Daily Driver Maintenance
Every vehicle, regardless of year, make, or model, needs preventative maintenance. And the more you drive, the sooner your car will need an oil change, brake pads, tires, etc.
DIY Car Repair And Maintenance
If you're a mechanically inclined person with tools, the majority of car maintenance can be done in your spare time. For those with limited tools and skills, there's still plenty you can do to get maximum life from your old car.
Read: What Preventive Maintenance Can I Do On My Own Car?
For the past 30 years, I've been doing daily driver maintenance to all my family member's cars and trucks. I do 90% of my own vehicle repairs, leaving late-model engine diagnosing to a trusted local shop.
High Mileage Car Maintenance
The U.S. Department of Transportation states that Americans drive an average of 13,476 miles per year. Of course, some vehicles are driven less than that, but many are driven more than that. The most common reason is having a long commuting distance.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic kept us all home for months, I was commuting 80 miles a day, five days a week. That's 400 miles a week, not including any other driving I may do, such as running errands or excursions on my days off. It added up to 20,000+ miles a year.
To offset the miles I was putting on my daily driver, I rode my motorcycle as much as I could. But factors such as weather and other circumstances limited my riding to less than 5,000 miles annually. Even so, I was putting 15,000+ miles a year on my daily driver.
Oil Changes Are Still #1 Priority
Oil changes are the most important part of vehicle maintenance. Air filters and fuel filters are also important, but not nearly as much. For example, if you drive around with a dirty air filter or dirty gas filter, the worst that could happen is you lose performance. If you drive around with dirty oil, you put your engine at risk of expensive internal damage.
Read: High-Mileage vs Full-Synthetic Oil
If your engine oil comes out dark and sludgy, change the oil and filter more frequently. Once your engine is sludged up, there is no easy way to clean it. You can try an engine flush, but they can do more harm than good.
Jack Stands vs Ramps
For DIY oil changes, car ramps seem to be more popular than jack stands. Personally, I prefer jacks stands over ramps. I use a floor jack at the proper factory lift points, then place jack stands as close to the jack as possible.
Read: Best Jack Stands And Lifting Procedures
You can rotate your vehicle's tires right in your driveway. Pick a sunny afternoon, grab a floor jack and a pair of jack stands, and have at it.
Before taking the wheels off, grab a front tire with both hands and rock it forward and backward. What you're doing is checking for side to side play. A little is OK, but anything more than 1/4" back and forth movement is a sign of a bad wheel bearing.
After you have the front wheels off, check to see how your brakes are doing. It's also a good time to check for ripped CV axle or tie rod boots.
Replace Noisy Wheel Bearings
The majority of today's cars and trucks have a one-piece wheel hub assembly. Although they aren't adjustable like old-school inner and outer wheel bearings are, they have a much greater life expectancy.
I've replaced hub assemblies on many different vehicles. Although it may appear easy to unbolt the old one and bolt on the new one, they don't always come off easily. Once they're off though, installation of the new hub assembly is straight-forward.
Ripped And Torn Dust Boots
When ball joint or tie rod boots rip or tear, the grease ends up on your car's undercarriage, but worse, the parts wear out much faster. It starts as a creaking or clunking, then worsening to excessive play in the suspension and steering.
Read: Replace Tie Rod Dust Boots
If you catch the damaged boot early enough, you can simply remove the old boot and install a new one. But if you're not sure of a component's age, replace it for safety's sake.
Before you try removing any chassis part, grab a can of WD-40 or a similar penetrating fluid and generously spray the parts to be removed. Let them soak for a while.