A vehicle is among the most expensive purchases you’re likely to make. As with any big purchase, you should do everything you can to protect your investment and keep it looking good and performing well.
Are you currently taking the necessary steps to keep your car protected from theft, poor weather, and mechanical breakdowns?
How to Protect Your Vehicle
Apart from your home, your vehicle is likely the most valuable item you own. Unless you own a boat or an expensive piece of farming or gardening equipment, it probably isn’t even close.
Despite the fact that a car isn’t really an investment in the traditional sense (it’s a depreciating asset), there are practical steps you can take to protect your vehicle and help it to retain value over time. Here are four areas to think about:
1. Protect Your Vehicle From the Elements
The sun, heat, rain, ice, and snow can all be very damaging to a car or truck — both in terms of the interior and exterior. In order to keep your machine looking good and performing well, you must protect it from the elements. Here are a few suggestions.
- Keep the vehicle The more you can keep your vehicle covered, the better. This will prevent the sun from beating down on the paint, but also provide a shield from other threats like hail or storm damage. A garage or carport is the best solution, but you can buy a portable garage for a cost-effective sum if you don’t have a permanent solution at your house.
- Park in the shade. Research conducted at the State Farm Vehicle Research Facility shows that interior air temperatures may climb well above 145 degrees Fahrenheit, while interior surfaces that are exposed to direct sunlight can reach nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re going to park your vehicle for a long period of time, try to find a shady spot.
- Use the right products. To protect your vehicle’s exterior, put a layer of wax on the car or truck after washing. For the interior leather, conditioner, seat covers, and windshield sun protectors can all help to prevent deterioration.
2. Invest in Preventive Maintenance
Most people don’t inspect their own vehicle regularly or visit a mechanic until something is clearly wrong. If you want to avoid major issues and save money over the long term, try investing in preventive maintenance.
Here are a few specific things you should do on a semi-regular basis:
- Change your air filter. Many vehicle problems stem from faulty or dirty air filters. This is unfortunate, since swapping out an air filter is just about the easiest maintenance task possible. It’s also extremely cheap. Swap yours out every year – or after 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.
- Change your oil. Regularly oil changes are one of the best ways to keep your engine running smoothly. This is something you can do on your own, or spend $20 to $30 to have a mechanic handle it.
- Get tires rotated and balanced. Tires are vital and unavoidably expensive. Protecting them will keep you safe and save you money. In order to get the most life out of your tires, have them rotated and balanced on a regular basis.
- Check your brakes. From a safety standpoint, you also need to test and inspect your brakes regularly. If you let them go too long, you could cause excessive damage to your rotors … which leads to a more expensive repair.
3. Dissuade Theft and Vandalism
“A car doesn’t have to be expensive to be a target,” auto security expert David Beaudrie writes. “Thieves often steal vehicles just to strip them of their parts and metal components. Others steal cars to use as getaway vehicles while committing other crimes. It doesn’t matter if you drive a new luxury sedan or an old pickup truck. Car theft is a reality that you need to guard against.”
Billions of dollars worth of vehicles are stolen each year in the United States. Vandalism is also common. If you want to discourage theft and vandalism from happening to your vehicle, there are practical steps you can take:
- Steering wheel lock bar. If you frequently park on city streets and other public areas for long periods of time, a steering wheel lock bar adds a layer of protection against theft.
- Tracking devices. As GPS technology has become cheaper over the years, many vehicle owners have installed small tracking devices on their cars. This gives the owner the ability to track down a car or truck if it’s stolen.
In addition to installing various devices and gadgets, make sure you never leave valuable items in plain sight. If you do, your chances of having someone break your windows go way up.
4. Be a Smart Driver
Finally, make sure you’re a smart driver when on the road. A single collision could damage your truck or car beyond repair. These tips will keep you safer:
- Put the phone down. Many states now have laws that forbid drivers from holding smartphones and other devices while their car is running. Regardless of the law in your state, you should only use hands-free devices when driving, if you make or receive calls at all while you’re on the road. This will significantly reduce your chances of getting involved in a crash.
- Drive defensively. It’s not enough to mind your own business. When you’re driving, you have to watch what others are doing (and anticipate whatever they could do). Keep an eye out for signs of distracted driving and check your mirrors constantly so you have an escape if something goes wrong.
Be a Responsible Vehicle Owner
It’s just too easy to forget that owning a vehicle is a responsibility and a privilege … not something you can take for granted. If you’re going to operate a vehicle often, it’s imperative that you follow the advice outlined above.
Otherwise, you could suffer the consequences of driving a poorly maintained vehicle.