Whether we’re talking antiques or late-models, flatbeds or hotrods, every automobile is one that its owner hopes will keep purring, roaring, or at least chugging along for years to come. Every weekend mechanic, along with every full time wrench turner, would like to believe they have the wherewithal and the resources to maintain their “baby” throughout a lengthy duration, frequently against challenging circumstances and daunting odds, but the truth is that the life spans of our vehicles are subject to many more variables than simply our own mechanical aptitude. Not even the cleanest, newest, most perfectly tuned car is immune to sudden death, so in this article we’ll discuss the most important things a driver can do to keep his or her vehicle on the road and out of the shop.

  1. Trade in Risk for Reward

Let’s face it: keeping a car running is a lot like being in a relationship. There’s a lot of commitment involved, and need for considerable restraint. Regardless of how safe, skilled, or experienced you consider yourself in the driver’s seat, obeying traffic laws is the most important step you can take toward keeping your wheels on the pavement. A little speeding or an illegal u-turn might seem harmless in the moment, but can instantly become a tangle of twisted, totaled cars when compounded with any tiny mistake made by another driver. The bottom line is if you can’t safely and consistently navigate streets and traffic then you, as a driver, have more to worry about that the condition of your automobile.

  1. Give Immediate Attention to Any and All Problems

Most cars come with some official warning lights, often located on the dash, in front of the steering wheel, that help a driver determine when the engine is in need of maintenance or repair. Luckily, however, all vehicles also give off many unsanctioned distress signals. These are usually unexpected noises or smells that the driver notices before, during, or after running the vehicle. Squeals, knocking sounds, grinding sounds, and burning odors are among the most common of these, indicators of anything from a loose kingpin bolt or warped rotor to a wiper blade in need of replacement.

Some signs aren’t so obvious. For example, you may hear a thumping sound or feel a vibration if one or more of your rims are damaged but you may not know that the wheels are the problem and need fixing—or even complete replacement with factory rims for the dealership floor. Another alternative or shoppers buying car parts online are replica rims which are lower-priced generic replacements for OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) wheels.

The point is that any unusual sound, sight, or smell coming from around your vehicle is a good reason to either pull on a pair of gloves or pull into a trusted auto garage. Any problem, no matter how small or seemingly isolated, has the potential to lead to other problems that can end up ruining your vehicle, unless precautions are taken to ensure otherwise.

  1. Keep That Oil Changed!

Last but not least on our checklist of items that will keep your odometer spinning is to make sure your automobile is receiving frequent oil changes. If a driver has no other knowledge of the inner workings of his or her vehicle, he or she should know that oil is its life’s blood; dirty oil means system-wide sickness, while no oil means certain death. Changing the oil (and oil filter) in your own vehicle can be one of the easiest to learn and most rewarding tasks you may undertake when it comes to turning your own wrenches, but it is never an embarrassment to leave the job to an honest mechanic, who can provide an assurance of quality and a competitive cost on the materials. It is good to decide which of these is more convenient for you, and to make a habit of it, rather than to risk littering your engine with old oil because you “keep meaning” to get around to it yourself.

Either way, remember to check your oil regularly in between changes, come to a complete stop at every stop sign, and diagnose those “Check Engine” lights right away, and you can expect the miles to keep ticking away.