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Video: Extend the life of your car with quick tricks

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    >> target. expect more. pay less.

    >>> and this morning we're starting a brand new series called "going the distance today." it's all about improving your overall driving experience. let's begin with how to extend the life of your car. chubba chedda is the editor in chief of "driver to be." chubba, good morning. nice to see you. happy holidays.

    >> same to you.

    >> we're going to talk to people about things they can do, and right off the bet, we should tell them, you don't have to be a gear head. you don't have to know the inner workings of your car. these are simple things , right?

    >> very simple things . none of them are complicated. you just have to educate yourself a little on what to do.

    >> when we were younger, you got a car and we had to worry about, when do i get a tune-up? engines have come a long way, right?

    >> in the old days, there were carburetors and things that wore out. now there's a computer that manages your fuel injection and spark timing and there's nothing to adjust. you don't have to worry about that.

    >> but it doesn't mean you can ignore your car. let's talk about the big tips and three things you need to worry about every month. the first is oil. what do you need to know ?

    >> first of all, check it and make sure there's enough in your car.

    >> is once a month enough?

    >> once a month is fine and if you have a problem, you'll discover it once a month. but if it's low on oil, the engine is hotter, you never want to run out of it.

    >> is it okay to wait until the light comes on or should be ahead of the curve?

    >> waiting until the light comes on is fine, and if you don't have a light, you read the owner's manual and do it the at manufacturer's recommendation.

    >> a lot of people probably think of their oil, but not the coolant in their car. how often do we need to check that?

    >> well, again, once a month. because especially as a car gets older, the coolant still runs through rubber tubes and can spring a leak. overheating is a huge expense, huge repair bill and the key is coolant in the engine.

    >> tire pressure . you recommend people check it about how many times filling up with gas, every fifth time, every fourth time?

    >> well, you could do it like that or maybe on the once a month schedule. maybe you do all three things at the same time. but if the tires get low, they wear faster. they also have more drag and you suck more gas, and potentially, it's dangerous. it could cause an accident because the handling goes away.

    >> here's a question we posed on our website and i'm curious how people answered it. how long should you warm up your car before you actually drive out of the driveway? 37% said ten seconds. 41% said 60 seconds . 22% said five minutes. what's the right answer there?

    >> ten seconds is the right answer.

    >> that's all?

    >> that's it.

    >> even on a winter day?

    >> here's the thing, you want to be careful with your engine when it's cold. you don't want to beat on it when it's dead cold, but a car warms up faster when you're actually driving it. so turn on the engine and while you're putting on the seatbelt, putting your purse or briefcase aside, that's plenty of time. pull out, but drive gently until it starts warming up.

    >> what happens if you don't drive gently before warm-up time?

    >> you're going to wear the engine out sooner. the cold engine has bigger clearances in it. you know, metal expands when it gets warm. when everything's cold, things are rattling around in there. it wears faster. so be a little gentle until your temperature gauge comes up.

    >> and what about the question we all face when we go to fill up our car and it says regular, medium grade or plus or premium? what's the real idea in terms of what you need to put into your car? does it matter -- depend on which kind of car you have?

    >> it absolutely depends on it. what you're seeing there is not differences in the quality of the gasoline, but in a property called octane. and higher octane is desired by certain engines that are designed for it. they're usually high-performance engines. but if your engine doesn't need high-okay tate gasoline or premium gasoline, there's absolutely no benefit to putting it in.

    >> save yourself a little money. chubba chedda, good to see

By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 12/4/2009 9:13:38 AM ET 2009-12-04T14:13:38

The economy is in the toilet, the job market is disheartening and many of us don’t have a lot of extra cash to spare. Under circumstances like these, how can you extend the life of your vehicle and steer clear of costly repairs?

Fortunately for all of us, Csaba Csere has plenty of smart advice to share in this arena. The former editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine offered up the following suggestions to help motorists retain value for their wheels and avoid unexpected, high-dollar surprises.

1. Don’t let your owner’s manual sit neglected in your glove compartment. Instead, crack it open and spend a few minutes reviewing the recommended maintenance schedule for your particular vehicle. “Follow it religiously and use quality oil, fluids and parts,” Csere advised.

2. Don’t overwork a cold car. “You don’t need to engage in a lengthy warm-up, but drive moderately until the engine is approaching operating temperature,” Csere said.

3. Check out your “check engine” light. It’s quite common for drivers to ignore “check engine” lights when they turn on. People also can go into prolonged states of denial about strange noises and smells coming from their vehicles. Even if money is tight, it’s worth it to get these issues checked out by a reputable mechanic. “None of these things will go away by themselves, and a repair later is likely to be more expensive than a repair now,” Csere said.

4. Protect your car from the damaging effects of the sun. Whenever possible, park your vehicle in the shade or inside a garage. By making that extra effort, you’ll safeguard your car’s paint and interior.

5. Check your oil and coolant regularly. By doing this, you’ll find out about leaks sooner rather than later, and you’ll sidestep the problems that can be caused by low levels. As referenced in Tip No. 1, regular, timely oil changes can help you avoid costly repairs.

6. Check your tire pressure regularly. Proper tire inflation will help the tires handle better and last longer, and it will help you get the most out of a tank of gas. It’s also a good idea to have your tires checked for wear regularly.

7.Pay attention to the way you drive. Aggressive driving, hard stopping, accelerating to stops and riding the brakes or clutch can make almost everything on your vehicle wear out early and also can hurt your fuel economy.

10 of the best U.S.-made autos8. Reduce the number of short trips you make. “Cold starts cause the most wear on your engine,” Csere noted. One way to avoid an unnecessary number of cold starts and save fuel at the same time is to run errands with efficiency. Try saving all your errands for one morning or afternoon and planning out your trip ahead of time. Consolidate drives to locations that are close to each other. If possible, park your car in one spot and walk when you get there.

9. Do you have a brand-new vehicle? If so, it’s a good idea to follow its break-in recommendations with care. “An oil change at 1,000 miles, whether recommended or not, is a good idea to make sure that any impurities left over from manufacturing don’t spend too much time in your engine,” Csere said.

10. Keep it clean. You’ll help your vehicle retain its value and appeal if you clean it regularly, both inside and out. “Sap, road tar and salt can all make your paint deteriorate more rapidly,” Csere noted. Regular waxing also can help your paint job hold up nicely and can stave off rust and other unsightly blemishes.


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