(ARA) - All motorists want their vehicle to last on the road and perform at its best. With fall in the air, it's important to make sure your car is properly prepared for cooler weather and weekend road trips. Since a car is typically the second largest investment Americans make, and families are now keeping their vehicles longer than ever, protecting and maintaining this investment is key to keeping cars running smoothly and efficiently.
Sometimes vehicle maintenance can be one of the more daunting aspects of automobile ownership. For many drivers, spending a few hours under the hood or taking their car into the dealer can be like having a tooth pulled - necessary, but painful.
Lifelong automotive enthusiast Bob Long, host of the nationally syndicated "AutoWorld Radio," the "Motor Trend Radio" program and "The Long Drive" feature, has helped educate drivers about their vehicles for more than two decades. He has a few simple tips for maintaining your vehicle's longevity and helping to avoid preventable repair costs down the road.
"As a passionate car enthusiast, I constantly stress that there's no substitute for preventative maintenance. A little TLC can go a long way when it comes to taking care of your vehicle and avoiding repairs," says Long, an automotive expert with 25 years in the industry.
With a little planning and some willpower, there are a few smart and easy ways to get your vehicle ready for the road. The key is to plan ahead and know the basics. Below are a few essential maintenance tips from Long that can pay off in the long run.
A regular oil change is the service most likely to help prolong the life of your vehicle, and it's especially important to keep in mind before you head out on any long road trips. Changing the oil, not just topping it off, with a high-quality motor oil that meets the specifications recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer can help your engine get the lubricant protection it needs.
Just because you can't see a problem, doesn't mean it's not there. Before taking a long trip or if you drive a lot, visit a trusted professional and make sure your car is properly tuned. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, regular vehicle maintenance can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
If your car is experiencing poor fuel economy, decreased horsepower, hesitation and/or rough idling, consider using a fuel additive to help your vehicle's critical engine parts work more efficiently.
Make sure your tires are at the correct pressure and not over- or under-inflated. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, keeping tires at the correct pressure can improve your gasoline mileage by about 3.3 percent. Proper air pressure is also essential for automotive safety and optimum driving performance.
A number of consumers have switched to low-quality gasoline due to the struggling economy. That's understandable, but what most people don't know is that lower-quality gasoline can leave behind carbon deposits that can rob the vehicle of performance which may reduce gas mileage.
Running your vehicle on empty is also not a part of good car care, because sediment from gasoline settles at the bottom of the gas tank and when the gas level in your car runs low, your car uses the dirtiest gasoline in its tank. Driving on a near-empty tank puts your car at risk to get this dirt into the fuel line and possibly the engine.
"Maintenance 'musts' include regularly checking your vehicle's oil, fluids and filters," says Long. "These basics are a critical part of any maintenance regime and relatively inexpensive. By keeping these simple car care tips in mind, you can help keep your car running at its best for years to come."