Used Car Maintenance and Cleaning

By: Bruce Haapman

Maintenance is an essential part of owning a used car. Usually, once you take ownership of a car from a reputable used car dealer, you will be continuing a routine of good maintenance already set in place by the dealer to maximize the car's value. Now the purpose of maintenance will shift from keeping the car in a condition to sell to keeping the car running and safe for you to drive.

Used cars naturally require more frequent maintenance than new cars and, even with little experience under the hood, most used car owners are able to regularly complete the tasks outlined in this article.

Checking the tires regularly helps ensure the best handling and fuel consumption. You should check the pressure of your tires a few times a month with a tester that can either be purchased from most automotive accessory stores or found at some gas stations. It is recommended to purchase your own tire tester for use at home as, once you have driven to the gas station, the air in your tires will have warmed up, leading to an inaccurate reading.

The ideal tire pressure for your car can be found either in the owner's manual or printed inside the car.

An often overlooked maintenance task, particularly in areas with infrequent rainfall, is checking the windshield wipers. Windshield wipers that are cracked or have become bowed in a way that limits their contact with the glass should be replaced straight away.

Vacuuming the inside of your car is a quick way to get most dirt out before you take to the interior with a damp cloth.

Remove all the mats and seat covers that can be easily removed and vacuum them outside the car. The floors will be easier to vacuum without the mats in your way.

With the vacuuming complete, use a cloth damp with water to wipe the dashboard, door panels and any other areas that require cleaning.

To stay safe, and to avoid run-ins with the law, be sure to check your lights are working regularly. You should check your head lights, brake lights, tail lights and signal lights before you begin driving. If you do not have access to a second person to stand outside the car and tell you if your brake lights are working, just move your car close to your garage door or other moderately reflective surface and watch for the reflection of your lights.

While you can do many tasks yourself, a regular maintenance check-up and tune-up should be sought from a professional mechanic. In most tune-ups, mechanics will ensure the proper operation of your brakes, battery, air filter, fan belts, wheel bearings and shock absorbers. Spark plugs may also be replaced and your tires may be rotated and aligned.

A professional check-up is recommended every 20,000 miles to ensure the safe and reliable running of your used car.

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