Secure loads to avoid dents and scratches

The beginning of the end for the finish on many cars and trucks—and for wagon and hatchback interiors for that matter—is an improperly stowed load. Invest in the appropriate racks for bicycles, cargo, and luggage. A good trick to keep tall objects from sliding around in a pick-up truck bed is to use a shower curtain rod (or two) as a brace. Just push the cargo against the front wall of the truck bed and install the rod behind it. Twist to secure. Cargo nets will also help keep objects from banging around and damaging a truck bed.

Inspect wheel-well splash guards

These guards, however flimsy on many of today's cars, help keep water and winter's salty slush from splashing up into the engine compartment, where it can damage sensitive electrical components. Unfortunately, these guards tear off easily— sometimes without the driver knowing it. Check for damage to these guards when you wash your car. Re-secure with the appropriate fasteners or replace as needed. As added protection from splashed-up muck, slush, and debris, install mud flaps (also called splash guards) on your vehicle.

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