Whether new or used, a vehicle is a big investment. Most people cannot afford to pay for a car outright and must make payments on it instead, usually for three to five years. Regular maintenance is a must to protect such an investment and extend the life of a vehicle. Without it, the vehicle can break down and require big bucks to repair.

Remember, the moment you drive the vehicle off the lot, it is yours to care for. Read the owner’s manual and follow the recommended maintenance schedule. Regular oil changes and tire pressure checks are essential for keeping cars running their best and using as little gas as possible.

Change your oil every 30,000 miles or as recommended by the manufacturer. You can do this yourself or have it done by a professional at a reasonable cost. Know the correct tire pressure and keep your tires properly inflated. To extend the life of your tires and ensure even wear, have them rotated regularly.

There are many other components to a vehicle’s engine, and it pays to have them checked out from time to time. Again, follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. A quality mechanic is your best bet, unless you have extensive knowledge of the workings of a car. A mechanic can check the air filter, brakes, fluids, exhaust system, battery and radiator, among other things.

Regular car washes are another must. Bird and pest residue, tar and other substances can do major damage to a vehicle’s exterior over time. It pays to keep your new car clean, inside and out. That’s right. Take the time to vacuum and clean the interior. This is especially important if you have young riders. Greasy fingers and sticky foods and drinks can wreak havoc on interior upholstery and carpeting.

Even with the best of care, vehicles can break down. You are the first line of defense in avoiding expensive repairs. Know your car. Pay attention to the way it sounds and feels, and at the first sign of trouble, get it to a repair shop. The smaller the problem, the easier and cheaper it will be to fix.

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