Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are one of the most popular choices among car buyers these days due to their versatility. They have the pulling capacity of a small truck but the comfort, luxury, and ride of a larger car. They can handle different weather and road conditions, perfect for family getaways, fishing trips, camping expeditions or moving of huge items. Although SUVs are tough and durable, they also need the right kind of care to keep them in good shape.

Exterior and interior maintenance

Protecting SUVs from its worst enemies, such as sun, wind and rain, is one of the best ways to take good care of them. SUVs, if left unprotected in these elements, will deteriorate and eventually rust away, according to Jason Fogelson, an automotive journalist specializing in SUVs. “If you can’t get in the garage, consider buying a cover,” he said. When parking the car at work or at the store, on the other hand, it’s good to look for some shades.

Inspecting the SUV on a regular basis is also a must. Finding the small problem before it becomes big will help keep auto detailing simpler and more effective, Mr. Fogelson said. “Check all of the paint for dirt and sediment. Check the chrome for pitting and rust. Check the tires and wheels for scrapes and discoloration. Look around the interior for dirt, debris, and stains,” he suggested.

SUVs, just like other vehicles, also need to be washed. According to Mr. Fogelson, the longer the dirt sits on the paint, the more aggressive cleaning requires. “Don’t wait for a good coat of dirt and dust to collect,” he said, noting that washing SUVs once a month is good, but doing this for twice a month is better.

Putting a good coat of wax is also important once the SUV is clean. The wax acts as a protectant that keeps dirt and dust from binding to the coat and paint. In addition to this, Mr. Fogelson said that wax also acts as a moisture barrier, keeping water from penetrating pores in the painted surfaces and getting to the metal below.

Mr. Fogelson also advised the use of specially-formulated cleaners, polishes, and waxes to achieve the longest life and the best look of an SUV. “You can mix and match your favorites from various companies. Buy the best that you can afford, and keep it simple,” he said.

Before and while driving SUVs

Checking the condition of a vehicle before setting off anywhere is really important. Current fluids of the SUV, including the oil, coolant and windshield water fluid, need to be checked periodically, auto mechanic Pro Car Mechanics said.

Tire pressure also needs to be maintained. “Low tire pressure can cost you with lower gas mileage. A vehicle like an SUV burns up enough gasoline, so anything which will maintain decent gas mileage is important,” the auto mechanic said on its Web site.

The Pro Car Mechanics also advised SUV drivers to check the fuel level. On a regular basis, it’s better to drive with at least half a tank of gas to improve mileage and prevent the fuel pump from working too hard.

While driving the SUVs, it is important to keep in mind that they have limitations too. Be sure to take corners slowly and brake earlier than you would with a car, auto repair shop AAMCO Colorado said.

“SUVs weigh considerably more than regular automobiles — anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 pounds. They take more to get going, and a lot more to stop. They also need more room to come to a complete stop. When driving in wet, snowy, or slippery conditions, you really need to take into consideration your ability to stop and maintain control of the vehicle. A large vehicle does not stop faster or better because of its weight. It is quite the opposite. The increased weight actually works against you, carrying the vehicle forward with greater inertia. Having four-wheel drive does not give you any advantages or added safety, either, when it comes to stopping on ice or other slick conditions,” AAMCO Colorado said in its Web site.

When carrying heavy loads or towing things, AAMCO Colorado advised to ask a mechanic on how to properly load the SUV efficiently so the weight of the objects is centered. It is also important to learn how to properly connect a trailer or vehicle to tow, it added.

Care and maintenance

Maintaining the engine of SUVs and its other working parts tends to be more expensive due to the larger sizes, equipment, and complexity of the vehicles, AAMCO Colorado said.

In terms of choosing a car repair shop for maintenance, it’s better to stick with one shop. “When you find one that you are interested in, start off with getting small services and repairs done to see how they do, then work up to bigger services. This way, they’ve earned your trust in case you need any big fixes like a transmission repair,” AAMCO Colorado said.

As with all cars, changing the engine oil and oil filter regularly is important for a smooth running engine, it added. — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino