Not all vehicle maintenance and care requires the work of a master technician. The responsibility of basic car care first starts with the owner. There are many techniques, some very basic, that ensure reliability and longevity of a vehicle that rest in the owner’s hands.
- Washing regularly – sounds ultra-basic but reaps multiple rewards. Dirty cars wither and wear much faster than clean ones. Dirt and contaminants can over time cause damage to paint, rubber seals and gaskets, wheel finishes, and even plastic and rubber under the hood. Salt corrosion causes damage to all aspects of the vehicle and creates that four-letter word everyone hates, rust.
- Waxing – Applying a layer of wax to bodywork and even the headlights every 6 months or so provides excellent protection.
- Water Gutters – Cleaning door jams, trunk, hood, and sunroof gutters from dirt and debris are imperative to making sure water does not enter into the wrong places, causing expensive water damage to electronics, wiring, and carpet/trim alike.
- Cold-start and warm up – Allowing the vehicle to warm up BEFORE driving, especially in cold weather, is imperative to engine and driveline longevity. Think of it as getting up right out of bed and sprint-running immediately. It is not good for you, nor is jumping in your vehicle and hitting the road.
The idea is to let the vehicle warm up 5-10 minutes before moving, and then driving slowly while keeping engine rpm low until operating temperature, which under normal driving takes about 20 minutes or so, depending on ambient temperature. Keep in mind the temperature gauge on older BMWs is based on coolant, not on oil temperature, which takes much longer than coolant to reach operating temps.
- Highway driving – Extended driving, especially long distance highway driving, also provides multiple rewards, everything from proper battery charging to reduction of carbon build-up inside the engine. Remember, German automobiles were designed and built for high speed cruising on the autobahn, no stop and go Boston traffic. There are many people that drive their vehicles short distances to work and back. It is imperative, especially for these people, to take the vehicle on a long trip at least once a week, at minimum for a 30 minute drive. This simple but routine act extends the longevity and reliability for years to come.
- Rubber care on seals and gaskets – Applying rubber care products on door, sunroof, trunk, and hood seals periodically prevents seals from shrinking causing water, wind, and noise issues.
- Lubing moving parts – Applying lube to door, hood, and trunk hinges prevents unnecessary friction, noise, and wear for regularly used moving parts.
- Tire Pressures – Regularly checking tire pressures ensures correct tire wear, performance, and prevention from sidewall damage due to low pressures.
- Leather Care – Proper leather cleaner and conditioner for all leather surfaces keeps this costly and beautiful material looking new with each passing year.
- Removing Brake Dust from Wheels – German vehicles tend to create a lot of brake dust due to the high friction materials used in brake pads. This material if unchecked can build up on the wheels, causing irreversible damage to the wheel finish. It is highly recommended to clean your wheels routinely of all brake dust material to avoid damage.
Things to Avoid:
- Avoid door dings – Avoid overly crowded and tight parking spaces, especially at busy grocery stores and shopping malls can keep the body in excellent shape. Parking distantly and away from careless drivers prevents unnecessary and senseless damage to your vehicle. Walking the extra 20-30 feet is worth it when you are staring at hundreds to thousands of dollars of paint repair.
- Avoid tire shine – Despite its popularity and great looks, tire shine should be avoided as it dries out the compound on your tires over time, causing pre-mature dry-rot and cracking.
- Avoid parking under trees – Tree sap and animal waste wreaks havoc on your paint and body, even worse than direct sunlight.
- Avoid letting your vehicle sit for long periods – This is an issue that plagues both low and high mileage cars. The negatives are too many to mention, from pre-mature battery failure to tire damage to the potential infiltration of vermin habitats inside the vehicle. Cars are like people, they like to have a purpose and be needed or they wither and age quickly.
- Avoid parallel parking – If possible, avoid parallel parking, as many careless drivers do not respect their car or yours. Nothing is more aggravating or costly than walking to your beloved car and finding damage to your vehicle caused while it was not moving. It is much cheaper to just park the vehicle in a garage than pay a body shop.
- Avoid valets – A great service that usually leads to avoidable vehicle damage. Most busy businesses that offer a valet service have to deal with many vehicles in a space of a short amount of time, so caution is not a high priority among the many young and inexperienced valets.
- Avoid rough roads – New England roads can provide some of the worst damage to your car, sometimes even worse than other drivers. It is always worth taking a longer route to avoid a damaged or uneven road that can cause pre-mature failure and damage to your vehicle. Tire bubbles, bent and cracked wheels, tire blow-outs, blown and bent shocks/struts, and broken springs are just some of the expensive repairs that poor roads can cause.