Kyle's Corner - Tips to make
your vehicle go the distance
By Kyle Busch
If you are on a tight budget, or even on an unlimited budget, you
know how important it is to make the most of what you have.
Getting More Miles Out of Your Car
The following are some tips that will help you to get more miles
out of your vehicle.
First, consider, does your vehicle actually have the
ability to run many miles without incurring costly
repairs? An easy way to find out is to visit a public
library to consult the frequency- of-repair information
in the April magazine issue of Consumer Reports (a
reference librarian can provide assistance if needed).
If the vehicle that you are driving has a reasonable
repair history, it is worthwhile to drive it until your
heart is content. However, if it has a very poor repair
history, it might be time to consider buying another
vehicle, one that has a good repair history, and one
that is even more fuel efficient.
Assuming that you want to extend the life of your
vehicle, at the beginning of each month, have the
engine oil level checked to make certain that it is at
the full-level mark on the dipstick. Buy two quarts
of oil that are on sale and keep them in the trunk.
Then, if the engine needs oil, you will not get stuck
paying three times what the oil should cost.
Note: Be certain to only use the type of oil and other
fluids as specified in the vehicle owner's manual. If you
need assistance to understand the owner's manual, visit
the dealership that sells your make of vehicle, and write
down the type of oil and other fluids to be used in your
Every three months (more often, however, if specified
by your vehicle owner's manual), check (or have a service
station attendant check) the other fluids that include:
Power Steering Fluid
Radiator Coolant (check the clear plastic bottle)
Windshield washer fluid
Be certain to observe what the service station attendant
does and ask questions, because you can likely check
these items. Note: There should be no cost to have
these items checked.
Why is it so important to keep the fluids at their full-level
marks? Because the fluids lubricate moving parts to
reduce fiction, heat, and wear. Therefore, If a part wears
because of a lack of fluid, providing all the fluid in future
will not repair the damaged part. The idea is to not let the
part get damaged at all. Remember to have these fluids
checked before you go and upon returning from a trip.
If you drive 10,000 or more miles per year, have the
engine oil and oil filter changed every 3,000 to 3,500
miles or about every four months. If you drive 6,000
miles or less per year, have the engine oil and oil filter
changed at the beginning of spring and near the end of
fall. Condensation (water) will build-up in the oil of a
car that is sitting, therefore, even if the vehicle is only
driven a few thousand miles per year, the oil should
be changed in the spring and in the fall. An easy way
to remember oil changes is to mark a new calendar
at the beginning of a year with "oil change" reminders
(i.e., March, July, and November or May and
Note: Some service stations run specials in the
newspaper for oil changes (i.e., $10.99 - $13.99).
However, make certain that the station is reputable.
Some stations have been known to skip changing
the oil or to do part of the job by changing the oil but
not the oil filter. Consider using a black marker to put
an X on the oil filter after an oil change. When the next
oil change has been completed, a newly installed filter
should not be marked with an X.
Before the cold of winter sets in, have a service station
attendant check the antifreeze in the clear plastic coolant
bottle with a hydrometer (a device that takes a sample of
antifreeze and specifies how cold the temperature can
become before the antifreeze freezes). The antifreeze in
your vehicle should be able to withstand (i.e., not freeze)
temperatures of at least 30 degrees "below the coldest"
winter temperature in your area.
Why is it important for the antifreeze not to freeze during
the winter? Because frozen antifreeze can crack an
engine's block which could result in possibly thousands
of dollars for the repair.
Note: There should be no cost to have the antifreeze
checked with a hydrometer. If the antifreeze in your
vehicle is too weak, have additional antifreeze added
to the coolant bottle. A gallon of antifreeze can be
purchased at many department stores. Purchase the
type of antifreeze as specified in the vehicle owner's
manual (i.e., usually a type that is suitable for "aluminum
and all types of metals" that are used today's engines).
If you drive over 10,000 miles per year, have the engine
air filter changed once a year in the spring. If you drive
about 6,000 miles or less per year, have the engine air
filter changed once every two years. Note: Discount
stores sometimes run sales on vehicle air filters. If
necessary, ask the clerk who works in the auto
department to help you to look up the number
(remember to write it down for future reference)
of the correct air filter for your specific vehicle (take
the vehicle owner's manual with you into the store to
reference the size of the engine, but be certain that
you do not forget it and thus leave the store without it).
In the spring and the fall give the vehicle a thorough
wash, tar removal, and wax. When washing the vehicle
in-between the seasonal waxes, use a car wash product
that is safe for clear coat and waxed finishes.
Basic vehicle maintenance is an ongoing process.
The secret to making it "easy" and keeping a vehicle
"looking great" involves two components. First,
maintaining regular vehicle involvement and second,
only doing a little at a time.
Each week throughout the year (in addition to the
maintenance suggested above) take only about
10-15 minutes to focus on a small aspect of the
vehicle. For example, one week wash the windows.
The next week, vacuum the carpet, and the following
week, Armor All the dash and the door panels etc.,
etc. After about three months, one of the "small jobs"
will be ready to be repeated. However, the vehicle
will never be in rough shape. Doing a "small but
thorough" job on one specific aspect of the vehicle
each week, requires very little time or energy. Having
a vehicle that continually "looks great" makes it
The tips provided above are the most basic maintenance
requirements that will help your vehicle to run longer. Note:
Refer to the vehicle owner's manual for the additional
maintenance required on your vehicle.
Basic vehicle maintenance involves a minimal investment of
time and money, but it can provide major benefits in vehicle
performance and lower repair costs. Additionally, your vehicle
will be in better condition when it becomes time to sell.
Buying a Used Vehicle
For information on buying a used vehicle and saving money,
a new book is available: Drive the Best for the Price: How to
Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan
and Save Money. To find out more about the author and this
book visit: www.drivethebestbook.com.
In 1991 the book's author, Kyle Busch, purchased a used
vehicle for $2,600 that a private owner had driven 82,000 miles.
He has driven the vehicle for over nine years and the odometer
now reads over 292,000 miles. The vehicle continues to provide
for his daily transportation needs.