Steer Your Car in the Right Direction

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HERNDON, Va. ' Most Americans will pay big bucks at the pump this summer, which is why it is more important than ever to save on your car maintenance costs. Now is a perfect time to learn new ways to keep your car in better shape, longer and save. The American Society of Appraisers highlights the top 10 steps consumers can take to help enhance the value of their car.

"Cars are usually the second largest purchase for most people, right after their house," said Dave Kinney, accredited senior appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). "It makes sense to take care of your automobile, not only for sustaining its worth, but for safety purposes as well."

The American Society of Appraisers and expert automobile appraiser Dave Kinney offer the following tips to consumers.

1. Keep it clean. Aside from car wash operators, no one likes dirty cars. By keeping your car clean, not only will you feel better about the car, but you will likely reap the rewards at trade in time or when you sell it. Have your car professionally detailed before you attempt to sell it.

2. Maintain your car according to the manufacturer's specifications. Find the specifications in the owner's guide (that book in your glove box you have ignored since the day you bought it). The quickie oil change shop might try to beat the "change your oil every three thousand miles" mantra into your head, but most manufacturers don't require oil changes until 7,500 miles or more. Don't spend money where it's not needed, and you can help the environment, as well.

3. Go synthetic. When you do get that oil change, consider one of the well-known synthetic oils on the market. They are more expensive, but they also have a longer service life. Synthetic oil is made from regular oil, but it is made so that all the molecules are the same size, increasing flow and decreasing wear. Your engine could last longer and operate at cooler temperatures.

4. Fix what breaks. Today's cars are much more complicated than cars from 10 years ago. A little problem can become a big problem if ignored. Turning up the radio to avoid hearing a noise is not a good plan – get it fixed.

5. Fix those paint chips. Little paint chips have a way of growing into big paint chips; fix them before they grow. Your local auto parts store will likely have a paint touch-up display offering a variety of popular (and some unpopular) colors that match your paint. If they don't, your dealer will.

6. Wax on, wax off. Find a high quality paste wax and spend the afternoon getting to know the nooks and crannies of you car. It's not bad exercise, and you get to work on your tan at the same time. Wax your car once a year at a minimum and repeat often.

7. Get an annual physical. It's good advice for both you and your car. Most states require an annual inspection for all vehicles. Any dealer would be happy to do a 25,000 mile or more point check-up. This is the time to look at tires, belts, hoses, brakes and every other system subject to wear.

8. Park and walk. Don't grab the first space closest to the door of the mall. Instead, park in a less used area and walk the short distance. What's the benefit? You get a little more exercise, and your car avoids the chance for a few dings and being a target for the "park-by-touch" crowd.

9. Don't be cheap. Use parts that are approved by the manufacturer or come from a source you trust. Aftermarket parts can be as good, or better, than original equipment, but unless you get them from a trusted source, be wary. Develop a relationship with the shop that repairs your car. Don't cut corners on safety.

10. Keep your records. You can toss the old candy wrappers in the backseat, but don't toss the paperwork that a potential buyer wants to see. Instead, keep a simple file of all of your bills, receipts, recall notices, e-mails and letters about your vehicle. Future buyers will thank you.

To learn more about caring for your valuables or to find an appraiser near you, log on to

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