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Cheat Sheet: The Best Ways to Make Your Car Last Longer

Your vehicle is an investment, so what can you do to make the most of your car? This is something we hear from customers on our support lines and at trade shows all the time.

Fortunately, there are many ways to make your car last longer. Regular care and maintenance both go a long way to getting more years out of the life of your ride. Here are seven simple things every vehicle owner needs to do for a more extended return on their purchase.

1. Keep It Cool

The cooling system on your vehicle helps protect your engine from damage – it’s one of the most overlooked systems on your car. Those who know how to make a vehicle last longer understand the importance of regularly checking the cooling system. One crucial component of this system is the radiator, which allows heat from the engine coolant to dissipate. The engine coolant then returns to the motor to take on more heat. The constant cycling of refrigerant through the system prevents the hard-working motor from getting too hot and sustaining damage.

So – check your coolant level regularly. It does not have to be hot outside for your engine to overheat. Outside temperatures have less effect on the engine’s operation than the circulation of coolant. If you have a coolant leak, your engine could run hot. When you continue to drive with an overheated engine, your car will shut itself down to attempt to prevent damage to the motor. However, damage to the components under the hood may have already occurred by this time. Don’t let yourself get stuck on the side of the road with several thousands of dollars in repairs. Prevent this situation by checking the coolant level and repairing leaks as soon as they happen.

Cheat Sheet: The Best Ways to Make Your Car Last Longer

2. Check Tire Pressure

One thing you may not recognize as contributing to how to make your car last longer is maintaining your tires. Easy, right? Yes, and also easy to overlook, because let’s face it: tires aren’t that sexy. However, tire pressure is more important than you may expect. If the tire pressure is too low, your vehicle will lose gas mileage and run less efficiently. Should you over-inflate the tires to compensate, you risk a blowout and a severe accident.

Check your vehicle’s tire pressure every time you fill up the tank, or at least once or twice a season (especially important as the weather turns from warm to cold). Use a small pocket pressure gauge you can purchase from an auto parts store. These fit into your glovebox and cost little. However, using one can save you money on your gas mileage. Use the tire pressure recommendation for your vehicle found printed on the inside of the driver’s side door or in your owner’s manual. These recommendations vary by make and model, and sometimes, a mechanic may not be aware of these values for your particular car. Always follow the manufacturer’s suggested pressure to balance handling and gas mileage.

Tire pressure is not only part of keeping up with your vehicle. You also need to regularly rotate the tires and replace them as they wear out. (Again, tire rotation is a pain and boring, but the results are well worth it.) As you use your tires, they will wear down, and worn tires require more distance to reach a full stop and don’t handle wet or rough surfaces as well. According to a study done by AAA, stopping distance increased by 86 feet in wet conditions when drivers had tires worn to 4/32-inch. Even if you keep up your engine and other parts of your car, getting into a wreck because you failed to replace your worn tires will make the upkeep worthless.

Your tires are what connect the rest of your car to the road. Don’t neglect them.

Luckily, the study showed cheaper tires performed equally as well in wet conditions as more expensive tires. If your vehicle does not require pricy tires (for example, sports cars and heavy-duty ORV rigs), use the cheapest ones recommended to get the traction you need and help prevent accidents. Regularly replacing your tires with new ones, regardless of the price, will help keep your braking and handling in good shape, even in adverse conditions.

Cheat Sheet: The Best Ways to Make Your Car Last Longer

3. Get Regular Tune-Ups

Just like you get annual physicals, your car also needs regular tune-ups. In fact, this is what many mechanics recommend as one of the most important things you can do to make the most of your car.

One of the most common maintenance items you’re likely familiar with is an oil change. You get regular visual inspections of your engine and fluid levels whenever you schedule an oil change. However, oil changes should not be the only time you take your vehicle in for service.

Service intervals as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer vary. The tasks performed could include replacing spark plugs, changing the brake pads and rotors, checking the state of the transmission or the filters. If you do a lot of city driving in heavy traffic, follow the severe-use maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. You will need more frequent service visits due to the harsh conditions your engine undergoes. To ensure you properly keep up with your vehicle without spending too much money, always compare any service interval recommendations given by a mechanic to the suggested schedule in your vehicle’s manual. Use the owner’s manual service schedule over a mechanic’s suggestions.

Through regular tune-ups and updating your engine parts, you can increase the time until you need to purchase a new vehicle. In between services, though, keep your engine clean by using an engine treatment, like our famous Rislone Engine Treatment. You can even use this formulation to clean out a dirty engine by pouring in a couple quarts and changing the oil after 100 miles. This option is gentler on your engine than a harsh engine flush. Engine treatment products like Rislone’s help maintain your engine’s operation by keeping the inner workings clean and improving power.

If your car is a high-performance vehicle or truck, or you use strictly synthetic oil, check out our Rislone Nano Prime, the most advanced engine treatment available on today’s market.

4. Inspect Your Vehicle

How often to you really give your car a solid once-over?

While you need to take your vehicle to a mechanic or your dealer’s service center for maintenance, you also should get into the habit of checking over your car yourself. Look for signs of problems like low fluid levels, an oil patch under your parked car or worn belts. These all hint at growing issues that could shorten your vehicle’s life.

When you fill up the tank, take a walk around your car. Look at the tires to see if they are wearing down or if they are wearing unevenly. Uneven wear on your tires is an indication you have a more significant problem with your steering or suspension. Address any small issues you see as soon as possible. Minor issues can quickly grow into more substantial ones. For example, an oil leak could cause your oil level to drop dangerously low. If the oil gets too low, engine friction increases, causing severe damage to the motor components.

Pay attention to your vehicle when you drive and listen for any unusual noises. Sounds like banging, pinging or loud engine operation could signal you need to take your vehicle in for a check. Until you get your car in for an evaluation, see if a leak stop treatment can help to correct the issues, like Compression Repair with Ring Seal that corrects power loss from leaks in the engine.

5. Keep It Clean

While you may not consider it, washing your car is another way you make your car last for a long time. The paint protects your vehicle from rust and other damage, but even the best paint can become worn over time if you don’t regularly wash your car. Substances you encounter often like wind-blown sand, bird droppings and sea salt spray can lead to pitting or other damage on the exterior of your vehicle. Washing and waxing your car can help prevent these problems.

One of the worst offenders for vehicles is road salt. Though salting roadways prevents accidents, failing to wash off the salt from your car may lead to rusting of some metal parts. Always wash your car thoroughly during the winter. The undercarriage allows for drainage if you get the water inside the vehicle during the washing, but if you leave salt on the undercarriage or the exterior of your car, you could find yourself with a prematurely aging vehicle you won’t be able to sell without getting a new paint job.

Don’t neglect the interior of your vehicle, either. Cleaning the inside, especially removing stains immediately when they happen, will make it easier to resell your car. While cleaning, you also will have a closer look at the inside and outside, giving you another chance to inspect the vehicle for signs of problems.

Protip: every couple years, spring $200 or so for a full interior/exterior detailing. This is a professional service, and your car comes out of it looking brand new. Plus, the treatments, coatings and waxes a professional detailer uses FAR surpass any consumer-grade stuff.

6. Drive Smarter

Adjust your driving habits to reduce stress on your engine and increase your vehicle’s life. When you start the car, wait for 30 to 60 seconds before driving. Doing so allows oil to warm, making it thin enough to course through the engine appropriately. When the oil flows through the engine, the motor components have enough lubrication to avoid startup friction, which can damage the interior.

Another way to help your engine is by optimizing it for its modern design. While you don’t want to regularly hit the redline where the RPMs reach their max, you should occasionally. Modern vehicles have an engine form that allows them to clear carbon deposits from the engine when you rev up the motor to the redline. Only do this in the acceleration lane of the freeway or another safe area. You don’t need to do this practice daily. Just push your engine every few hundred miles. If you don’t want to waste gas mileage doing this task, use a fuel system treatment formula (like our PTEN award-winning Rislone Complete Fuel System Treatment) that will while also remove carbon build-up and debris while protecting the engine from contaminants.

7. Lighten the Load

Before you hit the road, remove excess materials stored in your car. Too many items in your car’s trunk weigh it down, reducing its gas mileage and increasing the stress on the engine. If you don’t need to carry something, don’t keep it in your car. Of course, don’t go too far in cleaning out your car. Always keep a spare tire, tire changing kit and roadside tool kit in your trunk to attend to problems on the road should they occur.

Cheat Sheet: The Best Ways to Make Your Car Last Longer

How Many Years Does My Car Have Left?

Bottom line: how long your car lasts depends on you. Caring for your vehicle through regular maintenance and service can help you reach 200,000 miles or more in your vehicle. Some situations, though, can put your car out of commission permanently, without hope for repair:

  • Floods: A flood ruins your vehicle in ways you may not immediately see. In addition to engine problems, mold can grow in the interior, making you sick. A completely water-inundated car has reached the end of its life.
  • Totaling: If you total your vehicle in an accident, consider it time to look for a new car. Because failing to stop in time can lead to some accidents, you can help prevent a totaled vehicle by maintaining your tires and brakes.
  • Fires: Like floods, fires irreparably destroy your car. Move on from the vehicle instead of attempting to repair it. Running with an overheated engine or having too little oil can lead to engine fires. Checking your fluid levels can prevent this type of vehicle incident.
  • Excessive Repair Costs: Even well-maintained older vehicles may require more frequent and more costly repairs. Weigh the cost of repairing the car to how much you would spend on a down payment for a new vehicle. If the down payment is less or equal to the price of repairs, you should replace your car.

While not all these causes of the destruction of your vehicle are preventable, some are with proper maintenance. You don’t have to let an overheated engine turn into a fire or a bad wheel bearing cause you to need a new front end alignment. Taking care of your vehicle’s small chores will help prevent severe damage. Because nature is unpredictable, though, always be ready for anything. To be sure surprises don’t ruin you financially, check with your insurance coverage to see where your vehicle has protection in the event of floods and fires as well as accidents.

Cheat Sheet: The Best Ways to Make Your Car Last Longer

Trust Rislone to Help Make Your Car Last for a Long Time

Because we’ve been in this business for a long time. Over 90 years, to be exact.

One of the top ways you can make the most of your car is to use the best vehicle performance products in your engine. Our Rislone line of products helps protect and repair your engine, even after years of wear. We’ve won awards, been used by race teams, and even played a role in arctic expeditions. For instance, our Compression Repair renews your engine and seals up leaks caused by wear. By sealing these micro-leaks in your engine, it will recover lost performance and last longer.

Likewise, our Rislone lineup is known to keep engines bulletproof and performing at their best as they age. To that end, our Rislone Nano Prime is the very best engine treatment we have ever developed, and it’s the one most used here by the motorheads in the office (we have quite a few).

We strive to make it easier for you to maximize the life of your car by making quality performance products for your engine. If you want to incorporate Rislone products into your maintenance routine, use our store locator to find the nearest retailer with our treatment fluids. You can also contact us with any questions or feedback about our products.

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