You don't think much about your car do you? Your car sits outside 24/7, 365 days a year in all extremes of weather. You routinely drive it at speeds that exceed 70 mph. You stop, start, stop, start through city traffic. You sit idling in traffic jams day after day. Yet, you expect your car to start every time you get into it and turn the key.
The best thing that you can do to extend the life of your car, and to potentially save yourself a bundle of money, is to have your car serviced on a routine basis. All car manufacturers have a schedule of recommended services for each vehicle they sell. Follow this schedule. The best place to have work done on a new vehicle that is still under warranty is the dealership.
It's a bit different when you have an older, out of warranty car. At this point you can make a decision to continue to use the dealer for service, or find yourself a local mechanic.
The first rule of thumb is to have the oil in your car changed every 3,000 miles. This is the simplest and most important part of routine maintenance for your car. At that time, whether you go to a "speedy" oil change business or to your mechanic, the technician will take a look at the overall condition of your engine. They'll check belts and hoses and fluid levels of your transmission and brakes. They'll check your air cleaner and the condition of your tires. Some of these drive through services also offer add on's such as engine cleaning and radiator flushes. If they think they see something that could become potentially serious they will tell you about it and suggest you take your car to a mechanic.
Cars have really changed over the years and most technicians use computers to diagnose problems. You'll need to be able to describe the problem to the mechanic. They'll need to know things such as when you first noticed the problem and exactly under what condition it happens. Does it happen when the car is cold, or after it warms up? Does it happen when you're at an idle or when your accelerating? If you don't use the same mechanic have a copy of your car's service record with you so that the new mechanic can see what maintenance been done in the past. It's best to find a mechanic you're comfortable with and stay with him. Knowing your car's history can go a long way towards helping him diagnose and fix a problem.
Learn to listen to your car. If you hear an unusual noise, notice a change in it's performance or handling take it to your mechanic.