“You can pay me now or pay me later…” It’s a famous slogan you might remember hearing a mechanic recite in old FRAM commercials.
Yes, it’s marketing material, but there’s substance behind that sentence. After all, you wouldn’t neglect tooth brushing to save money on paste. In much the same sense, it makes sense suffer relatively small costs to keep your car in top condition.
Check out our list of essential Car Care Products below.
If your car is going to sit without use for an extended period of time, the battery will slowly lose its charge. That’s bad news because it degrades the battery, but the good news is that it’s preventable. Trickle chargers are inexpensive and using one will prevent your battery from going belly up in your absence. You should expect to pay between $50 and $125 for one. For example, Griot’s Garage Battery Manager will run you $88.99 and will keep your battery at its optimal charge level.
This one is a no-brainer, but your car has plenty of fluids that need to be replaced or replenished on a regular basis. Oil is probably the first one you think of and there are plenty of formulations to pick from: synthetics, synthetic blends, high-mileage formulas.
SEE ALSO: What is Motor Oil?
But even if you have a garage or quick lube shop changing handling oil changes, you can still bring your own oil and pay to have it put in. Try Pep Boys for a selection of motor oils and other fluids if you want to handle your own oil changes or bring your own bottles rather than relying on shop to have what you want.
Headlight restoration kits:
Scuffed headlights are hard to avoid over time. Over time, dirt sand and plenty of other abrasive junk can leave the lights on your car looking foggy. It isn’t just an aesthetic issue either. Weathered headlights also don’t project their beams as far as they would with clear lenses, but a restoration kit can fix that without calling for replacements. Cheap options start under $5 and more comprehensive kits go for about $30. For example, you can get a kit from Meguiar’s for $26.99.
Over time, carbon deposits build up in your engine. That’s just the way it goes. Burning gasoline with more detergents can help stave off the problem, but engine buildup will still eventually degrade how your engine performs.
Thankfully, injector cleaner can help to remove that buildup and bring your engine closer to behaving as it did on day one. Better still, it couldn’t be much easier to use. Just wait until your fuel tank is almost empty and pour the injector cleaner into the gas tank and pump a full tank’s worth of gas. After that, it’s just a question of burning the mixed fuel and cleaner. A bottle should only cost between $5 and $10. For instance, a six-ounce bottle of Gumout injector cleaner only costs $3.99.
Speaking of keeping things clean and feeling like new, leather conditioners and cleaners are a worthwhile expense if you own an older car with seats upholstered in animal skin.
Applying a conditioner every few months to older leather seats can leave them looking less worn and help to prevent cracking.
Same goes for applying a cleaner. If you want to keep your seats looking newer longer, spend a few minutes wiping them down with a leather cleaner. There are plenty of products on the market, but we’ve had good luck using Blue Magic leather conditioners and cleaners. They cost about $7 per bottle.
Tire pressure gauges
Tire pressure gauges aren’t expensive. In fact, they’re practically free, but keeping one in your car is important if it doesn’t have electronics to monitor that for you.
It might seem like a small thing – and it is – but maintaining proper tire pressure will improve fuel economy and tire life while reducing unnecessary strain on your car. You don’t need anything fancy. The cheap ones work, too.
Polishing the faucet is one of the quickest ways to make an ugly sink sexier. Similarly, giving your tires a shine after a car wash is sort of like an automotive garnish. There are plenty of options to choose from that range from about $6 to about $14. They’re easy to apply and leave your vehicle looking much fresher.
Meguiar’s NXT Generation Insane Tire Shine retails for $7.99 per bottle.
Waxes and finishes
Keeping your car waxed is a must. It protects the paint and helps to maintain its vibrancy longer. It helps to fight scratches, gives the car a glossier appearance and really isn’t something you should skip.
But wait! Put that candle down! Before you go dripping something from a stolen center piece, read our instructional on how to do it.
Products like Nu Finish promise that one application will last a year, but there are also plenty of alternatives. There’s old school paste wax, liquid wax, sprays and more that all call for varying levels of effort.
It can be a real arm workout, so you might also want to think about buying a power polisher, but beware because you can damage the paint by applying too much pressure. Dual-action polishers supposedly alleviate that risk, but that’s still no reason to apply major pressure. It won’t do any good.
Quick Detailing Spray
A favorite among the AutoGuide.com staff during video shoots, quick detailing sprays work wonders if you want to “clean” your car up quickly without actually taking it through a full wash.
It isn’t a substitute for a proper soapy rubdown, but a quick mist and wipe with a microfiber towel might just leave you with surprising results. A bottle will cost somewhere from $7 to $15 and we highly recommend it.
Chamois and microfiber cloths
Don’t forget these. A soft town is essential for washing, drying and generally keeping your car in presentable condition. You don’t ever want to use an abrasive tool to clean the bugs off after a long highway drive. The damage is generally irreversible.
A chamois is traditionally make from sheepskin, but there are also synthetic alternatives available if you prefer not to use animal products.
Products like RainX can make all the difference if you drive in an area where rain storms happen regularly. It’s a hydrophobic product and applying it to your windshield will cause liquids to bead and run down the surface more easily. You will still want to use the windshield wipers, but using one of these products will mean that heavy rain will be annoying instead of blinding.
Replacement Windshield Wipers
And speaking of ways to keep your windshield free of obstruction, replacement wipers are another low-cost item that can make a huge difference. They literally snap into place and will make your life behind the wheel more pleasant.