When it comes to working on a car, there’s a lot to keep in mind. While many people are scrupulous about items such as correct oil and coolant specifications, there are other chemicals you wouldn’t necessarily think of, but are important to pay attention to in the long term. Often, the use of the right chemicals can prolong the life of a car by an extremely wide margin.
You’d be surprised how often people I know skip on caliper slide grease when doing their own brake work. This is truly an essential item to keep on hand. It’s not expensive, and you’ll find that cleaning and lubing your caliper sliders will ensure better performance and longer life out of your calipers. This item should be checked every time you replace your brake pads. If the protective boots over the sliders are compromised, replace them, or the fresh grease won’t mean much for very long. Also, make sure you replace your brake fluid every two years, or as often as specified by the manufacturer. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. This can cause internal corrosion in the brake fluid circuit. A full fluid flush is a must in terms of maintaining long-term performance out of your brakes.
Aside from brakes, one essential that I often need to recommend is anti-seize compound. In most cases, the manufacturer didn’t include this. On many older cars, I’ve needed to fight nuts and bolts that had long-since rusted solid. Once you have a new bolt going in, a little bit of anti-seize will ensure that it will come apart easy the next time. However, do not use anti-seize on items such as head bolts, or other internal items. Often, anti-seize, or any kind of grease on a bolt can interfere with proper torqueing of a fastener. Anti-seize is best used on external fasteners. Also, a paper-thin coat is often all you’ll need.
Another related essential to keep on hand is a bottle of good penetrating oil. In terms of the aforementioned rusty fasteners, penetrating oil is often the only thing standing between you and breaking a rusty bolt. When dealing with rusty fasteners, it’s best to soak the item in penetrating oil and let it seep in. If you need it to work more quickly, you can sometimes apply heat to speed things up. I offer a word of caution about heat, though. NEVER use a torch or have any open flame in the area of fuel lines or anything flammable. Sometimes, it’s preferable to break a bolt as opposed to starting a fire. Scratch that, it’s always preferable. However, as I said, let penetrating oil soak in and do its job. Often, a little time is all you need. Once the bolt in question is freed up, make sure to use anti-seize from that point in, if at all practical.