7 Ways to Make Your Whole Vehicle Last Longer, From Wheels to Wipers

man driving photo
How much do you know about your car?
Stockbyte/Getty Images

Did you know that many insurance companies figure most vehicles on the road have only 10 years of useful life before being carted off to the junkyard? While there may indeed be older vehicles that should be crushed due to their poor emissions and economy, there are others that will remain quite efficient modes of transportation. In fact, the folks at Environmental Transport Association (ETA) say that keeping your older (less efficient) vehicle, is actually greener than purchasing a newer and cleaner vehicle in many cases.

By following a proper preventative maintenance schedule, you can easily double your car's useful life, while spending less at the gas pump and at the repair shop. Beyond regular maintenance to increase your vehicle's overall longevity, you should also ensure the longevity of your vehicle's individual parts. This can dramatically decrease the amount of waste your vehicle contributes over a year. This includes the oil, tires, brake pads, etc. There are many ways to help minimize the natural wear and tear of your vehicle's various parts, and these are my top 7.


1. Extend Life of Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers are just one of those things that get old and needs replacement. You wouldn't want to be in the middle of a bad storm when your wipers fail. However, instead of replacing them every few months, you could just as easily extend their life, while allowing them to work at their peak efficiently. The rubber portion on your wipers will always work best when clean, so it is a good idea to wipe them with denatured alcohol (91%) once a month. You can also use fine sandpaper (1000 to 2000 grit) to do the job. This will keep them flexible and better able to hold to the glass and wipe water and the debris away.

Note: Keep in mind that when it comes time for wiper replacement, you should only need the rubber squeegee; not the entire metal rod. The only time you should need the rod is if it has become severely corroded or bent. However many wipers are designed to be replaced entirely, so you will have to consult with your local automotive specialist to see what options are available.


2. Maintain Tires

The longevity of your vehicle's tires are about 30 percent their make and composition, and 70 percent the care and maintenance received by the owner. The best way to make sure your tires last a long time is to keep them properly inflated (paying special attention at the turning of the seasons), aligned, and have them rotated regularly as specified by the manufacturer. Doing this will ensure you get the maximum life out of each tire without uneven, premature wear becoming a problem.


3. Make Brakes Last Longer

Similar to tires, you can make or break the longevity of your brakes and pads simply by the way you treat them. Drivers who are guilty of the speed-up and brake style of driving, not only waste gas and increase their vehicle's emissions, they also go through brakes quicker. By allowing your vehicle to gradually come to a stop by timing when you let off the accelerator or down shifting a manual transmission, you can greatly reduce the amount of wear on your brakes.


4. Take Care of Your Battery

A vehicle's battery should last you a number of trouble-free years, but if not cared for properly, their life can be greatly shortened. Proper car of your battery should include keeping it and its connection clean (1 tablespoon baking soda and water) and well insulated. You should also resist the temptation to run accessories (stereo, GPS, etc.) for extended periods without the engine running. If applicable, check your battery's water levels regularly, and if you don't drive your vehicle for extended periods, keep your battery healthy with the use of a solar battery charger.


5. Change Your Oil with Synthetic

While there is debate as to whether synthetic oil or conventional fossil fuel motor oils are greener, there is not much question as to which one lasts the longest. Synthetic oil costs twice as much, but also lasts twice as long as conventional motor oils with its superior formula which resists breaking down in extreme temperature environments. Instead of needing an oil change every 3 months, many motorists can extend this maintenance schedule by as much as 6 months, which reduces the amount of oil and oil filters in need of recycling each year.


6. Install a Lifetime, Washable Air Filter

You should always change your oil and air filter regularly for maximum vehicle longevity. While most air filters are not all that big, if you figure they are rated to last 15,000 miles, within 10 years, most drivers have thrown out enough of these to fill up a large garden-sized garbage bag. That's a lot of trash! You can replace all those air filters with just one if you purchase a lifetime, washable air filter. These cost twice as much as a paper filter (although they should last the life of the vehicle) and you will need to purchase a special oil to reactivate the filter after washing, but most people with reasonable mechanical ability should have no problem with such maintenance.


7. Keep your vehicle either covered or in a Garage

The elements have a way of breaking down metal and plastic. Intense heat and sun can quickly weather a vehicle under certain circumstances, as can snow and rain. While rain can sometimes be considered a good thing for your vehicle's paint, it can also promote paint damage in areas prone for acid rain. To slow down the process of paint oxidation and rust, storing your vehicle inside a sealed garage, or at least underneath a carport or breathable car cover. This will aid in keeping your vehicle's exterior looking like new. Why would you want to do this, beyond aesthetic reasons? It will boost the vehicle's overall longevity, and your chances of selling the vehicle in the future. A well kept vehicle will bring more buyers and greater profit, thus increasing the ultimate reuseability of your vehicle.


Lots More Information

Related Articles