With both new and used vehicle prices hitting all-time highs, trading in your current ride may be a daunting task. Sure, you’ll get more, but you also may pay more. The alternative is to hang on to what you have.
If you do, the smart move is to invest in your car, catching up on maintenance and repairs you may have put off. The benefit is two-fold. You’ll not only get to enjoy better performance and fuel economy but also, when it does come time to trade or sell, your vehicle will be worth more as a result of these expenditures.
So, it’s more important than ever to take care of your car, and in return, it will provide you with many years of service and mileage. To that end, we’ve assembled a list of 10 suggestions to help keep your vehicle operating reliably for the long haul. Doing so will increase its value, allowing you to get top dollar when it comes time to trade it in or sell.
10 Service and Repair Tips to Consider:
1. Get the car detailed (and keep it clean)
Car detailing is the process where your vehicle is restored to a like-new showroom condition. Performed by hand, it involves an exterior wash and polishing, and sometimes, a clay bar treatment to remove debris and road residue. Detailers vacuum and steam clean the interior and trim, condition the seating surfaces, scrub and brush crumbs from crevices, and more. The process tops off with wheel cleaning and tire dressing to give it that total new car look. Prices vary according to the region and size of the vehicle, and can range from $50-$300.
2. Fix those dents
When your car looks good, you look good. Taking detailing a step further, you can have dings removed, dents replaced and the paint refreshed. At the same time, consider cleaning, polishing, or replacing oxidized, cloudy headlight lenses. While you can go to a body shop for the work, there are companies that will come to you.
3. Oil changes and tune-ups
Necessary for the long life of your vehicle, a change of oil is essentially a transfusion for your vehicle’s engine. Traditional oil should be changed every 6,000-7,500 miles, while synthetic oil can go up to 10,000 miles or once a year. An oil change will include an oil filter replacement and could cost $20 to $85, depending on the region and the oil requirements of your vehicle.
Today’s vehicles are more complex than ever. As such, they need regular maintenance to run properly. Poor fuel economy and rough idling are signs of a needed tune-up. Basics include spark plug replacement, and new air and fuel filters. Technicians use a computer hooked to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics to see how your engine is working and restore it to factory specs. Prices vary by vehicle type, region, and more, but expect minor tune-ups to cost from $40-$150. Specialized tune-ups for high-performance or luxury vehicles can run from $200 to $800 or more.
Front or all-wheel alignments keep your vehicle running on the straight and narrow. A properly aligned vehicle will allow your car to steer straightly, maintain its suspension geometry, and most importantly, maximize the life of your tires. A typical front-end alignment could run from $65 to $125, while all-wheel alignment costs more. To make it even more economical, some car care facilities offer lifetime alignment for around $200.
5. New tires
There’s nothing like a new set of tires to revitalize your automobile. If you don’t know much about tires, it is easy to look up the appropriate sizes in your owner’s manual. Some specialized vehicles, especially high-performance vehicles, use staggered sets with smaller-sized tires in front and larger tires in the rear. Prices vary according to the size of your car, truck, or SUV.
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What you need to do goes beyond where the rubber meets the road. Make sure that the tires are balanced dynamically (spinning) to ensure a smooth ride. If you live in a Snowbelt state, consider an investment in winter tires.
Also, as a part of regularly scheduled maintenance, be sure to have the tires rotated. That means moving them from front to back or right to left, depending on whether your car is front- or rear-drive, and if it has staggered front or rear tire sizes. Also regularly check your tire pressure and make sure it matches the value on the sticker found inside the driver door frame. Underinflation is one of the fastest ways to shorten the life of a set of tires.
6. Brake job or inspection
Brakes are comprised of brake pads, rotors, and brake calipers. Eventually, one or all of them will wear out, which means it’s time for a brake job. Brake life depends on several factors but probably the most important is how you drive your car. If you are used to carrying a high rate of speed and then braking hard as you finally approach a stoplight, you will run through your pads and rotors much faster than a driver who eases to a stop lightly applying the brakes.
Brake pad manufacturers say to expect from 30,000 to 70,000 miles per set of pads and rotors. Some may need changing sooner, while others can go longer. As they say in this business, “your mileage may vary.” Depending on your vehicle, a brake job can run from $300 to $800.
7. Coolant flush
A coolant flush is an often-neglected service item. This fluid prevents engine overheating from the combustion process. Failure to flush and replace it results in it breaking down, causing the engine to run hotter than its specification. This can result in a cracked engine block, a blown gasket or more, which is much more expensive than the cost of the coolant flush itself. A good rule of thumb is to flush your coolant every 30,000 miles. Costs are in the neighborhood of $100 to $150, depending on your vehicle.
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8. Replace the wipers
There’s nothing more annoying than streaky wipers that don’t move the water away from your windshield. This is one of the easiest repairs and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. There are many different sizes depending on your vehicle. Universal fit wipers are available at every auto parts store, while your dealership parts department is guaranteed to offer the exact fit for your vehicle.
Blades typically cost roughly $10 to $20 per wiper and should be replaced as a set. How often they need replacement depends on how often they are used and your region. If you live in a high-temperature climate, the rubber will break down faster than if you lived in a more moderate climate.
9. Air conditioning service
Your car’s air conditioner is a closed system that should provide years of service with little required maintenance. Eventually, you may find it’s not cooling like it once did, signaling a refrigerant leak. A mechanic will check and replace any leaky parts. An “Evac and Recharge” removes old refrigerant and recharges it to factory standards. A final check inside will confirm the system is working within factory specifications. Since the system is sealed and should theoretically never need service, lack of cooling signals what could be a costly repair priced from $200 to around $1,000, depending on your vehicle.
10. Transmission oil change/flush
In the past, transmission fluid flushes were a regular part of vehicle maintenance. Clunky gear changes and other abnormalities usually signaled the need for a transmission fluid flush and perhaps some other services. Modern transmissions do not require maintenance unless they are high-mileage vehicles like a police car or taxi. Most owner’s manuals recommend periodically checking the transmission fluid level and only refilling as needed. When in doubt, have a mechanic check it out. Some manuals suggest avoiding flushes entirely because the pressure used to flush the system can sometimes loosen debris inside that can clog the transmission oil filter.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.