland says. “Beyond that, most cars have a lot of individual rubber components that will break down over time if they don’t get some motion.”

How often you need to start your car and drive it depends on the age of your vehicle and where you store it.

“A brand new car that’s kept in a garage will need to be driven maybe once a month,” Bland says. “But if you have an older car with hundreds of thousands of miles on it and you park it on the street, you probably want to drive it at least every week.”

2. Pay Attention to Your Gas Levels

This one is a little bit tricky, but you want to pay attention to the gas that fuels your car (unless, of course, you have an electric vehicle).

“A mostly-empty gas tank that sits for an extended period of time can build up condensate and gasoline vapors,” Bland says. “That’s why the recommendation is to keep your tank full whenever possible.”

On the other hand, it’s not a great idea to let gasoline just sit for too long.

“Conventional wisdom says gas is really only good for three to six months in a vehicle. As you’re driving your car to keep it in shape, make sure you add some fresh fuel every now and then.”

3. Follow Your Maintenance Schedule

Cars come with recommended maintenance schedules that include changing fluids and replacing certain parts.

“Typically, you would follow the manufacturer’s recommendations by, say, changing your oil every 7,500 or 10,000 miles,” Bland says. “But if you’re not driving your vehicle, you want to pay attention to the other milestones that have to do with time. Even if you’re not driving regularly, you want to make sure to change your oil every six to twelve months, depending on the age of your vehicle.”

4. Keep Your Car Clean

Finally, it’s important to remember that taking care of your vehicle’s exterior is just as important as making sure that the parts that make it run are in good shape.

“I’d say the best thing you could do to keep your car looking good is to go ahead and give it a good thorough wash and wax job now,” Bland says. “The wax will help protect your vehicle’s finish. Then you can probably get away with giving it a quick wash once a month or so.”

How to maintain a car

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Intro: A car maintenance schedule tells you when to inspect and change everything, but it stops after the dates and miles. It doesn’t tell you what to expect or how it’s done. Maintaining a car takes finesse, patience, persistence, consistency, and a few tricks of the trade to keep on track.

If you’ve ever caught your mom, or any home mechanic/gearhead, riding in the car with the radio turned off, it’s not because she hates the radio’s profanity-edited songs, it’s because she’s listening to the car. And if you know what the car sounds like when it’s running smoothly, you’ll know the sound of something running incorrectly.

It’s this type of attentive relationship that results in a long-lasting vehicle that you can count on. The editors at The Drive have been fostering these automotive relationships since they could pick up wrenches. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way to make car maintenance less of a hassle and more of a point of pride.

Maintain a Log

If you look in the back portion of your car’s owner’s manual, there’s a good chance it has a bunch of blank pages, pages with blank lines, or pages with blank boxes. Those are there for writing down your service history, but an owner’s manual is not the only place you can write down work.

Just grab any notebook and keep a record of oil changes, tire rotations, fluid flushes, brake jobs, and any other maintenance done to your vehicle. You’ll never forget the last time you did something, it will help you stay on schedule, and your vehicle will be safer and healthier for it.

(I write down every fill-up, along with the mileage and fuel economy, too, but not everybody’s that intense.—Ed.)

Buying a new car can be intense; there are so many choices and you want to make sure you get the best deal possible. Then there is all of that paperwork before you can get the keys and drive it home. Then what?

Many people think that because their car is new they don’t need to do anything yet. WRONG! You just paid a lot of money for that car and if you want to keep it looking new, just like anything else, you have to take care of it! A new car is not immune to the harsh environmental elements and the clear-coat is not the shield that protects your car, it�s just clear paint and it needs to be protected.

For me, I didn�t even let the dealership wash my new car before I drove it home for fear of scratching my black paint. It even had the white adhesive plastic still on the car from the transport from the factory to the dealership. The car was still in the back and had not hit the lot yet and my words to the salesman were “Do not wash it!”. He said, “But it’s dirty, don’t you want us to detail it for you?”. I then politely responded “No thank you, I will wash it when I get home”.

Proper Car Care From The Beginning

The time to start proper car care is when you drive home and pull into the driveway. When I got home with my new Camaro I parked right next to the hose and went and got my wash buckets, car wash shampoo, wash mitt and microfiber drying towels before I even pulled into the garage.

FIVE STEP CAR CARE

Proper car care is important whether your car is brand new or ten years old. The steps are the same, although you may have to spend a little more time on an older car that requires removal of defects like oxidation, swirl or scratches.

Many think that all the steps are not necessary on a new car but your long term protection depends on properly preparing and protecting your car. You wouldn’t want to put your paint sealant over bonded contamination or get a less than perfect shine would you?

This article will help you understand the importance of each step in the five step process to care for your car, even if it is not so new anymore.

Step 1 – Washing Your New Car

Wash – Thoroughly wash your car to remove loose dirt and grime.

The first thing you need to know is that the car washing procedure is the number one cause of swirl marks! Don’t worry, this can be avoided by using high a quality car wash shampoo, wash mitt and microfiber drying towels. Using two buckets – one for your car wash solution and the other for rinsing your mitt is also very helpful when it comes to avoiding swirl.

With high quality products and a little education your car wash procedure will not only be safer, it will be easier and you will achieve much better results.

For more information on how to properly wash your car read our Detailing 101 � How To Wash Your Car Article.

Step 2 – Claying Your New Car

Clean � Clean your paint with detailing clay to remove bonded surface contamination that is stuck to the paint and is not removed with normal washing.

Most new cars owners think that a new car does not need to be clayed. This is not necessarily true! Contamination doesn�t care if your car is old or new. Even though your car is new it has been subjected to many types environments. Your car started at the factory, sat on a lot waiting for transport via ship, train or truck or a combination of transports, then it may have sat on the lot waiting to be bought for who knows how long. During this time, who knows what was floating around the air on the long journey between the factory and your driveway?

Claying your car with a detail clay or using the Ultima Elastrofoam Cleaning System is not a substitute for polishing your paint, it is a process to be done prior to the polishing process to remove surface contaminants that make your paint rough. When your paint is rough, dirt and grime tend to stick and build up creating even more problems. The simple task of claying will remove the contamination and prepare your car for the polishing and protecting steps.

For more information on properly claying or how to use a Clay Mitt, read our Detailing 101 � How To Detail Clay Your Car Article.

Step 3 – Polishing Your New Car

Polish � Remove defects in your paint, staining and enhance overall shine.

More than likely if your car is new you won’t need to remove defects unless your car has been on the lot for a while and been stricken with that dreaded swirl from poor washing procedures by the dealership. This can also be created by dealership detailers who use machine polishers incorrectly.

If your paint is free of defects you will still want to use a pre-wax cleaner like Pinnacle Paintwork Cleansing Lotion to enhance the shine and prepare your paint for paint protectant. This product can be safely and easily applied by either hand or machine.

For more information on properly polish your car read our How To Polish Your Car Article.

Step 4 – Protecting Your New Car

Protect � Protect the paint surface from harsh environmental elements and prevent premature aging with a car wax, paint protectant or paint sealant.

Many new car owners look at the clearcoat as a protective layer that shields their car against harm. This is simply not true. The clearcoat is a tough clear paint that is there to protect your color coat and add depth in shine. It is not a super high tech protectant, it is just clear paint and needs to be protected just like the older single stage paints.

Car waxes, paint protectants and paint sealants all fall into the same “paint protection category”. Although some do a better job than others, they all protect against and help prevent premature deterioration caused by the onset of oxidation. With modern technology, a car wax would be “old school” and be less protective than the more advanced paint sealants.

For more information on properly protect your car’s paint read our How To Wax Your Car to Perfection Article.

Step 5 – Maintaining Your New Car

Maintain � Maintain your paint with normal washing and quick detailing in between washing.

Quick detailers are also known as waterless wash and are commonly used by detailers and car enthusiasts to put the finishing touch on a freshly detailed vehicle. Quick detailers quickly and easily remove fresh water spots, streaks, dust and other light contamination. It is also a good idea to keep one with you for those dreaded bird bombs for a quick cleanup to avoid permanent damage.

Quick Detail Sprays are a special formulation that evaporate quickly to prevent further spotting, lubricate to prevent scratching and contain gloss enhancers to refresh your just waxed shine. For the car enthusiast, a quick detailer is more than just a convenient time saver, it is a necessity when it comes to keeping your finish looking great.

For more information on properly quick detail your car read our Detailing 101 � How To Quick Detail Your Car Article.

With a little TLC, your vehicle can go the distance

by James R. Healey, October 27, 2016

How to maintain a car

Angelo Merendino/AFP/Getty Images

Dad showing son how to check car oil

En español | There’s a strong argument for buying a new or newish car, sporting a suite of automatic safety features that weren’t available in older models.

But there’s also something to be said for an older car. Perhaps you’re delighted by the lower insurance premiums that usually apply to vehicles with more mileage and, in places where it’s imposed, a lower personal property tax. Or maybe you simply like the old buggy — you know its quirks, and you trust it. Or maybe there’s a different reason.

“It’s got sentimental value. I love my car because it used to be my brother’s,” Kristin Wong says on getrichslowly.org, explaining why she plans to drive her 2008 Toyota Corolla “into the ground.”

Whatever the reason, you’ll want to make your auto last. And that means keeping it fresh, dependable and desirable. “The big thing is routine maintenance,” says Heath Knox, master technician at Kenny Ross Chevrolet dealership in Zelienople, Pa., north of Pittsburgh.

“Make sure all the fluids are checked and changed,” advises Paul Danner, an automotive instructor at Rosedale Technical College in Pittsburgh.

Irv Gordon, a retired teacher from Long Island, N.Y., has driven a record 3 million–plus miles in his 1966 Volvo P1800S, mainly by following the book. “I figure that the guys who wrote the owner’s manual, the guys who wrote the service manual, they’re the guys who made the recommendations as to how long the parts were designed to last, and I just try to follow their recommendations,” he told Hemmings Motor News.

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Here’s a to-do list for keeping the buggy going, based on the advice of pros with hands-on expertise. The list might seem daunting, but you don’t have to perform all the tasks at once, nor do most of them need to be done very often.

Drive it. You can hear and feel if things are right. A good run up the highway every week or two burns off harmful moisture that has condensed in the oil and the exhaust system. Short drives won’t do the trick. Hitting the road also keeps your tires from getting flat spots and your battery from dying of neglect. Let a trusted friend drive, too, while you ride along. Someone else will hear and feel things you’ve grown used to and take for granted. Another advantange of being the passenger is that you sometimes can hear noises or detect problems that you don’t notice when you’re behind the wheel.

Wash it. If your car starts to look like a clunker, you’ll treat it like one. Washing your baby with a microfiber mitt and drying it with a microfiber towel are easiest on the paint; what’s more, you’ll feel and see body panels that need repair. If you run it through a commercial wash, pick one that uses humans, not brushes, to do the job, advises Michael Stoops, senior global product and training specialist at Meguiar’s, which makes premium car-care products.

Check it. Just before you head off for those weekly or biweekly drives, check the oil level in the engine using the under-hood oil dipstick. Do it when the car’s been sitting a couple of hours or more and is level. “Nothing will destroy an engine faster than neglecting oil-level checks or fresh-oil changes,” auto consultant and car-shopping site Kelley Blue Book states. Automatic transmission fluid also needs regular checking, though less often, via a separate dipstick. “Transmission fluid gets overlooked,” says Danner. The owner’s manual will tell you how, and how often, to check yours; it differs among vehicles.

Change it. How often? Consult the owner’s manual. “You never go wrong going by what the manufacturer says,” according to Danner. If you want to switch to regular engine oil from pricey synthetic, that’s fine, he says, as long as the automaker doesn’t require synthetic. Just remember, you’ll have to change it more often than you would synthetic. But switching to synthetic in a car that’s had a diet of regular oil for years could result in oil leaks and oil consumption, cautions Jeff Kaplon, also an auto instructor at Rosedale Tech.

Keep it cool. On most cars, you can check if your antifreeze is low by looking at the overflow tank (a small semitransparent receptacle under the hood, usually near the radiator). But you can’t tell anything else; the color of the coolant isn’t an indicator of its condition. “Antifreeze we have today will go quite a while, but it still becomes acidic over time if you don’t drain it and flush it,” Kaplon says.

Don’t ignore timing. “The timing belt is something most people don’t think about until it breaks,” Kaplon warns. That will halt, and possibly ruin, the engine. The owner’s manual will specify intervals for servicing the belt or chain (every 60,000 to 90,000 miles, for example).

Tend the tires. Check tire pressure regularly. The correct pressure is listed on a decal inside the driver’s door. The pressure listed on the tire is a maximum, not a recommendation. Rotate the tires regularly for even wear and longer life. If replacements are needed, get tires that were made recently, since at about five years, the rubber can begin to degrade. The date is found in the long number stamped on the sidewall. If the last four digits are, say, 1215, the tire was made in December 2015.

Fix it. Now, not later. “Make sure that something doesn’t deteriorate and you have a major expense,” says master technician Knox. “We have some customers with vehicles that have more than 200,000 or 250,000 miles. If something’s broken, they fix it right away.” Amen to that, says Dan Kuendel, a longtime Mercedes-Benz master technician in Northern Virginia who switched careers this year to work at a consulting company. “I’ve seen one-owner, 10-year-old cars that don’t seem to ever need much. When they do need repairs, the customers don’t hesitate.”

Stash cash. Older cars will whack you with big repair bills now and then. Set aside money in the interim, so you’re not tempted to dump the rig and buy a new one. The average price of a new vehicle is more than $34,000 — enough to pay for many repairs to your old set of wheels.

If you’re a fan of the eye-catching texture of matte or satin car finishes you’ve seen at auto shows, or on the slick new BMW your neighbor is driving, we get it. Matte finishes on cars (like a lot of things) come and go with the trends. The look is becoming more popular again, and is also being offered as a factory option, especially on luxury vehicles. BMW and Lexus both have variations of a matte finish on some of their 2020 models.

However, there are a lot of misconceptions about matte finishes being excessively high maintenance. So, if you like the look, but have been scared off because of its upkeep, we’re here to reassure you.

Matte Finish Isn’t Meant to be Perfect

First, let’s briefly explain what matte finish is. Cars with a matte finish paint have a non-reflective look and rough texture, as opposed to a glossy, shiny finish you’re probably used to seeing on cars. The two paints are applied the same way; the different looks are created in how the clear coat dries. (More on that in a minute.)

As we mentioned, for some reason, matte finish paint has a bad rap, especially regarding how you have to maintain it. For example: Some people think matte paint cannot get wet (what?), it can’t be washed and there’s no way to protect the finish.

But none of these are true — anymore anyway. The durability of matte paint has improved in recent years and now a matte finish is just as easy to care for as a regular gloss finish. But it still has its own requirements. Let’s take a look at why, and what they are.

Car paint jobs typically include primer, several layers of color and clear coat. As we said, the clear coat is what makes the difference between a regular glossy finish and a matte finish. With a glossy finish, the clear coat fills in any imperfections to create a smooth surface, then is polished and waxed to reflect light and create visual depth.

A matte clear coat is left deliberately imperfect, with a texture that diffuses light rather than reflects it. The clear coat also contains matting or texturizing agents to create a haze throughout the layers. Since the trick of matte is in the clear coat rather than in the colored layers, any color can be used to create a matte finish.

While it’s true that a matte surface is more likely to collect contaminants because it’s uneven, it’s not incapable of being washed or protected. Some people believe common contaminants such as bird poop and dead bugs immediately etch through matte clear coat and into the color. Experts say this isn’t true. Even though it’s good practice to remove contaminants — especially biological matter like poop and tree sap — as soon as possible, it doesn’t mean your paint is going to be destroyed before you even get home from work.

Hand-wash Only

Matte paint will etch eventually, however. And if you’re really worried about it, that’s where a matte-specific protective sealant products can save you some headache. You just can’t simply bust out your old collection of car wash products for this car.

Commercial products designed specifically for matte finishes are probably the safest bet, though some owners prefer homemade concoctions, such as a mix of dish soap and vinegar. (Dr. Beasley’s, a team of detailers, chemists and car enthusiasts who design, formulate and manufacture detailing products, advises against this, though.) A guide that Lexus provides to owners of the brand’s matte vehicles suggests using only water when possible, and a solution of citric acid powder to dissolve tough contaminants. (So, considering this contradictory information, we forgive you if you were one who thought the process was more complicated than it really is.)

The actual washing technique is just as important as the product you use, and there’s little disagreement there. Matte paint should be hand-washed — don’t send your car through an automatic car wash. The rough rollovers and brushes used in an automatic car wash — and the harsh chemicals — will remove sealants and protectants, while a gentle hand wash with a quality product will remove only dirt and contaminants.

Spot Cleaning and Protecting

For occasional spot cleaning or debris removal, again, use matte-specific soaps and detail sprays. They work just like their regular counterparts, except without the harsh ingredients that have undesirable effects. They can be used as often as necessary.

Don’t use a regular paste wax because it will fill the imperfections in the surface and (temporarily or permanently) ruin the matte effect. Choose sealant products designed specifically for matte paint; they offer similar protective benefits. Matte sealant is actually easier to use than paste wax, because it can be applied on a wet car, doesn’t require cure time, and doesn’t leave the kind of hazy residue that wax can leave on trim and emblems. A matte car’s finish should be sealed every six to nine months.

On a regular gloss finish, damage such as minor scratches, swirls and etching can often be buffed out, as long as the damage doesn’t go all the way through the paint to the primer. On a matte car, though, abrasive polishes and glazes will cause shiny spots that will permanently alter the car’s finish. Matte paint generally doesn’t show very minor scratches because the surface is already imperfect. That means there’s no need to polish a matte car. And you actually can’t polish a matte car, anyway, because polishing gradually wears down clear coat.

In the case that a scratch or scuff shows in the clear coat, or penetrates down into the color, the truth is, you’ll need to go pro. Visible scratches will need to be repainted by a professional rather than buffed or filled with the usual at-home techniques. Body work that requires repainting can be handled by any quality body shop.

Whether you’re shopping for a new car or considering custom work on a car you already own, the decision to go for matte paint shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s not quite as much of a challenge as you may have heard — or as difficult as it used to be — thanks to the availability of better-quality paints and care products. Still, it does require effort.

Automotive clay bar is a car care product tharemoves contaminants that nestledinto the car’s clear coat, even those that are too small to see. Dr. Beasley’s tested it to see if it was good on a matte finish and the conclusion was a resounding no. Without a smooth surface, the clay bar can’t glide and is therefore ineffective.