25 ways to make your car run better and last longer
25 tips to help you and your car
Dry carpets mean good vision
Fix windshield stone chips promptly
Keep your mirror clear
Use washer fluid only
Check your tire pressure monthly
Don’t rely on TPMS
Use the penny test
Look for the tire wear bars
Listen for brake wear
Clean off your brake dust
Tire shine helps
Use nothing but new brake fluid
Follow your nose
No need to warm up
Don’t turn too hard
Turn on your lights!
Keep your vents clean
Fix stone chips promptly
Use polish before you wax
Don’t spray your mirror
Set your mirrors properly
Where’s your gas filler?
Don’t top off your tank
Click the gas cap
Be cautious with E85
- 25 tips to help...
- Dry carpets mean...
- Fix windshield...
- Keep your mirror...
- Use washer fluid...
- Check your tire...
- Don’t rely on TPMS
- Use the penny test
- Look for the tire...
- Listen for brake...
- Clean off your...
- Tire shine helps
- Use nothing but...
- Follow your nose
- No need to warm up
- Don’t turn too hard
- Turn on your lights!
- Keep your vents...
- Fix stone chips...
- Use polish before...
- Don’t spray your...
- Set your mirrors...
- Where’s your gas...
- Don’t top off...
- Click the gas cap
- Be cautious with E85
It’s a no-brainer: you want your car to last a long time, be safe, and look good, but you’ll have to put some work into it to make that happen. We have a wide variety of tips and tricks to keep your car in top shape for as long as possible.
Wet carpets are a problem: they’re prone to mildew, and they can cause the floor and the seat brackets to rust. But you may not know that they can also cause your windows to fog up, because they make the cabin air damp. Use floor mats, and if the carpets get soaked, leave the windows (and doors, if you can) open on a sunny day to dry them out.
Glass repair shops can usually fix stone chips quickly, easily, and relatively inexpensively. If you don’t get a chip fixed, it can cause the entire windshield to crack, and that means a pricey replacement.
Your windshield is transparent for a reason. If you hang bulky stuff off the mirror, you’ve lost your vision through that part of the glass. You could easily miss a pedestrian in front of your vehicle if you’ve got too much crap hanging in the way.
Don’t fill your washer reservoir with water. In summer, it evaporates too quickly on hot glass to do much good, and it doesn’t have the cleaning agents added to washer fluid to help scrub off bird droppings and insects. When winter comes, that water will freeze in the lines, which will result in an expensive repair.
Most cars have at least one tire that’s low on air. A low tire has more rolling resistance, which uses more fuel. You could be losing as much as three percent or more of your fuel economy if your tires aren’t at the right pressure.
If your car has a tire pressure monitoring system, it will warn you if your tire is low, but you still might not be getting the full benefit of properly inflated tires. That’s because TPMS only warns when your tire is at least 25 percent under-inflated. You could still have a tire that’s low enough that it’s wasting fuel, but not enough that it triggers a warning.
Now that the penny’s discontinued, fish one out of your change jar and save it for a quick check of your tire’s tread depth. Put the penny in the tire groove with the Queen’s crown down. If you can see the top of her crown, you need a new tire. You can use an American penny, too: put Mr. Lincoln head-down, and get new rubber if you can see all of the top of his head.
Tires are built with wear bars, which are strips of rubber running perpendicular to the tread. On a new tire, they’re very difficult to see, but as the tire wears, they become visible. If they look like this, you definitely need new tires. A tire like this no longer has enough tread to be safe.
Your brakes have wear indicators built into them, too. When you’re driving, they’ll make a continuous squeaking sound that goes away when you hit the brakes. When you hear that, it’s time to take your car in. Your brakes should get attention any time you hear them grinding or squealing, or if your car pulls to one side when you hit the brake pedal.
Brake pads work by friction, and whenever you hit the brakes, you’re grinding off a very fine layer. This will show up as sticky black dust on your wheels. You should clean it off regularly. If you don’t, it can permanently etch into the rims and you’ll never get them looking good again.
If you use a tire shine dressing on your tires, spray some on your rims and then wipe them clean (unless the product instructions specifically say not to use it on rims). This protective layer will help keep brake dust from sticking. You’ll still need to clean your rims regularly, but it’ll be easier to get the dust off.
Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning that it attracts water. If you fill your brake reservoir with water-contaminated brake fluid, or with anything that isn’t brake fluid (such as transmission oil, mineral oil, or engine oil), you will be looking at an extremely expensive repair to replace all the seals. Use brake fluid only from a new, sealed container. Brake fluid doesn’t evaporate, so if you have to fill your system, it’s leaking somewhere. Get it fixed.
Investigate your car any time you smell something unusual. Leaking coolant, hot engine oil, and overheated brakes all have distinct and unpleasant odours. Get them checked as soon as possible.
Even in cold weather, your vehicle only needs to idle less than 30 seconds to be ready to go. Running it longer just wastes fuel and creates unnecessary emissions (and that includes the drive-through—park and go in the store!).
When you’re making a turn, especially when parking, don’t wrench the steering wheel as far as it will go and then hold it there. If your vehicle has hydraulic steering (many newer ones use electric assist), it’s hard on the system. If you hear a squealing sound when you’ve turned the wheel as far as you can, it’s your car telling you to loosen up a bit.
It can be easy to forget to turn on your lights when it’s dark, since you can see your daytime running lights ahead of you, and many vehicles have illuminated instrument clusters at all times. If your lights are off, you don’t have illuminated taillights. Always turn on your lights in heavy rain or fog, too, so you’re visible to others from every angle.
It can be tough to clean the little vanes on your air vents. A soft, clean paint brush works very well for this: dab it into the vents to get the dust out. Cotton swabs, such as Q-tips, are good for cleaning hard-to-reach areas too, especially if you moisten the end with a bit of spray cleaner.
If a chip or scratch goes through the paint and down to the metal, use a dab of touch-up paint to cover it. If you don’t, dirt and salt will work their way into the chip and eventually cause the metal to rust. You can buy generic touch-up kits, or a dealer may be able to match the colour of your car.
After you’ve washed and dried your car, but before you wax it, apply a coat of auto polish. That coat of paint is actually a landscape of microscopic hills and gullies. Auto polish fills them in and provides a smooth surface for the protective coat of wax, making your car’s finish look shinier.
Don’t spray cleaner directly on your mirror. Instead, spray a cloth and use that, to avoid liquid seeping into the mirror’s interior. On a mechanical day/night mirror, the surface is a sheet of plain glass; when you move the switch to night mode, you’re moving a mirror in behind the glass. Auto-dimming mirrors use electricity to activate a special gel sandwiched in glass, which darkens to give the dimming effect.
If you can see the side of your car in your exterior mirrors when you’re sitting straight in the seat, your mirrors aren’t properly adjusted. To fix that, lean to the right as far as you can, and then set the passenger side mirror until you can just see the side of your car. Now lean to the left, and do the same with the driver’s mirror. Finally, adjust the rearview mirror so you can see directly behind you. You now have almost a full view around your vehicle.
You might have heard that if you look at your gas gauge icon, you can tell what side of the car your filler is on by which side of the pump the little nozzle is on. Unfortunately, it’s not true. If your filler is on the same side as the icon’s nozzle, it’s just a coincidence (after all, you have a 50/50 chance). However, many manufacturers put a little arrow beside the pump icon, which points to the side your filler is on. If you don’t have the arrow, you’ll have to get out and look.
Stop fuelling when the pump automatically shuts off. Topping off the tank by squeezing the nozzle a few times isn’t a good idea, for several reasons. First off, the tank could overflow. Some gas pumps have a vapour recovery system, which could siphon back that extra fuel (but you’ll pay for it anyway!). And an overfilled tank could send fuel into the charcoal canister, an under-hood component that captures fumes and sends them back to the engine. If this happens, your check engine light could come on.
Always turn your fuel cap until it clicks. Depending on the vehicle, this could be one click, or as many as three or more. These clicking caps ensure that the fuel system is sealed and vapours can’t escape. If you don’t tighten the cap until it clicks, you could get a “check engine” light come on in your dash.
Although it’s still a rare fuel, some stations sell E85, a combination of 85 percent plant-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Virtually all cars can handle small quantities of ethanol, but E85 should only be used in vehicles specifically marked “flexible-fuel capable” (the gas cap will be yellow, too). They have special seals to handle ethanol’s corrosive properties. And because ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, the vehicle uses more of it, and flex-fuel systems have special pumps and injectors to move larger quantities. Of course, a flexible-fuel vehicle will also run fine on gasoline, too.