Wish there was a hidden button on the engine that could amp up your car performance? The car you drive off the lot is likely the best version of the car you will ever drive, and maintenance is really an attempt to keep that version. No, there’s not a button. But there are several things you can do to keep your car running smoothly.
Whether it’s a high-performance sports car or an affordable subcompact, the car you drive is a complicated, multi-faceted machine. But car maintenance is often deceptively simple — it comes down to a clean, well-hydrated engine, some fresh air and durable tires. With a quick trip to your favorite local auto parts store (or website) and a few hours of free time, you can improve the performance of your car. Here are just a few practical, no-nonsense tips for improving your car’s performance.
High-Pressure Situations are Good
You know what they say about only being as strong as your weakest link? Well, it’s especially true for automobiles. In general, car maintenance is about achieving peak efficiency in the vehicle. You want every drop of fuel to burn for maximum effect, which means that every part of the car is perfectly in tune. What we’re really talking about here is maximizing fuel mileage. It’s about harmony — getting all of the parts dancing together — and the first place you want to look to improve harmony is the most obvious place: your tires.
If your tire pressures are too low, this can affect mileage by more than one mile per gallon by increasing the surface friction with the road. Under-inflation will also cause your tires to wear out a lot faster. Check tire pressure once a month or before a long trip. Your car’s recommended pressure is typically displayed on the door jamb or glove compartment. Never inflate your tires to max inflation point displayed on your tire. Remember, the tire’s manufacturer has no idea what specific car you’re driving.
Give Your Engine a Good Scrub
If you really want your vehicle to run as efficiently as possible, you need to ensure that the engine is clean and free of dirt and grime that can make the engine run hotter than it should. A lot of people are hesitant to perform any maintenance on the engine, but fear not!
Cleaning is a completely non-invasive procedure that can make a huge difference almost instantly. Never clean a fully hot engine. A little bit of heat can actually loosen up dirt and grime, but you’ll want to let the car sit for a few hours with the hood up before cleaning if you’ve recently driven it. To clean the engine, pick up an engine degreaser. Family Handyman offers good advice on choosing a degreaser as well as instructions for use.
Let the Engine Breathe
It’s also very important that the air filter is clean. An air filter performs one of the most important tasks in your car. It lets in clean air that mixes with gas, which is then compressed and ignited to make the pistons fire. You want this combination of air and gas to be as pure as possible. Have you ever gone for a jog in a smog-ridden city? It’s not fun, and it’s not fun for your engine to run on dirty air either.
You should clean or replace your air filters every 15,000 miles. This is more often than a lot of car manufactures will recommend, but increasing the frequency of the change lets you get ahead of any problems. If the air filter is dirty, every other part of the engine is going to have to work harder than it should. A clean air filter improves the efficiency of the engine in the short term, and will help to extend the life of your vehicle in the long run.
Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Systematic Maintenance
The tips here are pretty simple. Cleaning out your fuel system is a small step up in difficulty, as it requires you to have a little bit of working knowledge of your specific engine. Take the time to get lay of the land. A fuel system cleaning kit takes only a few minutes to use and can have a huge effect on your engine’s performance. It can truly make your car feel like you just drove it off the lot.
Though you can purchase kits for fuel injector cleaning, since you can damage the engine by not doing this task correctly, it might be beneficial to take your car to a professional instead. The cleaning will help the engine reach its peak power and performance. It also smoothes out a rough idle and reduces the overall emissions of your vehicle. Don’t forget to buy one of those new car smell air fresheners too, because after cleaning out your car’s fuel system, you’ll swear it drives like new.