The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is usually hailed as the official start of summer–and that often means the first big car trip of the season. But before pulling away, smart drivers take the time to assess the toll wrought by winter wear and tear. We want the cars we depend on to run well and last a long time — yet for many of us, it’s not something we grew up knowing how to do. With that in mind, WVFC was pleased to receive the following list of guidelines from the founder of Women-Drivers.com, a resource for automobile purchasing, maintenance, and enjoyment. Here, for instance, is one of the site’s tongue-in-cheek instruction videos, “Don’t Get Chicked:”

We’re thankful that Fleming sent this list our way, and wish everyone a hassle-free summer of car trips.  — Ed.

The average car will last long enough to take the owner well beyond a 100,000 mile journey. In these still-uncertain economic times, people continue to search out ways to spend less. Used-car sales and their values remain strong, and smart recessionistas are looking to keep their older vehicles in tip-top shape. Women-Drivers.com offers ten tips that can extend and perhaps even double the life of your car.

  1. Dust off your Owner’s Manual; it’s not just for your mechanic.The Owner’s Manual of your car lists preventative maintenance schedules that are specific to your car’s make and model. Follow this book carefully and make sure that you understand each section. Scheduling service appointments for routine maintenance checks such as oil changes, tire rotations, and engine checks will ensure that important preventive services are done in a timely manner.
  2. Learn to do simple repairs yourself. Save hundreds of dollars by doing some simple repairs yourself. You can learn techniques for changing wiper blades, replacing your air filter, changing the oil, or replacing your battery. Before you begin, do a little homework, get the tools you need and remember to safely dispose of any liquids that come out of your car. See if your community college has a basic car-care class.  Investing in a car maintenance class will not only teach you much needed maintenance tips but will make you a smarter car consumer.
  3. Keep it clean. Waxing your car not only makes it shine, but it will effectively protects the finish on the car. Most mechanical experts recommend waxing 1-3 times per year. Now with spring in full bloom, save your interior from sun damage by parking your car in the shade as much as possible or using a windshield cover. This is especially important if you are looking to sell or trade in your car.
  4. Comparison-shop for repairs. When your car requires a repair that costs a considerable amount of money, it’s wise to check with two or three different dealerships or mechanics for estimates. Be sure to get the estimates from various parts of town, as prices can differ depending on the neighborhood. To search for Certified Women-Drivers Friendly™ service dealers in your area, visit Women-Drivers.com.
  5. Use available alternatives, like car pools or public transportation. Hop on the bus, train or subway. Not only will you save on gas, it’ll help you relax and make the most of your commute. Use the extra time to get in some reading, handle emails or text messages, or more important, unwind from a busy day.
  6. Conserve fuel. If you’re the one driving the car pool, investigate alternate rush-hour route(s) to avoid stop-and-go traffic patterns. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is tough on brakes and gas mileage. On longer trips, use the ‘Cruise Control’ setting to save 5-10 percent of your gas per gallon. Never drive at high speeds with your windows rolled all the way down — it wastes fuel. Avoid constantly pressing the accelerator when driving. Instead, coast when you can. Keep your tires well inflated, and check the pressure monthly.
  7. Head to the pump more often. Make an effort to avoid driving when the tank is below one-quarter full. A gas tank that low can increase the likelihood of dirt, debris and rust forming in the fuel system.
  8. Be smart about spending on accessories.When upgrading your vehicle, it can be cheaper to buy certain accessories from a company other than the dealership.  GPS units, specialty floor mats, or tire rims can cost much less when purchased through the internet or a big-box retailer.
  9. Take a look at your car daily. By doing something simple, such as paying attention to leaks, you can get your car to the service dealer earlier and save money on costly repairs. Knowing the normal color of engine oil and other fluids will make it easier to detect a problem, and will also tip the service manager that you know what you’re doing. Brown fluid is engine oil; bright green or orange fluid is anti-freeze or coolant; clear or light brown fluid is clutch or brake fluid.
  10. Know where NOT to scrimp. It may be tempting to buy a less expensive part for your car, but it’s not always the best policy. Buying a high-quality auto part gives added security and peace of mind, and will save money in the long run. Make sure that all vital replacement parts are of good quality and recommended by a dealer or advisor you trust. If unsure, get a second opinion.

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