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    Car lovers: Take care of your four-wheeled family member

    Do you view your car or truck as a member of your family? Have you named your vehicle? If so, then consider how caring for your car is similar to caring for your kin. For the most part, caring for your family is pretty straightforward. Watch their diets, keep them clean, fix their bumps and bruises and they are likely to lead a healthy, happy life. So how do you raise and rear your sedan, SUV, light truck or mini-van? Use your parental prowess and follow some basic guidelines.

    What to expect when you’re … a car owner

    While your human brood does not come with an owner’s manual, your car does. Read up on your vehicle. Become familiar with the safety features. Know what all the knobs and buttons do and where to refill things like windshield washer fluid and antifreeze.

    Your owner’s manual provides recommended maintenance schedules and other important warnings, and, by giving it a quick glance, you can save yourself the frustration of not knowing how to program the radio presets or change the clock for daylight saving time.

    Treat the scrapes and scratches

    When a child stubs a toe or scrapes a knee, you clean it and treat it to prevent bigger problems. It’s the same thing with your car. Your vehicle is bound to see a scratch or two from things like road salt, pebbles and other road hazards. It’s better to treat these when they are small so rust and corrosion do not cause further damage. Inspect your car regularly for little dings, then mend them yourself with a DIY product like Scratch Fix All-in-1 from Dupli-Color that comes with everything you’ll need to clean, repair and seal the blemish.

    First, use the tool’s abrasive tip to remove loose paint and rust. Next use one of the two applicators included – a pin-point pen tip for fine scratches or a taper-tip brush for larger chips – and paint with your vehicle’s exact color. Finally, use the separate foam applicator and clear coat to seal, protect and return your car to its original factory finish. The steps are easy and the product is available at most auto parts stores for less than $ 15.

    Well-car visits

    Prevention is the best medicine. That’s why you get a yearly checkup. The
    well-visits monitor your health and prevent illness. You should consider similar checkups for your car.

    During a regular vehicle maintenance visit, a car care professional will inspect the battery, brake and cooling systems, engine oil and filter, wheels, tires and more. They will provide guidance on what should be repaired or replaced and when. You may find that a small, less expensive repair made now will prevent a bigger hit to your wallet later and keep your car running longer.

    Good food and exercise

    After preventive and necessary care, similar to a person, tending to your car comes down to feeding it, cleaning it and making sure it gets enough exercise.

    Your vehicle requires fuel to properly run. Some vehicles call for specific grades or types of fuel to operate at an optimal level. Check your vehicle’s owner manual for any specific recommendations. Using a fuel different from what’s suggested can be the equivalent of feeding a child nothing but junk food. It will run slower and be at risk for future problems.

    The elements can be rough on your car. Salt, de-icers and other road treatments can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s finish. So give your car a bath every once and a while and be sure to clean the undercarriage whenever possible. And don’t forget a good coat of wax to prevent sun damage.

    Finally, your family members need exercise and so does your vehicle. If your car sits idle for too long, engine problems can occur. Take it for a drive. It’s good for the vehicle, as well as the driver.

    If you think of your car as a cherished family member, you should take care of it like one. Preventive maintenance, like annual checkups, can make a big difference. It’s also wise to treat nicks and scratches when they are small and not let them turn into something big. If you approach vehicle care with just a hint of maternal or paternal instincts, your ride will do well for many years to come.

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