1. Clean the inside and outside of your car every month. Seriously.
Why It's Important: Keeping your car clean is like keeping your room clean, except everyone can see your car and gauge how dirty (or clean) you are. Grab ArmorAll's cheap but awesome vacuum, to clean the inside of your car, a bottle of Optimum's car wash for the outside of your car, and make your car look brand new.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: An unclean car will eventually attract dirt and grime that can damage your interior and exterior, and probably won't earn you any extra props from that person you like.
2. Change your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles and use a reliable brand.
3. Check your tire pressure every month and rotate your tires every 7,500 miles.
4. Get your brake pads replaced every 25,000 miles or sooner if your brakes are wearing down.
Why It's Important: It's always a good idea to have your brakes checked out every so often by a professional, as a nasty grinding noise can bring an unpleasant worry. A big part of this are the brake pads, which resist loss of brake power at high temperatures and can be replaced by a mechanic if needed.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: Neglecting your brake pads will eventually lead to your brake rotors failing, leading to a $300 to $600 replacement and at worst, an emergency you don't want to deal with.
5. Make sure your mirrors are always good to go.
Why It's Important: Having eyes in the back of your head would be the driving advantage, but unfortunately we're only human and the next best thing we have are mirrors. A good, clean set of front and rear view mirrors can save you from a lot of trouble on the road.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: Driving with dirty or no mirrors at all makes you everyone's least favorite driver on the road, and that's probably the last thing you want to be.
6. Maintain your car's interior to keep its resale value high.
7. Change out any bad headlight bulbs as soon as you can.
Why It's Important: Driving home in the dark can turn into an absolute nightmare if one of your headlights isn't working correctly or showing a very dim light. Most of the time, this is caused by a dead headlight bulb, which can be checked and replaced with something like a Sylvania High Performance Bulb that'll last much longer.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: You should never consider the risk of driving at night without proper headlights, and you're also bound to be pulled over with the cops if you try. Generally, replacing a headlight bulb yourself is pretty simple and requires just a few steps and tools.
8. If you're not going to drive your car for a while, make sure it's properly stored.
9. Change your air filter every 30,000 miles or every year.
10. Get some Rain-X products for your windows to guard yourself from water.
11. Make sure your car is ready for a cold winter.
12. Keep your engine's temperature balanced with antifreeze every 15,000 miles.
13. Check if there are any recalls on your car that you may not know about.
14. Save your car maintenance receipts to make future repairs much easier.
15. Clean bird crap off of your car as soon as you can.
16. Consider getting some add-on gadgets to protect your car from damage and theft.
Why It's Important: A lot of us see our cars as our children, so like any good parent, we want to protect them from the crazy world out there. Specifically, add ons like BumperBully's bumper protector, blind-spot mirrors, or Magnasonic's steering wheel security lock are all worth considering.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: While everything listed above aren't completely needed for your car, the added peace of mind you get from knowing your bumper is protected or knowing your car has a decreased chance of being stolen is priceless.
17. Keep the bottom of your car clean by getting some reliable floor mats.
18. Check your spark plugs every 30,000 miles and replace them every 60,000 miles.
19. Don't cheap out on car insurance. Ever.
Why It's Important: You might be the best driver in the world, but all it takes is one bad driver to leave you and your car out of action for a long while. Top rated car insurance companies like GEICO, State Farm, Amica, and USAA (if you're eligible) allow you to stay covered for accidents and repairs, while cheap insurance may not cover all the harm to you, your car, or to other people's property.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: While it's common sense that you should never drive a car without insurance, you should pay for quality when considering a company to cover your car. Good insurance can get a bit expensive, but it's ultimately worth the peace of mind you get knowing you're covered if anything happens.
20. Prevent damage to your car by parking in the shade and using a window shade.
21. Keep copies of important papers in your glovebox and leave some originals in a safe place.
22. Ask an expert about car trouble when you're not sure yourself.
Why It's Important: Cars are just as complex as they are wonderful, and you shouldn't ever force your way into fixing a problem if you don't know exactly what's wrong. When in doubt, take your car into a dealership or a shop to see what's going on and save yourself the trouble and frustration.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: Sometimes, attempting to fix one thing by yourself can lead to breaking more things, which just makes it a mess for you and your mechanic. At the end of the day, you don't want to be the person hitching a ride to work in a tow truck because you poured antifreeze directly into your engine.
23. Can't keep track of when to change your car's parts? Use Edmunds website.
24. Don't drive recklessly.
Why It's Important: Sometimes, you really need to drive somewhere and you can't help but to go full speed. However, driving like the world is ending all the time will eventually take its toll on your car, while driving a bit more calmly will only help to preserve your vehicle's life.
The Cost Of Not Doing It: Playing Speed Racer trip after trip will eventually lead to more stress on your car, leading to repairs on your engine, brakes, and more that you would rather not pay for. On the other hand, driving with a more normal attitude will save you these repairs and even add to your gas mileage.