Car Care Resolutions for the New Year

The beginning of a new year is a time for fresh starts and new projects. As people resolve to improve themselves, their careers, and their relationships, they ought to also think of their cars, which they rely upon to drive to work, school, vacation, and countless other places. Follow these car care resolutions for the New Year to ensure your car has its best year yet.

Schedule bi-annual checkups

The best thing you can do for your car is to stay on top of maintenance. For most people, a bi-annual checkup is enough. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives about 13,500 miles every year, or about 6,750 miles every six months. That’s about the recommended mileage interval for an oil change, which Car and Driver’s Jack Keebler says can range anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 miles depending on a variety of factors. Besides, there are more reasons to bring your car in for service than just oil changes. “When your car’s on the lift for an oil change, other wear items such as brake pads, coolant, tires, and shocks can also be assessed and possibly replaced,” Keebler writes. By scheduling a bi-annual checkup for your car, you’ll ensure it’s always in good health and that the technicians at your local dealership or service station can catch small problems before they grow into costly repairs.

Take care of your tires

Tires are arguably the most important component of every car. After all, they’re the only part of the car that makes physical contact with the road. According to the American Automobile Association, “tires affect your vehicle handling, ride, braking, and safety.” Fortunately, inspecting your tires on your own is relatively simple. For example, you can use the tried-and-true penny test to check tread depth. If you insert an upside-down penny in a tread groove and can see the top of Lincoln’s head, that tire should be replaced immediately. It’s also easy to check tire pressures yourself and visit a local gas station to put air into your tires if necessary.

Keep your car clean

For the New Year, resolve to keep your car clean. There are many reasons to do this besides the mental satisfaction of sitting in a clean interior with a polished exterior. According to John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic, washing your car regularly protects the paint finish. Additionally, washing the undercarriage at least once a season helps prevent rust. “You need to remove that road grit and residue left from rain and birds, or it can lead to damaged paint and corrosion,” he says. It’s a similar story for the interior. Over time, mud, dirt, and salt can cause damage to your upholstery. Keeping your car clean inside and out will help maintain its resale value.

Learn how to jump-start a car

Jump-starting a car is an easy-to-learn skill that can help you or someone else at any time. If your car battery dies over a cold winter night or a friend forgets to turn off their car’s interior lights while spending time with you, you’ll be able to get the matter sorted out in minutes without having to rely on AAA assistance. All you need is a good pair of jumper cables. To jump-start a car, begin with identifying the positive and negative battery terminals under the hood. Attach the red jumper cable clamp to the positive terminal of the charged battery, then attach the other end to the positive terminal of the dead battery. Next, attach the black jumper cable to the negative terminal of the charged battery and clamp the other end to an unpainted metal surface on the engine of the car with the dead battery. “This will provide a solid ground while further reducing the possibility of sparking,” says Philip Reed, contributor for Edmunds. All you have to do then is start the vehicle with the good battery and let it idle for a few minutes. After waiting, try starting the other vehicle and, if successful, remove the jumper cables in the opposite order described above. Reed says you should also drive the jump-started vehicle for at least 20 minutes to ensure the alternator recharges the battery.

There are many other ways you can resolve to take care of your car in the New Year, but these four are a good place to start. And if you’re ever truly concerned about your car’s health, make sure to get it inspected at your local trusted service center.

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