Keep your car running!
Watch for Engine Warning Signs
It's OK to drive your car short distances with certain warning lights illuminated or gauges out of their normal range, but there are three that you dismiss at your car's peril: the engine oil light, the engine temperature gauge and the brake light. A few minutes of an excessively hot engine or low oil pressure and the groceries you're hauling in the back could suddenly be worth more than your car. A couple of minutes with the brake light on and you might end up playing bumper cars with the Cadillac Escalade ahead of you. The one being driven by Tony Soprano. In a bad mood.
Get in the habit of glancing at your engine's temperature gauge and warning lights. If the idiot lights come on, pull over as soon as it's safe to do so and shut off the engine. You might just save yourself an expensive engine rebuild
Do Your Regular Maintenance
Skipping regularly scheduled maintenance intervals is one of the quickest ways to assure your car finds its way to an early grave. Regular oil changes and oil, fuel and air filter changes all help make sure your car has what it needs to run without problems: clean air and clean fuel, plus fresh, uncontaminated oil to prevent wear and tear.
An added bonus to regular service? It gives good mechanics an opportunity to spot problems before they balloon into something more serious.
If you're wondering how often to do these things, there's a book that explains it all to you. It's called the owner's manual. You'll find it in your glove box, shrink-wrapped in plastic, because - if you're like most of us - you've probably never looked at it. In the back you'll find a list of service intervals, and the services that are recommended during each of them. If intervals in the book stop at 120,000 miles, that doesn't mean you're done with maintenance. Go back to the beginning and start over (so, for instance, do all the services called for in the 7,500-mile service at 127,500). Nice try, though.
By the way, if you're fretting over the ongoing cost of routine service, remember our maxim: "It's the stingy man who makes the most boat payments!"
Get Problems Checked Out Sooner Rather Than Later
This is like saying "Don't let a cold turn into pneumonia." If you have a small problem with your car, get it checked out sooner rather than later.
For example, a torn CV boot is a common problem causing axle failure and a simple repair. Delay getting it fixed, though, and you'll eventually end up by the side of the road, unable to drive and forced to fork over some additional money for a tow and a whole new axle.
That's just one example. There are many other problems that start small but balloon into something much larger if they're not addressed right away. Don't believe in this theory? Talk to the secretary of the Treasury Department.
Above all, make sure your car is safe to drive. If you have any doubts about such things as brakes, brake lines, ball joints, tie rods, airbags, seat belts or even the structural integrity of your car, get it checked out. Remember: Even though you want your car to last a long time, you still want to outlive your car.