As one of the biggest purchases you'll ever make, it makes sense to take care of your car so it lasts as long as possible. Here's ten things you can do to prolong its life, and save yourself a few quid along the way.
01 Keep it serviced
Probably the most obvious one on the list, but also one that's often overlooked. Modern cars can easily exceed their scheduled service intervals without you actually noticing – but the reality is that you're doing your engine no favours at all by neglecting it.
Always stick to the recommended servicing intervals, and there's no harm in bringing it forward a few hundred miles if you're planning to keep the car for a long time. A well maintained car will not only last longer, but it will also be more fuel efficient, have better performance, and hold its resale value better.
02 Don't ignore issues
Can you hear a knocking noise over bumps that wasn't there before? Maybe there's a bit of grinding sensation when you go around left hand bends – Don't just turn up the stereo and hope it will fix itself - it won't.
A neglected worn wheel bearing can cause the hub to overheat, which can cause damage to the CV joint and so require a much larger and more expensive repair. A radiator fan that's on the blink could cause the car to overheat in traffic, which can blow the head gasket...
There are lots of examples of components failing that can have knock-on effects. If you think something's on the way out don't wait to find out what happens when it fails!
03 Don't skimp on oil
Oil is the lifeblood of the engine, and old contaminated oil will shorten its life. Don't use cheap oil, always go with the manufactures recommendations, and never exceed the oil change intervals.
When you change the oil always replace the oil filter and rather than use an engine flush (which can be overly harsh on some engines) consider cheap oil, which you change again after a couple of hundred mile with some decent oil.
If that sounds like a load of work, look into buying an oil vacuum extractor. It makes oil changes a quick and painless affair as the oil is extracted through the dipstick tube, rather than you having to mess about underneath the car.
04 Keep it clean
It may sound a bit daft, but keeping your car clean will prolong its life. Dirt and grime encourage rust (particularly in the winter months with salt on the roads).
And while your car may have a galvanised body, few of the components underneath are rust resistant, and bushes, and suspension components will have a shorter life expectancy if they're neglected and left covered in muck – so get out there with the jet wash and keep it clean!
Keeping the paintwork in tip top condition with regular washes, and occasional polish/wax sessions will also add to the car's resale value.
Finally, never leave bird poo on your paintwork – remove it as soon as you see it. It will eat through the paintwork and leave permanent damage behind.
05 Warm up
The most damage is caused to an engine when you start it from cold. Cold oil is less viscous, and needs to be pumped around the engine before it becomes effective.
Getting the engine up to temperature quickly is good for the engine, so don't start it up and leave it idling, as it will take an age to warm up when it's not under any load (particularly if it's a diesel).
The best practice it to start up, let it idle for 30-60 seconds to allow the oil to circulate, then drive gently until the engine is up to its normal working temperature – Then drive as normal.
06 Cool down
This is most pertinent for cars with a turbocharger. If you've driven 'enthusiastically' the turbo will be hot – very hot! So for the last couple of miles of your journey drive 'off-boost'.
This allows everything to circulate and cool down, rather than switching off a scorching hot engine, which can shorten the life of the bearings in the turbo.
You don't need to let it sit there idling for an age, as the lack of airflow will make the engine bay heat up. It's less of an issue on modern cars with water-cooled turbos but it's a sensible to thing to always start and end your journey with gentle driving.
07 Gears or Brakes
A wise man once said “brakes are cheaper than a gearbox”. If you're in the habit of slowing your car down by going through the gears consider altering your driving style to rely on the brakes rather than engine braking.
It's still fine to do so, but just be mindful that it puts extra stress on the gearbox. Much in the same way that changing up through the gears is best done smoothly and not like you're in a Grand Prix!
08 Regular check ups
Preventative maintenance is never a bad thing. Familiarise yourself with your car and the engine bay – remove the engine cover (if fitted) and have a good look at all the pipes and wires. Look for fluid leaks, and oily residue that could point to a boost leak.
You don't need to be a mechanic to know when something looks wrong. Check the car every couple of weeks as a minimum, including tyre pressures and fluid levels and rectify anything that's amiss.
09 Thorough workout
While it stands to reason that sensible driving is best for a car's life expectancy, driving gently all the time can actually be a bad thing! Known in the trade as an 'Italian Tune Up' a dose of 'spirited' driving can actually be beneficial.
On older engines it can help to remove carbon deposits, and on modern diesel engines Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) need to be driven at medium to high rpms for a period of time for a 'regeneration' to take place.
If the DPF doesn't regenerate (where it gets incredibly hot and burns away the deposits) it can become blocked affecting performance and efficiency, and ultimately failing which will require an expensive replacement.
10 Lighten the load
What's in your boot? If you're like most people you'll be carrying more than your fair share of junk around with you. The heavier the car, the more stress there will be on the mechanical and suspension components.
While we're not talking about massive gains, it makes sense to ensure you're not carrying about unnecessary extra weight. If nothing else you'll may well get a couple of extra mpg out of the engine!