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There's more to car maintenance than what's under the hood

LOS ANGELES — When many motorists think of vehicle maintenance, the first thing that comes to mind is oil changes and other engine upkeep.

However, the steps to maintaining a vehicle, and its resale value, extend beyond what is under the hood, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

“Motorists can extend the life of their vehicle’s interior and exterior the same way they take care of its mechanical parts – through proper maintenance,” said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center in Diamond Bar. “Forms of vehicle upkeep that are frequently thought of as cosmetic care can reduce wear and tear and help maintain a higher resale value.”

The Auto Club recommends motorists perform the following maintenance tasks:

Vehicle interior

• Vacuum regularly and lightly shampoo the carpets as needed. Dirt remaining in the carpet greatly accelerates wear, but be careful not to soak carpets with too much moisture.

• Use floor mats to protect carpet. Carpeted floor mats will collect dust and dirt and are best for dry climates, while protective vinyl floor mats are recommended in wet and snowy areas.

• Wipe down dusty or soiled surfaces with a damp cloth. Follow with a UV-protective coating on vinyl and rubber surfaces. A solution with a matte or semi-gloss finish is preferred on the dashboard to reduce reflections in the windshield. Be careful not to apply petroleum-based products to plastic surfaces, especially clear ones. If the interior has leather, use products designed for cleaning and maintaining this material.

• Clean stains from seats and other interior surfaces promptly to prevent them from becoming set. Use a cleaner recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer to prevent fabric, vinyl or leather damage. Test any non-approved product in an inconspicuous spot before use to make sure it is safe.

• In hot and sunny climates, consider having the windows tinted to cut down on infrared rays that cause heat buildup and ultraviolet rays that fade and damage interior materials. Heavily tinting windshields and front seat windows can compromise visibility and is frequently illegal, so use appropriate materials.

• Use protective flooring and seat covers when transporting pets or items with sharp edges that could gouge upholstery or carpeting.

Vehicle exterior

• Wash the vehicle approximately every two weeks and wax it twice a year. More frequent washing and waxing could be advisable depending on climate and driving conditions. Use soap made for washing cars. Do not use dishwashing soap, which can strip the oils and wax from paint. A good coat of wax looks great, protects the finish from contaminants it comes in contact with and contains filtering chemicals that help reduce paint fading from the ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

• When washing the vehicle, be sure to rinse out the wheel wells and accessible areas of the undercarriage. This is especially important where salt is used on roads in the winter, as it will help prevent rust.

• Use care when removing bugs and tar to avoid damaging the clear coat or paint. Auto parts stores carry specialty products that can ease removal without causing damage.

• Clean glass inside and out to ensure good vision. Use a product that does not leave streaks or cause glare.

• Have small windshield chips repaired to prevent them from becoming cracks that require complete windshield replacement. Most such repairs can be made easily by an auto glass technician coming to the vehicle’s location.

• Consider headlight restoration if the headlight lenses have fogged or developed a frosted yellow surface. This repair process restores a clear finish to the lens, which improves both vehicle appearance and nighttime vision. Do-it-yourselfers can purchase restoration kits at auto parts stores for approximately $20. Commercial services will typically do the job for between $50 and $100.

Another easy way to improve the resale value of a vehicle is by saving all of its maintenance records.

Motorists can be as organized as keeping them in a file or just keeping them in the glove box. Either way, being able to produce a record of proper maintenance and repairs during ownership of the vehicle can add hundreds of dollars to a vehicle’s sales price.

Also, most repairs come with some form of warranty and documentation of the repair will be needed to support any warranty claim that might arise.


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