Auto education

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When it comes to your car, the little things often matter most. "If you do a little here, a little there, you can make your car get you another 5,000, 10,000 or 20,000 miles," said Joe Brooks, who manages the Tuffy Auto Care Center in Gahanna. "[Regular maintenance] keeps it even better looking and more valuable when you resell it." Here are some simple ways to prolong the life of your car.

Wash the exterior

When to do it: Once a week

Cost: $5-$10

How it helps: Prevents corrosion and rust

Winter is the most important time to wash, but each season presents problems. Bird poop, salt and other chemicals destroy paint and lead to rusted body panels.

Change the oil

When to do it: Every 3,000-5,000 miles

Cost: Less than $50

How it helps: Protects engine parts from wear

This can't be overlooked. Due to harder driving styles, city folk should follow stricter guidelines. Those with older cars also should check oil levels while at the pump.

Check tire pressure

When to do it: When you get gas

Cost: $5-$20 for a gauge

How it helps: Ensures even tire wear and helps maintain proper alignment

Your tires' appropriate PSI should be listed inside the driver's side door. When reading pressure, be sure to check tread depth and the appearance of uneven wear.

Flush the fluids

When to do it: Every 30,000 miles

Cost: $79-$129 for each fluid

How it helps: Keeps internal systems working properly

Other than oil, a car has three main fluids that need periodic cleansing: transmission, coolant and power steering.

Touch-up nicks

When to do it: Quarterly

Cost: $10 for 1/2 ounce

How it helps: Prevents rust and corrosion

Many suppliers provide paint matched to factory colors. A few ounces can prevent the need for an expensive full-body paint job. Be sure to add a clear coat on top.

Replace the brakes

When to do it: As soon as you hear squeaking

Cost: $100-$200

How it helps: Prevents car from hitting buildings

Ignoring brake problems is dangerous and costly. If brake shoes or pads wear out, rotors and drums (the really expensive parts) start to go.

Use fuel-injector cleaner

When to do it: Every three months

Cost: $10 for 12 ounces

How it helps: Cleans injectors and removes moisture from fuel system

This liquid can be added to the gas tank when you fill up and can greatly reduce wear on other engine parts.

Buy a code-reader

When to do it: If "Check Engine" light comes on

Cost: $50-$100

How it helps: Diagnoses specific engine problems

On any model made since 1996, these devices can read the on-board computer and tell you why that annoying light came on. You can save hundreds in phantom repair costs.

Sources: Joe Brooks, Tuffy Auto Care Center in Gahanna; Shelly Whitaker, Advance Auto Parts spokesperson;; Readers' Digest;