How to get the most from your car

Sanjeev Sinha, for ET
Thursday, May 20, 2010

In this world of soaring fuel prices along with your dream car getting more expensive by the day, you would surely want to get the best out of your car while keeping the running and repair costs to the minimum. After all, with the prices of today's cars, they're well said to be one of your biggest investments in life - which you would like to protect at any cost.
The best thing is that you don't need to be an auto expert or learn some exceptional tricks to achieve that milestone. Instead, just following the owner's manual as well as paying heed to some useful tips would do the needful. Here they go:
1. Start it up properly and drive conservatively
One of the best things you can do for a car's longevity is start it up properly and drive conservatively -- easy on the accelerator as well as the brakes. Jackrabbit starts and hard braking do more than wear the obvious parts more quickly, and thus can lead to more repairs down the road. "This is why buying a used sporty car can be riskier than usual. Cars like this are likely to have been flogged more than the average family sedan," says world-renowned automotive expert Joe Wiesenfelder.

2. Drive regularly
If you are one of those who prefer to keep their vehicles in the garage, be prepared to shell out more on repair jobs. Not driving your car regularly can be as damaging as driving it too hard and recklessly. If not more, it may weaken the battery of your car as also lead the brake rotor to rust which will need to be replaced immediately.

4. Be careful about tyre pressures
You should always be careful about tyre pressures. Under-inflated tyres increase fuel consumption by up to 10 percent and also effect stability during drive. Excessive air pressure, on the other hand, results in faster wear of treads, giving a hard and bumpy ride.
Keeping your tyres properly inflated, therefore, can increase fuel mileage and help reduce flats caused by uneven tyre wear. "You should also avoid fitting oversized tyres or nutty accessories. They may impress a few, but not your car's performance," warns automotive expert Murad Ali Baig.

5. Keep the engine tuned
Always keep your engine tuned. A fouled spark plug or plugged/restricted fuel injector can reduce fuel efficiency as much serious damage could also result if you don't pay heed to the warning lights, such as the oil pressure light and charging light. These lights come up when you turn on the ignition and fade away after a few seconds of engine operation. You should sense a problem if either a light doesn't come on during ignition or doesn't go away even when the engine is started.
For instance, if you operate the engine with the 'oil pressure light' on, this can result into severe engine damage. Experts say that when the oil pressure warning light illuminates, it is signaling that the engine has lost the pressure that supplies lubricating oil to vital engine parts. Likewise, if the 'malfunction indicator' light comes on when the engine is running, there is a problem with the emission control system itself.

7. Remove excessive items
Remove excessive items from the vehicle so far as possible. Experts say that an extra 100 pound in your car could reduce your MPG by up to 2 per cent.

8. Regularly change oil, air filters
Oil and air filters prevent dirt and harmful particles from damaging the engine and should be changed twice a year or every 3,000-5,000 kms. Also, the engine should maintain the amount of oil it is programmed to receive. True, "changing your oil and filter religiously doesn't guarantee that you'll get more than 200,000 miles out of a car, but I can tell you that all the people I've met who have racked up well over that amount had been diligent about it," observes Wiesenfelder.

Modern cars, in fact, are believed to be exceptionally well made. In the past decade alone, maintenance intervals for things such as spark plugs, emission and cooling systems have been stretched out to 100,000 miles. Still the need for periodic maintenance hasn't changed.
"In fact, given the longer life expectancy of the typical vehicle today, the need for periodic maintenance has never been greater if you expect to get the most from what has become the second biggest investment most individuals will ever make," according to the US-based National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Vehicle maintenance, therefore, is the most important aspects to its safety, longevity and value.

10. Get serviced on time
Your owner's manual itself lists specific time or mileage intervals between major and minor services your vehicle requires. Make sure all these jobs are done in time. A fast wear and tear on your vehicle can be prevented only by proper maintenance.
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