Sometimes replacing a part on your car is an unexpected and costly inconvenience, but there are also plenty of components that require routine replacement. Since you'll usually buy these items multiple times throughout the life of your vehicle, it's a good idea to know how to choose the best ones. Not only will the right decision help keep your vehicle in peak condition, but it can also save you money.
Although an exhaustive guide on car parts selection could fill several books, this article will provide you with the basic knowledge you need to begin your research. Keep reading to learn a little more about how you should select three maintenance items that every vehicle will eventually need.
1. Oil Filters
If you try to look up the types of oil filters available, you may find a bewildering array of options. Fortunately, most modern vehicles only use one of two designs: cartridge or spin-on. Spin-on filters are the "traditional" design, consisting of a metal-encased filter that you screw onto your engine. On the other hand, cartridge designs use a replaceable filter inside a reusable housing.
In either case, you're stuck with whichever option your manufacturer chose for your car. Aside from this, you'll want to buy the specific model of filter recommended by your manual. If an extended life filter is available for your car, you may be able to choose this as an upgrade, but you should still stick to the recommended oil change intervals for your vehicle.
2. Air Filters
Air filters offer a bit more variety when it comes to replacement. In addition to factory or OEM direct replacement options, you may be able to select from oiled filters, reusable filters, or upgraded "performance" filters. While performance filters may not offer significant real-world horsepower gains, they can sometimes provide a more aggressive engine note.
Note that oiled filters also typically last longer and allow reuse with proper care and cleaning. If you decide to go this route, follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and maintenance. Failing to maintain an oiled air filter can potentially allow contaminants to enter your engine.
3. Brake Pads
Brake pads for consumer vehicles typically come in three flavors: organic, ceramic, and semi-metallic. Semi-metallic pads offer high-performance at the cost of shorter lifespans and more noise. In contrast, organic brake pads tend to be cheaper, less performance-oriented, and quieter for daily driving. Finally, ceramic pads offer high-performance and long life but almost always cost more than organics.
Many vehicles come with organic brake pads from the factory, and these are perfectly acceptable options for calm, daily driving. If you'd like to consider an upgrade, ceramic pads can give you more stopping power while typically generating less brake dust. Semi-metallic options may be worth considering, as well, but they are less well-suited for typical commutes and daily driving.