Cars represent a major source of utility and leisure, but can become expensive if owners do not maintain them. Preventive maintenance is the key to keeping repairs under control. The more you learn about cars, the more you will likely save money on repairs. If you just rely on a mechanic to do all the thinking and you ignore maintenance, be prepared to pay extremely high repair bills.

The following tips may help keep your car running indefinitely without constantly ending up in the auto shop:

  1. Reduce Your Driving
    By cutting down on the amount of miles you drive on a weekly basis, you will save money on gas and maintenance because there will be less wear and tear on your vehicle. Think of ways to reduce driving by walking, riding a bicycle, carpooling or taking public transportation. You will still need to drive your car once in a while to make sure fluids circulate and parts don’t rust, but try to make shorter trips when possible. Even carpooling a few days per week can help increase your vehicle’s longevity. You don’t need to eliminate recreational driving completely, but try to focus on limiting your joy rides.

  2. Avoid Gunning the Accelerator
    Since traffic laws continue to get stricter rather than more lenient, try to forget about the dream of being a race car driver on city streets and highways. Just because you have a car that can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds doesn’t mean you should take advantage of that feature. Slower acceleration is much gentler on the car’s overall health. Even when you start your car in the morning, you don’t have to rev up the engine much, especially in cold weather. Your car will run much more smoothly if you give the oil a chance to warm up before driving.

  3. Pay Attention to the Engine
    Whenever you see anything strange with the engine, get it checked immediately. A loud ticking sound from the engine or a screechy noise when you start the car can indicate a major problem that will only get worse if you ignore it. If you see an engine indicator light up, consider having the engine checked. If the engine doesn’t have a problem, consider getting the light fixed so that you are not distracted by it. The engine is like the heart of your vehicle and needs to be clean, especially within the cylinders.

  4. Change the Oil and Fluids Regularly
    Ignoring your oil completely is a guaranteed recipe for disaster that can eventually lead to a blown engine, which will be expensive to replace. Read your manual and check the manufacturer’s recommendation for how often the oil should be changed, which is commonly every 1000 to 3000 miles. Vital fluids also need to be checked periodically to make sure they are at optimal levels, especially when seasons change.

  5. Don’t Store Heavy Objects
    Unless you drive a big truck, there’s no reason to keep heavy objects stored in your vehicle all the time. This excess weight can wear out your tires faster and can put an overall strain on the vehicle. It’s fine to transport objects that fit in your car, but find a more appropriate storage unit for extended periods of time. As far as storing the vehicle itself, it’s always better to keep it in a garage or carport rather than out on the street, especially in the winter.

  6. Get Periodic Tune-ups
    Use your manufacturer’s manual to gauge how often to get a full tune-up. While many modern cars don’t need as many tune-ups as in the past, it’s still a good idea to have your car checked by an experienced professional once in a while. A clogged fuel line may not be obvious but can have adverse effects on gas mileage, just as worn plugs and wires can reduce efficiency. Most importantly, make sure all safety features, such as brakes, are in top shape at all times.

  7. Checking your tires every now and then can help prevent an accident since tires can blow up if they go bald. When tires get smooth on inner edges, it can mean you need a front end alignment.

  8. Find an Honest Mechanic
    Try to find a seasoned mechanic who you can trust. Many mechanics over-charge due to consumer ignorance. An independent mechanic in Orange County who is ASE certified and has his own small shop may give you a better deal than nationally known automotive repair shops.