Vehicles are a huge part of anyone’s life. They drive us to our jobs, drive the kids to all of their activities, and are essential for running errands. Without a vehicle, it would be impossible to do everything we need to do with any time left over for things we enjoy. After the worst of days, it feels great to get in the car and head home for some much needed relaxation.

We in the U.S. especially rely on our vehicles. In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau shows that about 7 million workers drive an hour or more on their commutes to and from work. When you add in errands, vacations, and fun trips, it’s a lot of time spent behind the wheel every single day.

Out of need, Americans have become good at keeping their vehicles in good running shape, and that doesn’t just apply to those who collect and maintain older vehicles. Everyone is looking to keep their vehicles in the best shape they can to avoid the added costs of repairs or even having to buy a new vehicle. When driving, you’ll see cars from the 90s still going strong, and you may even see some that look almost just as good as the day they were bought. According to Polk, in 2013, the average age of every car on the roads was about 11 years. This is evidence that we in the U.S. really try to keep our cars in good condition.

In this day and age, there are so many resources that inform drivers about how to keep their vehicles in great shape so they run as long as possible. The secret is regular maintenance — a lot of it. Check out some of the age-old maintenance necessities below.

  1. Change your oil and oil filter often. Kelley Blue Book indicates that the single best thing you can do to extend the life of your engine is to get regular oil changes. Not doing so can cause a lot of problems with the engine over time. Though any garage that changes your oil can also change the filter, you need to ensure yourself that it gets taken care of one way or another. Make sure you take down the date and mileage after each oil change so you know when your vehicle is due for another one. Often times, the place you last got your oil change will attach a windshield sticker or email you for a reminder.
  2. Replace your transmission fluid and differential oil. It’s not often that this needs to be done, but if you’re concerned, check your vehicle’s manual for the suggested timeframes for changing them.
  3. Add new coolant. Every once in a while, you’ll have to flush out your coolant and add some fresh coolant. Again, your car’s manual will have the suggested intervals.
  4. Maintain your wheel bearings. Wheel bearings are important because they ensure smooth running of the tires. When checking in for your next car check-up, make sure to ask for a wheel inspection to see if your bearings are in OK condition. Usually, this only involves adding some grease to the bearings to get them moving smoothly again.
  5. Change your brake fluid. This helps fend off moisture, leaving your brakes free of rust and corrosion.
  6. Keep your exterior clean. It’s recommended that you wax and wash your car four times per year at minimum. For those who aren’t sure how to wax their car, just run it through your local car wash.
  7. Keep the interior out of heavy sunlight. Your interior can take a real beating with the sun pounding on it day after day, especially in warm climates. It’s recommended that you park in the shade whenever possible or use a sun shade to keep your interior fresh and looking new.
  8. Wipe off debris. If you drive in a cold climate, you may be aware of the salt that sticks to the bottom of your vehicle. Make sure you eliminate all of that and any other debris before you wash it, otherwise you may get paint damage.

To keep your vehicle in great shape, it only takes a bit of initiative in the form of having your car taken in for maintenance every once in a while. You may benefit from printing this list out and having it around so you can refer to it every once in a while. Any weird sounds or unusual car problems should prompt you to seek the help of a mechanic as soon as possible. Another pretty obvious tip for keeping your car in good shape is to avoid accidents at all costs. If you are worried about driving safely, there are defensive driving courses that you can take through a traffic school to sharpen your skills. You can even use these courses to have a minor ticket dropped and erased from your driving record. In a defensive driving course, you’ll also learn some more about properly maintaining your car to extend its life. Check out the website of your local DMV to get further details on registering for a defensive driving course.