Gianetta Palmer is a writer, copywriter, and essayist. Her work has appeared in, Healthline, and The Dyrt Magazine. She is the author of Scrunchie-Fried and writes a lot about car insurance in her spare time.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florid...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: May 31, 2021

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People sometimes grow so fond of their cars they start thinking of them like family members.

Life can teach us anything it’s that even our closest family members can hide a thing or two from us and have some special needs we have never been aware of.

What can kill a car fast? Starting it and driving immediately. Instead let it idle for about 30 seconds then drive. 

No matter how much we have driven our cars and thought we know their little quirks, there are always few things that could help us to use them and maintain them better we are not aware of.

And most important of all – save time & money!

Yearly car maintenance cost for big brand vehicles Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevy, over 3 years and 10 years.Note: Illustrated above is the average yearly cost for car maintenance for vehicles which are 3 and 10 years old. Toyota’s are the lowest in both categories with $35 yearly for a 3 year old and $430 yearly maintenance for a 10 year old vehicle. Surprisingly, Honda’s are the most expensive in this group with a $125 yearly cost for a 3 year old vehicle and $660 yearly cost for a 10 year old Honda.

The Matter of Octanes

We all know that cars use some kind of fuel, but the thing that sometimes escapes even experienced drivers is how to measure the quality of that particular fuel.

Most drivers think that fueling the car with higher octane gasoline will lead to better engine performance.

Unless your engine is knocking, buying higher octane gas is a waste of money.

In reality, the rating of gasoline measures how fuel responds to combustion, and has nothing to do with its quality.

Because of that, higher octane fuels are usually meant for high-performing vehicles, whose engines produce a lot of heat and pressure.

If your owner’s manual recommends regular octane fuel don’t use higher octane. You are not giving your car a treat. In fact, you are throwing money away. Most cars which recommend higher octane fuel don’t need it either, unless you have a high performance car. 

Luxury vehicle maintenance cost over 3 years and 10 years. Note: I have included the cost of maintenance for luxury vehicles. BMW and Mercedes are the most expensive to maintain. Most of the brands illustrated will recommend premium fuel too. However, you don’t need premium only regular fuel for them to run. What’s the difference? Only in performance if you decide to use premium fuel.

There generally isn’t any harm done to an engine by using a lower-octane fuel.

BMW spokesperson Thomas Plucinsky via NY Times

Jump-starting the Car with Ease

We have all sometimes forgotten to turn off some power consuming feature of our cars and got reminded of that the next day.

You can get jumper cables for about 7 bucks. All of your vehicles should have a set in the trunk of your vehicle. This is way cheaper than a $150 towing service. 

The good news is that, as much as it is unpleasant and annoying, a dead battery is a problem that is just as easy to solve, and all you need is a pair of jumper cables and another working vehicle.

Correct method to charge a dead car battery.

Image credit:

Note: Many drivers put the cable + to + and then – to – which is incorrect. As illustrated above the negative cable on your vehicle (the one which needs jumping) is grounded to metal.

All you have to do when you find the two is to connect two batteries positive to positive (or + to +, Red to Red) and negative to ground start both vehicles (working one first, and the dead one second), and forget that you ever wanted to call the towing service.

Reading the Tires

If you fill your tires with too much or too little air you may cause a very poor vehicle handling and premature tire wear.

Finding the correct tire pressure on the door jam of a vehicle.

Image Credit:

Note: The easiest and fastest way to find the correct tire pressure for your vehicle is the sticker on the door jam. As illustrated, the sticker will give you the proper pressure so you don’t have to go searching around the internet or look in your owner’s manual.

That is why you should always check your car’s technical specification before filling the tires. If you do not have one, find the recommended pressure on the web.

There is a post on Autoblog that should help you to easily identify the type of tires your vehicle currently has, so be sure to check it if you have problem decoding the numbers after the brand name describing it.

Eliminating the Blind Spots

Although we use them every time we get behind the wheel, have you ever wondered how many of us use the side mirrors properly?

Most people do not.

A blind spot mirror for driver safety.

Note: Illustrated above is a blind spot mirror. You can pick one up for about 5 bucks at Walmart. Blind spot mirrors are helpful to eliminate blind spots easier. Especially if you are in a hurry and glance in your side-view mirror. Literally, these type of mirrors could be a real life-saver.

In order to eliminate blind spots and prevent resulting car accidents, side mirrors should be set up so you cannot see your own vehicle when your head is perfectly upright.

Vehicle should be barely visible only when you lean your head all the way to driver’s seat window or towards the center of the car.

Every Vehicle Needs Unique Maintenance Schedule

If you are a long-time driver you are probably used to deal with some regular maintenance duties like checking the oil, according to your already established schedule.

If you want your vehicle to last longer, if you want a higher resale value, if you want peace of mind, make sure to have a vehicle maintenance schedule. Doing so will save you a ton a money in the long run. 

The thing is, if you are a long-time driver you have probably changed few vehicles along the way too and the maintenance schedule you have established with your first car is not that well suited to the current one.

Below I have outlined some of the most important part of a vehicle’s maintenance.

If you do the 9 things listed I can assure you your vehicle is going to last a lot longer.

I was taught “take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you”. 

Check and change the oilCar Engine will last longer.
Flush the cooling system and change coolant once a yearUse distilled water. Tap water will ruin the coolant system faster.
Change out transmission oilChange out at service intervals.
Wash VehicleSalt especially will eat / ruin a nice car.
Park in the shadeSunlight will ruin the interior and paint of a vehicle.
Check / Replace brake fluidWater can get into the brake lines.
Tire PressureLow pressure means tires can be ruined faster.
Engine warm upLet your engine idle for 30 secs to a minute, then drive.
Lubricate U-jointsMoving parts need to be greased.

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Be sure to check the manual and recommended figures to see what the manufacturer has to say about maintenance and service intervals.

Final Thoughts

Every owner knows just how useful cars can be.

Today’s modern cars are safe and most any of them, when serviced regularly, should last 200,000 miles.

Even if you don’t want to keep your car for its entire life, you will have a much easier time selling it with a regular maintenance schedule. 

What most of us fail to understand is the more time they put into knowing them better, the more useful, easier to maintain, and safe our vehicles will be.