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10 Steps to Maintain Your Car and Preserve Resale Value

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  • 4 min read
Here's your car maintenance checklist.

For many of us, our car is the second largest purchase we will ever make (after buying a house). To protect your investment, it’s wise to prioritize regular, preventative maintenance. Regular car maintenance not only keeps your car running smoothly, it also helps protect the car’s resale value. Here are 10 savvy ways to keep your car in tip-top shape.

1. Do Regular Oil Changes

Season: Year-round or every 5,000 to 7,000 miles

Ensure you change your car’s oil according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Clean oil keeps the engine running smoothly and can extend its life. If you do nothing else, make sure your car gets regular oil changes.

2. Check Tire Pressure

Season: Year-round. monthly (or every 2 to 4 weeks in the winter)

Proper tire pressure not only improves fuel efficiency, it also enhances safety. Whether you are driving your car regularly or not, check the tire pressure monthly and maintain the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Also, keep in mind that cold weather causes tire pressure to drop, so you may need to check more regularly during winter months.

3. Rotate and Balance Tires

Season: Spring, Fall, or every 5,000 to 8,000 miles

Extend the life of your tires by rotating and balancing them regularly. This helps ensure even wear and improves overall performance. While you are at it, don’t forget to check the spare. Not sure if you need new tires? Perform the penny test. Just take a standard penny and place it with Lincoln’s head upside down between two ribs on your tire. If part of Abe’s head is covered, your tires are still in good shape. If you can see his entire head (according to Les Schwab), your tread is worn to 2⁄32 inch or less and it’s time for new tires.

4. Perform or Schedule a Brake Inspection

Season: Spring, Fall, or every 25,000 miles

Worn-out brake pads, damaged rotors, or brake fluid issues can severely reduce your braking efficiency or cause a complete brake failure. So, don’t overlook your brakes in your regular maintenance schedule. Every 6 to 12 months, check the brake pads, rotors, and fluid levels. Address any issues promptly to maintain optimal braking performance.

5. Keep the Exterior Clean

Season: Year-round, every 2 weeks

Dirt and other debris can lead to rust and corrosion on your car. So, plan to regularly wash and wax your vehicle to protect its exterior from dirt, grime, and harsh weather conditions. Replace the windshield wipers every 12 months (or more often depending on how cold and wet your region is).

6. Practice Interior Care

Season: Year-round

Make a habit of keeping the inside of your car clean and well-maintained. Regularly vacuum, clean, and condition the interior to prevent damage, fading, and stains. Also—for the sake of your car and yourself—replace the cabin air filter (every 12 months or 12,000 miles) to prevent excess wear and tear on your air conditioning system.

7. Follow the Maintenance Schedule

Season: Yearly, or at 30,000, 60,000, and 90,000 miles (and every 12,000 miles thereafter)

Consult your car’s manual and follow the recommended maintenance schedule. This is especially important if you have a vehicle warranty that depends on proper maintenance. A full maintenance schedule includes routine checks on the suspension system, fluids, spark plugs, belts, hoses, differentials, lights, battery, and other components.

8. Address Issues Promptly

If you notice any unusual sounds, smells, or performance issues, address them promptly. If you ignore the problem, it can lead to more significant and costly repairs later on.

9. Use Quality Parts and Fluids

If you can, when replacing parts or fluids, opt for high-quality, manufacturer-recommended products. This ensures optimal performance and longevity.

10. Keep Records

Maintain a record of all maintenance and repair activities. Keep them in your glove box or a file box in your home. Having a documented history of your car’s care can boost its resale value and provide confidence to potential buyers.

How to Budget for Regular Maintenance

Owning a car is expensive. Set up a dedicated savings account to ease the financial burden and prepare for unexpected expenses. You can even nickname it “Car Maintenance Account” if that helps you save. To help yourself build a car-specific nest egg, set up a direct deposit to your Car Maintenance Savings Account from your paycheck or schedule an automatic transfer from another account. If you can, save $100 a month—especially if your car has over 100,000 miles. Do not dip into this account unless it is for car maintenance and repairs.

Taking care of your car doesn’t have to be complicated. It just needs to get done. After all, regular maintenance is an investment that pays off in the long run, ensuring that your car remains reliable (and, ahem, valuable) for years to come.

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