Every driver knows the importance of oil changes and routine maintenance to help keep any car ticking, and air filters clog, brake pads wear out, and serpentine belts stretch as the miles add up. Usually there are warning signs that let you know something is off, but there could be things you’re doing—or not doing—that will shorten your car’s life span.
If you’re the type of driver who wants to keep your car for as long as possible, these are the four things you need to know.
1. Keep It Clean
Washing your car does more than make it look nice. It aids longevity by cleaning away contaminants that cause corrosion. Paint protects your car’s body panels from the elements, but the underside has it rough as it’s continually exposed to water, dirt, and grime that form rust. That’s why it’s especially important to wash your car during the winter when there is salt on the road. Road salt keeps the pavement free from ice but is notorious for eating holes straight through metal parts. Most cars have drainage points so rust-causing water can drip out, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to give it a good wash every so often.
2. Lighten Up
Colin Chapman, creator of the legendary Lotus sports-car brand, summed up his engineering philosophy as “simplify, then add lightness.” What he meant is that the less a car weighs, the better it will drive. If you have kids to shuttle to school, materials to haul to a job site, or outdoor gear to take to the trail, you probably don’t drive a lightweight sports coupe. Still, Chapman’s words apply even if you have a minivan, pickup, or SUV.
The more a car weighs, the harder the engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension have to work. While cars are designed to carry extra weight, over the long term any unnecessary strain will take miles off its life. So remove excess stuff and only drive with the essentials. If nothing else, you’ll get a few extra miles per gallon out of it.
3. Start Slow
Between breakfast, cleaning up, and checking your online life, it’s always a rush to get out the door in the morning. When you finally hop in your car, you drive off right away hoping to beat traffic. However, like you, your car needs time to get ready to roll when it has been resting for a while. After a few hours of sitting, motor oil cools and sinks to the bottom. When you fire up your car, the oil pump distributes oil through the engine, but it takes time for all the parts to get lubricated.
Driving immediately after startup increases friction between engine components, wearing them out faster. Let your car idle for 30 to 60 seconds after you start it to allow the oil to get up to temperature and flow through the engine. Waiting a minute for this to happen prolongs your engine’s life span, but if you absolutely must hit the road, drive gently for the first mile or two.
4. Floor It
Most cars redline at above 6000 rpm, but in everyday driving, it’s not often that you crest even half that. Modern drivetrains are programmed to keep engine revolutions low in the name of efficiency, and while it’s indisputable that high-rpm driving burns fuel faster and increases strain on components, it’s actually good for the engine to run through its rpm range on occasion. This helps clean out carbon deposits that can foul the valves, throttle body, intake manifold, and the combustion chamber itself.
Untreated carbon buildups can cause misfires, reduce performance, and require extensive work to clean. Prevent carbon gunk building up in your engine by letting it reach the redline every few hundred miles. Never do this unless the engine is fully warmed up, and you’re somewhere safe, like merging onto the freeway. Yes, it will waste some gas, but it’s an easy way to make your engine last longer.
Even if you take great care of your car, parts are bound to wear out and need replacement eventually. When that happens, don’t skimp on paying for a qualified mechanic to make repairs with high-quality components. Using cheap parts or ignore your car’s maintenance needs is only going to damage it in the long run, and investing in repairs is almost always going to be less expensive than buying a new car.
If you want to make your car last longer, keeping it maintained is a guaranteed way to do it.
This story originally appeared on Popular Mechanics.