14 Essential Car Maintenance Tips To Keep Your Engine Running Smoothly

Keeping your engine running smoothly is essential for any vehicle, regardless of age. Let’s face it: Nobody enjoys making an appointment at their local repair shop (especially when said shops don’t have a reputation for working cheaply). Today, we’re covering essential car maintenance tips to ensure your repair costs are as minimal as possible!

1. Change Your Air Filter

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Like anything with moving parts and air running through it constantly, your engine has a filter that blocks out unwanted dust, debris, and other particulates that can cause a hefty repair bill! Stay ahead of a potential catastrophe by regularly changing your vehicle’s air filter, just like any home air conditioner or dryer.

2. Avoid Aftermarket Parts

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In 2024, cars and trucks are held to the highest standards specified by their original manufacturer. To the surprise of absolutely no one, it takes work to build an efficient vehicle! With that in mind, think twice before you install aftermarket parts to your car, especially parts that involve the engine and transmission. Your best bet is to stick to factory-installed options because, in many cases, installing non-factory equipment voids your engine’s warranty.

3. Clean Your Engine Bay

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Your body and car have one thing in common: They operate far more efficiently when clean! Don’t be shy; pop that hood and give your engine a good, old-fashioned wipe-down (when the engine is turned off, of course). Cleaning the engine bay is an excellent way to protect against dirt and grime making their way into essential parts of the motor. A small amount of dirt can wreak havoc!

4. Change Your Oil Regularly

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If there’s one piece of advice our fathers collectively told us repeatedly, it’s to change your oil consistently! Whether you do it yourself in your garage or driveway or have a third party change your oil, all that matters is that it gets done. Oil loses viscosity over time, and having healthy oil running through your car’s engine is essential for long operation (but you already knew that).

5. Listen

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In many cases, the most important tools you have at your disposal to keep your car’s engine running smooth are your ears! After months of dedicated driving, you should be able to identify tiny differences in your engine; any differentiation from the norm should ring alarm bells. If the engine starts knocking or clacking, you know it’s time to take it to your local repair shop!

6. Replace Fuel Filters

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A general rule of thumb for anything you buy is that if it has a filter, get into the habit of changing it regularly! Fuel filters are similar to air filters in that they keep unwanted debris from entering your fuel system, which has a significant role in your engine’s operation. A word of warning: Fuel filters can be tricky to swap out on your own, so I advise you to enlist the help of a mechanic to get the job done.

7. Change Your Spark Plugs

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Spark plugs can wear down over time, and you lose engine performance and overall stability if you keep spark plugs in too long! I distinctly remember being baffled by the suddenly poor performance of my 1989 Pontiac Grand Am in high school. I drove it to my mechanic and was shocked when my repair bill was just a few dollars; as it turns out, old spark plugs were to blame! It was an easy fix!

8. Keep an Eye on Your Fuel Level

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One of the most challenging habits for a driver to break is only putting in a few dollars’ worth of fuel every time they pull into a gas station. You never want to drive on a near-empty tank, and here’s why: As your vehicle’s fuel level nears empty, your fuel pump starts sucking unwanted particles and debris from the near-empty gas tank and into the engine. That’s not good, for obvious reasons! Start filling up your tank, people.

9. Don’t Ignore the Check Engine Light

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When your ears fail to alert you of possible engine troubles, the check engine light is your next-best warning sign. Never ignore the check engine light! In most cases, that indicator tells you something significant is wrong with your engine, and you should immediately take your car to a repair shop. However, the worst-case scenario is a pulsating check engine light; that means engine destruction is imminent, and you should pull over immediately! Trust me, as someone whose engine exploded on I-95 in 2008, you should never ignore a pulsating check engine light.

10. Check For Leaks

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Sometimes, the savviest car maintenance tips involve the most common sense. Always check your vehicle for leaks; the ground directly underneath your car is the perfect place to start. If you find any liquid other than water underneath your car, that could mean you have a leak somewhere. A broken seal or line running to your engine could mean trouble unless you take care of it.

11. Drive Predictably

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Your engine is a complicated machine comprising thousands of moving parts, so don’t add any unnecessary stress! Drive like a sane, rational person and watch the lifespan of your car increase. By driving like a maniac, you’re not only putting your and others’ lives in danger on the road but adding needless wear and tear on an engine that doesn’t understand why you’re making its job so much more challenging.

12. Avoid Short Drives

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Speaking of engine wear and tear, any driver who cares about the continued operation of their engine should avoid short drives whenever possible. The longest-lasting cars are commuter cars, which have put dozens of miles on the odometer daily. Vehicles that only go on short trips never give the engine ample opportunity to warm up, leading to inefficiencies and an early demise.

13. Keep Fluids Topped Off

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One of the most straightforward preventative maintenance measures is ensuring your fluids are always topped off. I’m talking about all fluids here, people, including your oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and countless others! In most cases, discovering you are short on fluid can be remedied by a quick stop at a convenience store and a quick pop of your vehicle’s hood.

14. Stop Showing Off

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Earlier, I mentioned the importance of not driving like a maniac. With that in mind, I must remind drivers of all ages to stop showing off. I’m specifically talking about revving your engine at stoplights. Nobody’s impressed. No woman has ever heard a guy rev his engine and then jump into his car because she was so attracted to him. Revving your engine reduces its lifespan and earns you a future date with your mechanic.

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