15 ways to make your car last longer

We all want to get the most from our cars, and there’s no way around it: a good maintenance regime is key to keeping your car running at the top of its game. Whether you have a modern or a classic car, looking after it properly is a necessity that will keep you safe, avoid unexpected costs, preserve its value and keep it on the road for longer.

Here are 15 practical tips for looking after your cherished vehicle so that you can enjoy it for years to come.

Keeping your car battery charged will prevent it degrading and going flat, especially if it is not used for long periods of time. You could use a battery maintainer or trickle charger when the car is not in use for an extended period, such as over the winter months.

1. Maintain the battery

Turning your car on and off again or using it only for short journeys can drain the battery, so make sure that you drive it for long enough that the battery can be topped up sufficiently.

2. Change filters often

Cars require a constant supply of clean fuel, oil and air to run optimally, so filters stop dirt and debris from entering. But they become clogged over time, making it harder for fuel and air to pass through and putting strain on the engine. 

Regularly changing filters is an easy and affordable way to maintain your car and the more frequently you do, the more efficiently your car will run.

3. Top up fluids

Basic car maintenance means you should check and replenish fluids such as engine oil and coolant once every two weeks. Use the dipstick to measure engine oil against the minimum and maximum markers and check that it is yellowish-brown in colour (diesel oil will be darker). 

Topping up oils to recommended levels will keep your car running smoothly and prevent overheating, reducing the risk of engine damage. 

4. Maintain fuel levels

All drivers dread running out of fuel, but keeping a good level of fuel in the tank is also part of regular vehicle maintenance. When fuel levels are low, sediment and debris that builds up at the bottom of the fuel tank can be drawn in, clogging the filter or injectors and preventing the car from starting.

5. Replace spark plugs

As a critical part of the ignition system, spark plugs get your car moving. Worn or dirty spark plugs can cause misfires, reduce fuel efficiency and cause poor engine performance, so it is a good idea to check them regularly. 

A key sign of spark plug wear is a large gap between the electrode and insulator, which means that the spark has further to travel. Spark plugs in poor condition can also indicate a problem in the engine.

6. Drive smoothly

Avoiding fast acceleration and sudden braking can lessen wear and tear on your car’s components. Anticipating your next moves and focusing on driving smoothly is something that you can practice each time you are on the road.

However, it is good to rev your car harder occasionally to clear any carbon deposit build-up; just make sure that you do this at an appropriate moment.

7. Check your tyres

Tyre pressure and tread should always be within a manufacturer-specified range that you will find in your owners manual. Over- or under-inflated tyres can cause handling issues and make the car drive less efficiently. Some manufacturers recommend different pressures for the front and back tyres, but make sure that pressure is equal left to right.

Sufficient tread depth helps your tyres to maintain grip in all weathers. Worn down tyres also impair your braking distance, so get them replaced when they need it. And check your spare!

8. Rust-proofing

Especially important for older or classic cars, rust-proofing can protect your vehicle from costly and damaging metal corrosion. Preventative action includes applying a protective coating or spray to the bodywork and undercarriage of the car. It also helps to keep the car clean and dry. 

If rust starts to develop, tackle the area quickly with rust converter, rust inhibitor, replacement parts or repainting.

9. Keep your car clean

More than just a matter of pride, cleaning your car can help it last longer. As with rust-proofing, this means avoid excessive exposure to the elements. Salt and grit or an accumulation of dirt and grime can speed up corrosion. 

It is important in winter to keep your car free of salt that is often liberally applied to road surfaces.

10. Brake using pedals over engine braking

It is preferable to reduce speed using the brakes instead of shifting gears (or engine braking). Especially at higher speeds, shifting down multiple gears can damage your clutch and transmission. If you want to slow down, reach for the brakes first.

11. Avoid resting on the clutch and gearstick

A lighter touch approach to driving your car can minimise wear over time. Resting your foot on the clutch pedal while driving partially engages the mechanism and causes excess friction. 

The same applies to the gear box: driving with your hand resting on the gearstick applies additional pressure to the internal parts and accelerates wear.

12. Buy quality car parts

When your car needs replacement parts, don’t scrimp on costs. Cheaper parts could end up costing more in the long run if they fail or damage other components so make sure they meet manufacturer standards. Using original parts is also critical to classic car maintenance, helping to retain authenticity, quality and value.

13. Conduct simple checks

Carrying out simple maintenance checks can help to keep your car in top condition. Spotting small issues before they turn into serious problems will save you from nasty surprises and the associated costs. With older cars being more prone to mechanical complications than modern cars, classic car drivers have even more to gain from conducting routine checks.

14. Regular servicing

Even if you do a great job maintaining your car yourself, there is no substitute for servicing by a qualified mechanic. Done once a year or at particular mileage milestones, regular servicing can help to identify and address any existing or potential issues so that your car stays in good shape.

15. Convert your car to electric

Turning to electric power makes many of the maintenance tasks listed above redundant, which may come as a relief if the sheer number of things to consider feels overwhelming. Converting your classic car to electric replaces the internal combustion engine with a modern battery-powered system. As electric cars have significantly fewer moving parts, this avoids the need to address many potential issues and repairs, and ultimately makes your car last longer.

Can I convert my car to electric?

Converting existing cars to electric is an increasingly viable and popular option that gives older vehicles a new lease of life. Many classic cars are now being converted to electric power, allowing them be enjoyed for longer without the burden of increasingly costly maintenance.

Any vehicle with an internal combustion engine can in theory be converted to electric, although some may be more suited than others based on factors such as size and weight. It is important to seek a qualified professional that can advise you on whether your particular car is suited to an electric conversion.