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How to keep your car running for years longer than most

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POSTED March 14, 2012 7:14 p.m.

If you've been in an auto dealer's showroom recently, you won't be surprised to learn that the average price of a new car is approaching $30,000. While there's no getting around the price you have to pay for a new automobile, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you won't have to make the same investment again anytime soon.

By doing the little things to maintain your car on a day-to-day basis, you can do everything in your power to make your car last long past the day you make your final payment on that car loan.

"Time and miles are the two forces fighting to destroy every car," says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of RockAuto.com. "Giving the car an occasional wash and wax is nice but really not as important as regular maintenance. Driving and maintaining your car as if it needs to last for at least 200,000 miles or 20 years is a smart way to preserve the value of an expensive asset."

Storage

If you have a garage, make it your car's permanent home. Reserving a garage space for your car instead of household items that could be stored elsewhere will help you avoid the accelerated wear and tear caused by prolonged exposure to the elements.

If you store your car in a partially protected carport or use a car cover, regularly inspect underneath your hood for signs of vermin. "I recently needed to replace a fuel injector connector that a rat gnawed off our 20-year-old family van after it was left unattended in a carport for just a few days," says Taylor. "Rats and mice like a nice warm engine bay and they chew constantly to wear down their ever-growing teeth."

Scheduled maintenance

Your car's maintenance, engine oil, radiator antifreeze and other components might differ significantly from your last car. Following the maintenance schedule laid out in your owner's manual is important to protect your vehicle. The photos in the RockAuto.com online auto parts catalog can help you become familiar with the maintenance parts for your specific car. Making sure items like filters, struts and brake pads are replaced when needed will help protect other components, saving you money and unnecessary wear.

Drive smart

Occasionally kicking up your heels is fine, but consistently accelerating too fast can put unnecessary strain on your engine and other moving parts. Stopping or cornering too quickly can prematurely wear out your brakes and suspension. If you're starting your car in the cold, take it easy at first - letting your car idle won't help protect your car, but driving a little more methodically than usual while your car warms up will.

Drive less

You don't need to cut out the annual family road trip - highway miles are among the easiest miles you can put on your car. But eliminating unnecessary trips in everyday life can have noticeable results since the starting and stopping associated with short trips can be tough on your car. Take care of all your errands in one trip, walk with your kids to school if it's close to home or ride the bus to and from work. If you can cut down on driving by 5 miles per day for 10 years, you'll save 18,000 miles of driving. Taylor estimates that those miles are worth $4,000 in parts, depreciation and gas. Not only will you save money, but you'll also put less stress on your vehicle, which should extend its lifespan.

When shopping for a new car, you might be able to save hundreds of dollars by comparison shopping and finding the best price. But good maintenance and driving practices can save you thousands if it means you won't have to buy another car for 20 years.

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