How to Make Your Car Parts Last Longer

Your car is only as safe as the tires it's riding on. . (Photo: perfectlab/Shutterstock)

The less often you have to replace your car’s parts, the better. How can you make your car parts last longer? A little bit of maintenance goes a long way. Here, tips and tricks on vehicle upkeep and usage that will save you money and help keep your ride in road-ready condition.

Windshield wipers

Wipers leaving streaks? Give them a little TLC. (Photo: jirakit suparatanameta/Shutterstock)

Do you ever clean the rubber part of your windshield wipers? If not, that may be one reason your wipers don’t work as well as they should. Remove the gunk that accumulates by wiping the rubber with a damp paper towel or sponge.

To help your wipers last longer, avoid using them to break up ice on the windshield. That’s what an ice scraper is for. Also, pull the blades away from the windshield before a winter storm to prevent ice from building up on the rubber. And fix any chips or cracks on your windshield, which can damage your wiper blades (as well as cause much bigger problems).

Since ultraviolet light can make the rubber deteriorate faster, park in the shade when possible.

Battery

No one wants a dead battery when they least expect it. (Photo: East Penn Manufacturing)

If your car battery dies, game over. But you can increase the chances that it will work when you need it with a few smart maintenance practices.

To make sure you don’t get stranded, it’s smart to routinely use a voltmeter (or multimeter) to measure your battery’s voltage, especially once the battery’s a few years old. A fully charged car battery should read at 12.6 volts or higher. If the battery is low, you can probably recharge it.

Also, regularly check your battery terminal connections to make sure they’re tight. While you’re at it, look for corrosion (which could be a sign of battery damage — get the battery checked by a professional). If you find corrosion, you can scrub it away using a wire brush and a paste made from water and baking soda. Wear gloves, and disconnect the cables first. Disconnect the negative terminal before the positive one to avoid causing a spark.

Make sure the brackets holding the battery in place are snug. Loose brackets will cause battery vibration, which can shorten the battery life.

Park your vehicle inside in the winter to protect the battery from the cold and in the shade in summer. Heat under the hood can speed up battery corrosion and cause water to evaporate from the electrolyte (the water and acid mixture in the battery).

If you live in a cold climate or make short, infrequent trips, keep the battery fully charged throughout the winter by using a battery charger or maintainer.

Brakes

Stop! "Brake" these bad habits and your brakes will last longer. (Photo: BartekSzewczyk/iStock )

Here’s a simple way to extend the life of your brakes: Slow down. Driving at 55 mph instead of 65 mph will mean a lot less wear on your brakes.

And try this trick: Before you need to exit a highway or stop at a traffic light, coast first (take your foot off the accelerator) to slow down, then hit the brake.

Change your brake fluid at the interval recommended in your owner’s manual.

Finally, don’t brake when you don’t have to. Some drivers can’t seem to stay off their brake pedal. But if you drive at a safe speed, avoid tailgating (use the three-second rule) and keep your eye on what’s happening five or six cars ahead of you — not just on the car in front of you — you should need to brake less often.

Tires

Your car is only as safe as the tires it's riding on. (Photo: perfectlab/Shutterstock)

Keeping your tires properly inflated can help them last longer. According to Michelin, tires that are always 20 percent underinflated will last 20 percent less long. Driving with properly inflated tires can even save you money on fuel. So check your tire pressure once a month. (Best to do it when the tires are cool.) You can find the recommended PSI on the driver's door jam or the gas tank door and in the owner’s manual.

Rotating your tires is key to ensuring they wear evenly, and tires with even wear will last longer. Check your owner’s manual to find out how often to rotate your tires. Rotate them sooner if you see signs of uneven wear.

To minimize wear and tear on your tires, have your suspension checked and aligned if you notice the vehicle drifts to one side or after you hit a particularly nasty bump.

Engine

Make sure the little engine that could still can. It's not a part you want to have to replace. (Photo: NAPA)

Your car’s engine is rather important to motion. It’s also one of the most expensive parts to replace. To avoid excess wear on it, change your oil regularly and replace the oil filter at the same time. Check the coolant level while you’re at it so you don’t literally blow a gasket. Also check the air filter and change it if it’s dirty so the engine is “breathing” cleaner air. Dirt in the filter will decrease the engine’s efficiency. Have the fuel filter changed per your maintenance schedule.

To help keep sediment out of the engine, refuel before you get to less than a quarter of a tank of gas. When filling the tank, use the octane specified in the owner’s manual. If you have a fuel-injected engine, consider adding a bottle of fuel injector cleaner to a full tank of gas every six months or according to the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.

To keep the engine firing as it should and improve your fuel economy, change the spark plugs and wires according to your maintenance schedule. Accelerate slowly; you’re not driving a racecar. And finally, if the “check engine” light comes on, it’s a good idea to, you know, check the engine.