April is National Car Care Month, and to commemorate the importance of taking extra special care of your car, we asked for tips from some of the car care experts at Carvana – Kevin Coyle, the general manager of our Delanco, N.J. inspection center, and Mike Pokora, a principal engineer overseeing cosmetic reconditioning. Kevin and Mike compiled a list of easy to-do items that’ll keep your vehicle running like a well-oiled machine and out of the repair shop.

Don’t procrastinate

Staying on top of general maintenance as it relates to your car can go a long way in extending your vehicle’s life. Your preventative repair will most likely be your cheapest repair option in the long run, as neglected maintenance can stress other dependent systems within the vehicle.

When it comes to scratches on your vehicle, scratches that penetrate the paint can lead to rusting and further deterioration of the surrounding panel if left exposed. The rate at which this occurs depends on the underlying alloy. Touch-up paint is sold in a variety of factory original colors and can keep the damage from getting worse when properly applied after a scratch. Make sure you clean the surface and follow manufacturer instructions before applying any aftermarket paint cover.

Cleaning debris off your vehicle regularly can also help maintain the protective clear coat finish. Beyond just the physical abrasion, mud, bug, and bird residues have chemical properties that can etch into the clear coat over time if left to stand.

Similar to scratches and knicks to your vehicle’s paint job, glass chips and bullseyes on your windshield and other windows can spread and cause further damage if not addressed as soon as possible. Road vibration and thermal stress can lead to small chips or stars that can spread over time and become large cracks.

Don’t let your tires get tired

In getting from point A to point B, having safe and reliable tires is essential. Be sure to check the tire pressure in your spare and make sure your spare does an effective job of holding air pressure. An investment in a portable 12V tire pump can sometimes save the day, both for a neglected spare tire or a recently punctured tire.

Make sure you practice changing the tire on your vehicle before you actually need to change a tire on your vehicle. Get familiar with how to access your spare tire and safely lift your vehicle before doing it under adverse or stressed conditions. It is especially important to familiarize yourself with these steps when you are driving a vehicle that’s new to you. Below are some additional points for ensuring that your tires are in tip top shape:

  • Tire measurements:Start planning for tire replacement when you have 4/32 of an inch of tread remaining. You definitely want to replace tires when your tread has 2/32 or below. You can take these measurements using a quarter or a penny. Washington’s head is exactly 4/32 of an inch from the top of the quarter. Lincoln’s head is exactly 2/32 of an inch away from the top of a penny. Stick the coin between the treads with the presidents’ heads facing down. If you can see Washington’s entire head you know you are below 4/32 of an inch. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, you know you are below 2/32 of an inch.
  • Tire replacement: When replacing tires, you should always replace two or four tires. If you are in a situation when only two tires are replaced, the new tires should be placed on the rear of the vehicle, regardless of the drive axle. The partially worn tires should be placed on the front axle. Newer tires on the rear help the driver maintain control in wet road conditions.

Keep it clean

Got cloudy headlights? They can be easily restored with a buffing compound or even toothpaste. We’ve tried both, and while you get more distance out of a fine polishing compound, toothpaste will work (it is also a micro abrasive), though you’ll put a lot more effort in to get the same result. The clear finish will not be permanent, but it can be a temporary solution.

When removing stains from seats, always try to do a dry cleaning first and when using any sort of stain remover, use as little water as possible. The foam underneath the fabric can hold moisture for a really long time and be difficult to dry. Test stain removers in a non-obvious area to check for color bleed and fastness on the seat.

Wiper maintenance is also critical, though it seems like you don’t really notice the condition of your wipers until you need them the most. Regularly cleaning them with a paper towel when you wash your car will keep them free of debris and ready for the next rain storm. Parking your car in shady areas will reduce the amount of sun exposure and prevent the rubber blades from dry rotting and cracking.

Care for your car

When it comes to safely and reliably transporting you and your precious cargo, there’s no substitute for being well prepared on the open road. While some of these tips may seem like a bit of a pain and thus easy to cast aside when compared to some of your other daily tasks, they will undoubtedly serve you well as you pile up miles and accumulate wear and tear on your vehicle.

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