A car is a costly purchase and an important part of many people’s lives. If you’re holding off on buying or leasing a new car or SUV, there’s a lot you can do to take care of the one you have and prolong its life.
As we head into winter, it’s even more important to take care of your car. Cars take a beating in Canadian winters, and this is true for electric vehicles too. Their batteries take longer to charge in cold temperatures, and they use more energy to heat up the interior. With internal combustion engine cars, the oil gets thicker in colder weather, which impacts the engine’s performance. This means you’ll use more fuel, which can be expensive when gas prices are fluctuating.
Your vehicle is a major household purchase and a necessary source of transportation – the last thing you want is to have it break down in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of winter – so it’s important to protect it and keep it in tip-top shape.
How Can I Extend the Life of My Car?
Take care of your tires (and get winter tires if you don’t have them)
Tires deflate as they get colder, so winter is an especially important time to make sure you monitor and check your tire pressure to keep them properly inflated. And make sure you have an inflated spare in the trunk. Be sure you regularly rotate your tires as they don’t wear down the same way, this can help delay the need to buy new tires. An additional benefit of winter tires is that some insurance companies may offer you discounts if winter tires are installed on your vehicle.
Change the engine oil regularly
Oil affects a lot of how your car functions. Dirty oil wears out your engine, and engine problems can translate to big repair costs.
Keep the brakes in great shape
Monitor your brake pads and, while you’re at it, check the brake fluid – if it’s darker in colour, it’s time for a change. The cost of a collision due to faulty brakes can be significant (not to mention dangerous), so help minimize that risk by staying on top of their maintenance.
Schedule regular maintenance
While the first three tips are priorities, an overall service call will also cover other important checkpoints such as coolant, windshield wiper blades, shocks and struts, belts and hoses, spark plugs and the health of the battery. Find a good and certified car mechanic to help take care of a lot of these issues. It might be one of the better investments you make.
Keep an eye on the charge of your EV
Speaking about batteries, with electric vehicles you should try to keep the charge between 20 and 80 percent. It can degrade the battery quicker if you are regularly charging it from low to full.
Make sure your gas is good
Avoid dirty gasoline. Gas that is contaminated, not mixed properly or watered-down means reduced fuel economy, higher emissions and an increased chance your vehicle will stall. Bad gas can also occur when fuel sits in the tank for a long time or gets contaminated by water from a loose gas cap, for instance. In extreme instances it can lead to damage to the vehicle’s engine.
If you’re going to store your vehicle during the winter months, as many people do with luxury and classic cars, make sure to add a fuel stabilizer and start it up on occasion, and disconnect and remove the battery.
Respect the road conditions
If you’re stuck in snow (or mud), go easy on the accelerator as spinning the tires can cause a lot of heat and put pressure on clutches and transmissions. Make sure you have a bag of gravel or sand in the trunk for those situations.
When it’s very cold (or hot) it’s best to not accelerate too quickly and to let the engine warm up gradually, which leads to less wear and tear than if you drive more aggressively on start-up. It’s also worthwhile to try to consolidate shorter driving trips and errands (which can also save on fuel costs).
Don’t ignore the manual
Every car has one. In there you’ll find important information on the vehicle’s maintenance schedule, like when to swap out the belts and change the oil, and what type of oil to use, all of which will help you extend the life of your vehicle.
What are Some Tips to Consider If You Have an Older Vehicle
Check on your insurance premiums
If you are trying to extend the life of your vehicle, you will want to revisit your car insurance coverage to make sure it is still appropriate for your needs.
“Where the vehicle is over 15 years old and the value is not there, my team and I often give the client the option of removing collision to bring down their premium,” says Michelle Zambri, agency manager for Allstate in Vaughan, Ont. It’s important to know, however, that if you find yourself in an at-fault claim situation, any repairs to your vehicle will not be covered without collision coverage. Be sure to speak to your agent to see if you have the right coverage for your vehicle.
Some older models can also have higher premiums. “Older vehicles have no power steering or ABS [anti-lock braking systems], also making them more expensive on insurance,” Zambri says.
Invest in roadside assistance
Investing in a roadside assistance plan can save you money in the long run, especially with an older vehicle.
“Depending on the age of the vehicle, roadside assistance is a must,” Zambri says. The costs of towing, repairs, vehicle rentals while a car is in the shop following a breakdown can quickly add up to much more than an annual roadside assistance plan. You can also include a special endorsement (or add-on) to your insurance plan that provides coverage for damages to a car you don’t own, such as a rental vehicle.
Know when it’s time to let go
At some point, an older vehicle, no matter how well you look after it, will become an unreliable money pit.
As a vehicle ages, it might not just spend more time in the shop, but original parts can become tougher to come by, especially if the vehicle is more than 10 years old. The risk there is that you might be looking at after-market replacement parts that might not be the best for your vehicle and may compromise its safety, Zambri says.
“If the vehicle is falling apart and always in the shop, I would most definitely advise to get a newer vehicle and save some money,” Zambri says. “Depending on the insurance policy, this may come with added insurance discounts for the relevant safety features associated with newer vehicles.”
Disclaimer: This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.