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February 2013

How to extend the life of your car

It's there for you, through wind, heat, rain and cold. It's your car.

How to extend the life of your car

When's the last time you showed your car a little love? Well, you can fix that. The following tips can help you extend the life of your current vehicle while reducing the possibility of mechanical breakdowns. These tips can apply to any vehicle and are actually pretty simple to follow.

Read the owner's manual

While today's vehicles are more reliable than ever, they still need some maintenance to keep performing at their best. Regarding a maintenance schedule, it's fine to follow a dealer's schedule for maintenance, but it is often best to follow the vehicle manufacturer's schedule, as it details how to get the most of your vehicle from those who designed the car. Think of it this way: the dealer wants to sell you services, and would like you to purchase another vehicle rather than keeping the one you have running, while the manufacturer wants the car to be as reliable as possible. We'll say it again: a great way to extend the life of your car is to stick to the manufacturer's recommendations on oil changes and other regular maintenance, which is all available in the owner's manual for your vehicle.

The benefits of regular maintenance

Having regular automotive maintenance is important for many reasons. By having your car checked out regularly you can prevent small problems from turning into large ones. In addition to making your vehicle more reliable, properly inflated tires and regularly changing fluids and filters help your car's engine work less, easing the burden on the engine over its lifetime.

Having scheduled maintenance performed - and saving the service records - will add to the value of your vehicle should you decide to sell it. By keeping up with your car's recommended maintenance you will increase the value compared to one that was not regularly maintained. Another added benefit to regularly maintaining your car is that it can contribute to increased fuel economy.

A mechanic you can trust

Finding a mechanic you can trust can be a hard task, but once you have done so it can be invaluable. When searching, the mechanic and shop should be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Note: you want to look for the actual certificates on the wall.

Many garages specialize in certain makes and models. Those that focus on the type of vehicle you own are more likely to have the latest training and equipment to fix your vehicle. You can also try out a shop by taking your vehicle in for a small repair or maintenance service such as an oil change to judge the experience before you use them for a larger repair. Another great way to locate a reliable mechanic is to ask family and friends who they use or recommend. You can also search for mechanics for free on web sites such as, RepairPal and Cartalk.com, and for a fee on Angie's List. You can also check out the Better Business Bureau website for information on a company.

Some additional things to look for when checking out a mechanic is the cleanliness of the waiting area, and the general attention to the environment overall. A business that values its customers will take the time to deliver a great customer experience, starting with the facilities: if a shop doesn't care enough about keeping the waiting area or bathrooms clean, chances are that attitude will be reflected in the service you receive on your vehicle. Finally, make sure the shop is convenient for you. Even if the shop is great, if its hours or location conflict with your schedule you are less likely to see the benefits.

Keep your car running longer

To extend the life of your vehicle, it's best to look at the bigger picture: Parts are going to wear out and will need to be replaced eventually on every vehicle, no matter the make or model. With this in mind, don't get frustrated if something needs to be replaced. Replacing needed parts will actually save you in the long run, especially when compared to the price of a car payment.

Another easy thing to do to keep your vehicle running longer: take it easy when driving. A cold engine - one that's been off for more than five hours - will have little to no oil left on its moving parts. It only takes a few seconds after starting the engine for the engine to be adequately lubricated. Let the engine idle for at about 30 seconds before shifting into gear and driving. Consistently driving fast and braking hard will reduce the life of your car and its components. Need additional proof to take it easy when driving? Edmunds.com editors tested these driving tips and found that driving with reduced hard starts and braking improved fuel economy by as much as 35 percent. Not too shabby...

Note: These tips are strictly for educational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice. Links from 21st Century Insurance to third-party sites do not constitute an endorsement by 21st Century Insurance of the parties or their products and services. 21st Century Insurance is not responsible for any damages that result from use of these products or services.

Sources: autos.com; ase.com; edmunds.com;

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