Simple car maintenance

When you buy a car, you are also purchasing a new set of responsibilities to maintain - or you risk facing costly repairs later. Between auto insurance and other car payments, the last thing you want to shell out for is a service bill because you didn't take a few basic steps to keep your car functioning at its best. Fortunately, many problems are easily avoided with simple maintenance. Here are some of the top maintenance tasks you shouldn't ignore:

Car wash
Whether you get down and dirty by washing your own car or you take the vehicle to professionals to get cleaned, forgetting this task can actually be a big mistake. While you might think the only downside to going without a wash is a dirty car, there are more serious consequences. Your car's exterior is vulnerable to all kinds of conditions that could ruin the paint and require an expensive repair. During winter, ice, snow and salt can all leave grime on the exterior that could lead to rust and corrosion if left for too long. If you ever plan to sell your car or trade up, keeping the exterior in good condition is important and will save you money later on.

Tire pressure
When the seasons change, temperatures fluctuate and affect the air pressure in your vehicle. While you might think your tires have the proper amount of air in them when you look at them, you can't truly know unless you check the pressure with a tire gauge. These devices are relatively cheap and small, and can be stored easily in your vehicle for convenient use. You should check your tire pressure about once a month to maintain the proper amount of air. You should typically be able to find the manufacturer's recommended pressure in your owner's manual. If your tires have too little or too much air in them and you don't check the pressure, you could end up with an array of other issues, including decreased efficiency, poor handling, and wear and tear on the tires and suspension. You may need to replace your tires sooner than normal as a result of improper inflation.

Your car requires several different types of fluids to run properly, each with their own specific function. Not checking these can lead to a disaster for your vehicle and your finances. Perhaps most important is taking a look at the motor oil and regularly scheduling an oil change. Your car's manufacturer should have a recommended range for motor oil changes, such as every 5,000 miles or so. Missing these intervals could cause your engine to seize if the oil becomes thick and sludgy. In addition to the motor oil, be sure to check coolant levels and brake and windshield fluids for your car to function properly. Too little fluid could create bigger problems as you drive. While replacing the wiper fluid won't have an effect on a car's performance, it will matter for your driving ability when you need to clear the windshield to see the road.

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