5 tips to keep your car in top shape

5 tips to keep your car in top shape
auto maintenance tips

auto maintenance tips

Want your car and your money to last as long as possible? Consider these suggestions, based on the experience of automotive experts who’ve received high ratings from consumers:

1. Don’t run on fumes

Avoid letting your gas tank fall to less than a quarter full. The reason? Most electric gas pumps are inside the gas tank and stay cool by being surrounded by gasoline. If the pump isn’t submerged, it can get hot, which can shorten its life.

For more information: Please visit the Angie's List Guide to Auto Service and Maintenance

2. Check the cabin air filter

Most cars now come with a cabin air filter, which cleans outdoor air before it comes inside. Typically, the filter should be changed every 50,000 miles. If not, it can become clogged. If you notice that the vehicle’s cooled or heated air flow is reduced, the cause may be a clogged cabin air filter. Clearing or changing the filter might avoid a more costly diagnostic bill.

3. Don’t ignore antifreeze

Have your antifreeze checked every 30,000 miles to confirm that it will provide freeze protection and that it’s not acidic. Antifreeze, when new, is alkaline. Over time, it becomes acidic and can damage the radiator, engine block, heater core, rubber hoses and more.

4. Know the signs of overheating

If you continue to drive a car with an overheated engine, you can cause serious damage. But you might not realize the engine is overheating. For one thing, the temperature gauge may read improperly if it’s not submerged in coolant.

Other warnings of an overheating engine include the cabin heater no longer producing heat or the air conditioner shutting down. If you hear engine rattles or pings, turn off the engine immediately to prevent serious damage.

5. Heed a flashing check-engine light

Stop the vehicle as soon as feasible if the check engine light comes on and flashes. But if the light remains steady, you can probably continue to drive a few hundred miles before getting service, provided your car has sufficient fluids and is in good condition.

Consider used parts

Ask your auto service provider if he or she can use less-expensive recycled parts. Be aware, though, that refurbished parts aren’t the right choice for all situations. This is particularly true with parts that wear quickly, such as starters, brake pads and tires, as well as those that are safety-focused, such as air bags and seat belts.

Use up your warranty

Don't allow any warranties associated with your vehicle to expire without taking advantage of what you can get done for free or at a discounted price.

Shop around for a mechanic

You may prefer to use the dealer’s service department while your vehicle is protected under the manufacturer’s warranty, but later, it may pay to consider an independent shop.

To find the right mechanic, ask friends, family or neighbors for recommendations, or use a trusted online review source. Check for certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Ask for and call references. Check that the shop has up-to-date equipment. Ask for the hourly labor rate.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, the nation's most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home improvement to automotive repair. Follow Angie on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.

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Getting regular maintenance for items such as your car's radiator can help you avoid expensive repairs down the road. (Photo by Fred Patton)
Getting regular maintenance for items such as your car's radiator can help you avoid expensive repairs down the road. (Photo by Fred Patton)

Knowing how your car works and the warning signs of problems large and small can help you save money on auto repairs, according to a highly rated Cincinnati mechanic.

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