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If you leave your car dormant for an extended period of time, top off your vehicle’s fluids — such as brake fluid, engine coolant, power steering fluid (if applicable), transmission fluid, antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid. Also, consider changing the oil before you let your vehicle sit in storage for more than a couple of weeks. Take the car for a short drive, as this will help circulate the fluids, including the fuel stabilizer.

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Occasionally driving your vehicle around the block will help keep the battery charged and in good health. It will also prevent rust from building up on the rotors, which if left unchecked could cause irreversible damage and will also prevent the tires from flat spotting. Flat spotting is when the rubber degrades quicker in one spot due to compression, which will cause an incurable vibration.

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If your car will be sitting for a long period of time, the temperature may change and the tires can slowly lose pressure. For this reason, it’s a good idea to inflate your tires to the recommended air pressure, but do not exceed the maximum.

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Don’t forget the vehicle’s power source: the battery. The battery will eventually lose its charge if it isn’t driven at least every few weeks. If you prepare the car properly for storage, though, you do not need to run it to keep the battery charged.

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It’s not just about miles: If you don’t drive your car a lot, your oil still needs to be kept fresh. Even if you drive fewer miles each year than your automaker suggests changing the oil (say, 6,000 miles, with suggested oil-change intervals at 7,500 miles), you should still be getting that oil changed twice a year.

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If you will not be using your car for more than 30 days, it’s important to fill up your gas tank. This may help prevent moisture from building up in the tank.

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NADA Guide

This site from the National Automobile Dealers Association offers a broad range of information to help educate people in the market to buy, sell or trade a vehicle. Use their popular pricing and specification information to find car valuation. Find research, pictures and reviews for new, used and classic vehicles for sale in the Decatur area.

Consumer Reports

Produced by Consumers Union, Consumer Reports is an expert, independent, nonprofit organization offering ratings and recommendations on cars, trucks and other products. Their vehicle summaries include ratings based on vehicle reliability, owner satisfaction, safety, fuel economy, comfort, costs of ownership and more. Note that a subscription is required for portions of the site.

Car & Driver

A companion site to the popular auto enthusiast magazine by the same name, this Web site offers buyers guides and reviews as well as news and video from the auto industry. The site also includes coverage of auto shows and the latest in concept cars. Use it to discover which cars are most popular among Illinois drivers and which are the best selling makes and models in the Decatur area.

Safercar.gov

Produced by the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration, this site offers extensive safety information. Find details on defects and recalls for vehicles, tires, child restraints and other equipment. Sign-up for recall alerts and find child safety seat inspection stations in the Decatur area. Learn about airbags and how to survive auto accidents. Get answers to all your questions about vehicle safety ratings.

Federal Citizen Information Center

This useful site is a service of the U.S. General Services Administration. Download consumer guides for buying a new or used vehicle. Learn how you can buy a car from the U.S. government's fleet. Get helpful information on comparing discounts and reducing your auto insurance expenses. Get the facts on vehicle financing--what it is, how to apply, special financing offers, cash back and rebate eligibility.

FuelEconomy.gov

From the U.S. Dept. of Energy, this site offers vehicle comparisons based on gas mileage (MPG), fuel cost, greenhouse gas emissions, energy impact score and air pollution ratings. Calculate your MPG and learn gas mileage tips for saving money. Learn about hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles.

CarFax Vehicle History Reports

CARFAX Vehicle History Reports™ are available on all used cars and light trucks model year 1981 or later. Using a vehicle's VIN you can pull a report containing information that might impact your decision about a used vehicle. The report includes information like title information, including salvaged or junked titles; flood damage history; total loss accident history; odometer readings; lemon history; number of owners; accident indicators, such as airbag deployments; state emissions inspection results; service record and vehicle use (taxi, rental, lease, etc.). CARFAX Reports do incur a fee, though the site offers some free reports.

AnnualCreditReport.com

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source authorized by the FTC for the free annual credit report that's yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, every 12 months. Before your visit the car dealership, use this site to learn your credit score and identify blemishes on your report.