Whether your ride is your pride or merely a way to get from point A to point B, you need to take care of it. The cost of unexpected repairs can put a severe dent in your budget — and college probably already takes enough of your cold, hard cash.
However, most universities don’t offer a course called Basic Automotive Maintenance 101. Here are five things you need to know about taking care of your car in college.
Keep It Clean and Shiny
If you are a financially struggling college student, you probably aren’t rolling around in a Mercedes or an Aston Martin. However, that doesn’t mean that you want to let your vehicle get filthy or accumulate rust.
If you purchase an older vehicle with existing rust, you can prevent future oxidative damage by taking measures to remove it. Surface rust only affects the topmost panel layer, but penetrating rust could require you to replace an entire portion of your car’s body to fix. Sand away small patches and cover with rust-prevention paint before applying the final coat of wax.
While it won’t hurt your car’s resale value if you have empty pop cans littering the back seat, it does embarrass you when you pick up that cutie from Calculus 101 for your first date. Show off your cleanliness and eco-consciousness by investing in a sorting bin that separates trash and recycling while keeping your interior tidy.
Get Your Oil Changed
Once upon a time, a foolish college student neglected routine oil changes and ended up with a $2,000 engine repair bill. Older cars often have leaks, and filthy motor oil contains contaminants that can shorten your engine life.
Older vehicles often need changes as frequently as every 3,000 miles, although today’s models can often go 7,500 to 10,000. If your car remains under warranty, you should follow the manufacturer’s service schedule to avoid voiding it. However, if it is out of warranty, you will need to calculate the intervals.
Should you DIY or take it to the shop? It’s a matter of cost and convenience, but you’re better off taking your car in if it remains under warranty.
Learn to Identify Signs of Trouble
Professional service can help you fix small problems before they advance to the severe stage, but you need to recognize the signs of trouble. One apparent sign that something is amiss occurs when your check engine light appears. However, there are over 200 different service codes that this alert could potentially indicate — take your ride to a mechanic to be sure.
Other signs of trouble include sluggish acceleration, signifying clogged fuel injectors or smoky exhaust, which indicates a dirty air filter or worn engine parts. You might also hear thumps and noises or feel unusual vibrations. If you smell fuel oil, take your car to the shop without delay, as this sign can mean that you have a leak that could spark an explosion.
Maintain Your Inspection Schedule
Unless you live in one of the seven states that don’t mandate annual vehicle inspections, you need to keep up with this responsibility. Consider it a valuable opportunity to ensure your car is safe for travel.
Your inspection is like your annual checkup at the doctor. Your mechanic can identify and correct minor issues before they explode into expensive messes. The small labor fee you pay is a pittance compared to the peace of mind you get that your axle isn’t ready to snap during transit.
Supply Your Ride With the Basics
You should always carry basic first aid and safety supplies in your vehicle even when you don’t have a long road trip — like heading home at semester’s end — planned. Please include the following:
Take Care of Your Car While in College With These Tips
Your vehicle is probably your most valuable asset at this life stage. Take care of your car while in college with the above tips.