You’ve invested a lot of money in your vehicle, whether you bought it used or new, and you want to make sure it will last you for years to come. While it will be subject to wear and tear over time, you can extend the life of your car through regular maintenance and attention. What’s more, there are ways to keep your car running and looking good that you probably haven’t thought of before.

Change the Oil

Regular oil changes are necessary to keep your engine operating smoothly. Over time, dirt and debris accumulate in the oil and can damage the engine. Replacing dirty oil and the oil filter regularly is not only healthy for your engine, but also for the environment. With clean oil, your car will pass emission tests more easily. Changing your oil regularly can also increase your gas mileage.

Your car’s manual will tell you how often to change your oil, but most vehicle manufacturers recommend every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or at least twice a year. You may need to change it more often, depending on your driving habits, the climate, and the type of oil you use.

Take it in for Maintenance

Most dealerships and quick-service oil change businesses will also give your car a check-up when you bring it for an oil change. The service technician will check the battery, brakes, tires, filters, fluids, belts, and more. These are all essential parts of your car’s operating system, and the service tech can alert you if anything is showing signs of wear or needs to be replaced.

Newer cars can be inspected with a computerized diagnostic check. The vehicle is equipped with sensors that monitor the engine, transmission, exhaust system, and son. The diagnostic check can tell whether you need new spark plugs, your timing needs adjusting, or your fuel injection system is operating as it should.

Drive Defensively

Defensive driving not only prevents accidents but also saves excessive wear on your car. Minor scrapes and dents can make your car vulnerable to rust. Sudden accelerations and braking is hard on your transmission, tires, and braking mechanism. Maintaining a reasonable speed and leaving a distance between your car and other vehicles eases the stress on your engine.

An added benefit of defensive driving is saving on your insurance premiums. Many insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who agree to take a defensive driving course or install a usage monitor.

Protect the Paint

Your vehicle’s paint keeps it looking good and shields the body from corrosion and damage. It’s important to protect the paint job, and you can do this in a number of ways. The first line of defense in taking care of the paint is to wash your car regularly, especially if you live in a climate that uses road salt. Avoid parking under a tree because bird droppings and tree sap are harmful to your paint.

Waxing your car also helps, but if you want a long-lasting shield against harm, car paint sealant or other coating is the way to go. Car paint protection prevents damage from sap, debris, rocks and other elements.

Care for the Interior

Many people who are diligent about washing the exterior of their car neglect the interior. That’s not a good idea. A well-maintained interior will increase the value of your car, should you ever decide to sell it or trade it in. Not only that, cleaning removes bacteria and allergens and prevents mold.

If you have leather seats, they require regular maintenance to keep them supple and conditioned. You can buy products especially for cleaning leather seats. For everything else, a vacuum, microfiber cloth, and a car interior cleaning spray are all you need. Some people like to use cotton swabs to clean in tight spots.

Don’t Overload It

Even if it’s an SUV, your vehicle is designed to carry passengers and light cargo. While a heavier load once in a while probably won’t hurt, frequently overloading your car can cause harm to the tires, engine, brakes, and suspension.

Whether the load is inside, on the top of your car, or being towed behind, excessive weight can cause a sudden breakdown or decrease the life of your car’s systems. Use only recommended roof racks and rear carriers. The maximum weight varies greatly from one vehicle to the next, so check the manual before hauling heavy cargo.

Watch the Weather

More cars are damaged by weather than you might think. A severe thunderstorm can cause hail that will dent your car, high winds that can carry debris, and even lightning that can destroy the electrical systems in your vehicle. Add to that the risk of snow and ice, as well as flash floods. Sun and heat can also damage your car’s exterior and interior.

If you have a garage or carport, you’ll be able to keep your car protected, but it will still be exposed when you’re at work or shopping. In those cases where you can’t cover your car from bad weather, make sure you avoid parking under power lines, on hills, or under trees.

Insure It

If your car is financed, you will probably be required to insure it, but even if it’s paid off, you should not drop or reduce your coverage. In case of an accident, your insurance will protect you in case of injury to yourself or someone else, and also cover collision damage.

A good comprehensive policy can assist with damage that can cut short the life of your car, such as harm from fire, theft, vandalism, hail, or falling objects. Minor damage that can lead to problems in the future, such as a broken mirror, may also be covered.

When well cared for and diligently maintained, your car can look great and last for years after you make the final payment. Paying regular attention to the minor issues, including cleanliness, can keep all your vehicle’s systems running smoothly.