Tune in to proper car maintenance and driving habits. Car owners are now keeping their cars about six to seven years

Analyzing your driving habits will help you arrive at the proper maintenance program for your car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Council (NHTSC) reports that car owners are keeping their vehicles much longer than in the 1970s -- from six to seven years, on average.

Thus, if you're one of these car owners, take the following NHTSC quiz to examine what you need to do to keep your car in tiptop shape for the next 6, 7, 10, or more years.

How fast do you usually drive your car on average?

(a) up to 35 m.p.h., (b) 35 to 45 m.p.h., (c) more than 45 m.p.h.

According to the NHTSC, 35 to 45 m.p.h. are the constant and efficient ``easy'' miles for a vehicle. Driving at lower speeds puts ``hard'' miles on a car.

At such low speeds the engine doesn't have the chance to boil away water vapor and unburned fuel. Consequently, condensation and sludge may form in the oil, and these deposits cause engine wear. Oil should be changed more often than under more favorable driving conditions.

Driving at too high an average speed also reduces fuel efficiency and economy.

How often do you let the engine idle?

(a) often, (b) seldom.

If the answer is (a), it means you are putting more hard miles on your engine and are allowing more sludge and condensation to build up in the oil.

How far do you usually drive on a trip?

(a) under 10 miles, (b) 10 miles or more.

The better answer (for your car) is (b) because, at the longer distance, you allow the engine to warm up sufficiently to burn away harmful engine contaminants and decrease the chances of harming the spark plugs.

Do you haul heavy loads on car carriers or pull a trailer, boat, or camper?

(a) yes, (b) no.

If your answer is (a), you are putting extra weight on and adding wind resistance, which loads down and strains the engine and transmission.

Do you drive where the temperature falls below freezing for more than 60 days a year?

(a) yes, (b) no.

Driving in a warmer climate allows an engine to warm up faster and burn off harmful deposits, especially under a 10-mile distance. A colder climate puts an added strain on the transmission.

In what kind of terrain do you drive your car?

(a) urban and industrial, (b) dusty and sandy, (c) hilly with steep grades, (d) none of the above.

The best answer for the durability of your car is (d) because the other answers add abnormal stress and strain, causing friction to the engine, transmission, bearings, and other moving parts, thus reducing the durability of your car.

The NHTSC further suggests:

Tuneup. To keep an engine in tiptop shape, give it an electronic tuneup analysis at least twice a year, especially when the driving conditions are severe.

Oil. Change the oil every two months along with the oil filter to be sure the internal moving parts of the engine are properly lubricated.

Air filter. Inspect every two months under severe driving conditions. Replace filter when it becomes clogged and dirty.

Transmission fluid and filter. If you drive in mountainous or steeply inclined areas, inspect fluid and fluid level monthly and replace the fluid yearly.

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