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Car maintenance: How doing the little things can make your vehicle last

Periodic checks and fixes are important to keep a car running smoothly.

Not many people can imagine their lives without a car. Across the U.S., people rely on their cars to commute, take their kids to school and run daily errands.

On average, each U.S. household owns 1.9 vehicles. In addition, a total of 204 million personal vehicles are used or available for regular use, according to the Bureau for Transportation Statistics.

When a car breaks down, it is a significant burden for families. This is why regular maintenance is so important.

Periodic checks and fixes are important in trying to keep a car running smoothly and can help you catch bigger problems before they escalate. Here are some kinds of routine maintenance you should put in your calendar to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.

Regular oil and fluid changes

Engines are complex machines susceptible to serious damage if their temperatures aren't regulated by fluids.

In both winter and summer, the fluids in your car will prevent your vehicle from sustaining temperature-based damage that could make the engine blow, so learning how to check all your fluid levels and top them off is an important component of car-owner knowledge.

For oil, the frequency of changes your car needs depends on what type of car you have and what kind of oil you're using. The owners manual of your car can tell you where the fluid repositories are and give details about how often to get your oil and other fluids changed.

"The majority of automakers today call for oil changes at either 7,500 or 10,000 miles, and the interval can go as high as 15,000 miles in some cars," says Edmunds. Still, be sure to reference your car's manual for more precise estimates.

Remembering your air filters

Air filters don't sound like particularly crucial components of a car, but you'd be surprised. Because your engine is the single most important (and expensive) component of your car, so ensuring that no junk from outside is getting sucked into it is imperative to making your car last.

"An engine air filter is responsible for cleaning the air as it enters into the engine compartment," according to the Automotive Training Center. "Because this air will be mixed with fuel and ignited during combustion, ensuring that any harmful debris from the outside doesn't make it through is key."

Typical air filters last between 15,000 and 30,000 miles, and mechanics often change them when they do fluid checks or other routine procedures. Make sure to ask about the health of you air filter at your next appointment if you think it needs to be replaced.

Scheduling belt checks

Inspecting and getting the belts in your car changed regularly can keep your vehicle from breaking down.

"Typical serpentine belt replacement is 60,000 to 90,000 miles," according to carcare.org. "Typical V-belt replacement is 40,000 to 50,000 miles. Replace timing belt per interval specified in the owner's manual."

Check your car's manual for the specific number of miles your belts can go, or talk to your trusted mechanic.

Scheduling recommended repairs for your car type

Besides these regular types of maintenance, every car needs parts replaced when the vehicle hits big mile markers.

One example of a part that can go out and ruin an engine is the water pump, which supplies coolant and water to the engine, according to the car information hub Crankshift.

Researching to find out what some common problems are for your model and make of car can help you get an idea of when to plan on replacing parts before they develop problems that will affect the rest of the vehicle.

More information on driving safe

Besides your car's condition, many situations on the road can become hazardous. From texting drivers to hazardous weather, there are various dangers that can threaten your smooth commute.

Take a look at Sinclair Care's Drive Safe articles for more information about how to care for your car and be safer on the road.

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