Car Buying

What Does TLC Mean for Cars?

Learn what TLC means for cars, how to properly care for your vehicle inside and out, typical costs of maintenance, and why consistent upkeep is so important.

Read time

6 minutes

Date

11.29.2023

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The term, TLC, stands for “Tender Loving Care”, and it’s often used to signify that a car needs some attention or maintenance. When you come across phrases like “needs a bit of TLC,” it suggests that the vehicle in question might need repairs or servicing to restore it to its prime condition.


If you’re looking for a car but don’t have the budget or time to restore one that “needs a bit of TLC,” then consider a car subscription from FINN. With a car subscription, you can drive a new car every six to 12 months without the burden of ownership. For a single monthly payment, FINN even covers roadside assistance, repairs, and maintenance. 

What does TLC mean for cars?

TLC for cars means “Tender Loving Care”. When you see terms such as "needs TLC," it's a nice way of saying that the used car might need repairs or servicing. This could be anything from small cosmetic touch-ups to more significant mechanical work. This term spotlights the current state of the car and acts as a heads-up. It's a call to potential buyers who are willing to invest time, effort, and potentially extra money into restoring the car to its former glory. So next time you see "car needs TLC" in a car description, you'll know exactly what it means.

How to give your car’s exterior TLC

Caring for your car's exterior is more than just a quick rinse with your garden hose. If you want to give it the TLC it deserves, you need to maintain its shine and prevent damage. Take a good look at some of the following methods that you can use to give your car's exterior extra care:

Regular car wash

As a first step, wash your car's exterior regularly with high-quality car wash soap. Do not use dish soap or other household cleaner since it can strip the protective wax off your car's paint. Afterward, rinse thoroughly to remove all the soap and grime. 

Dry after washing

Once you're done with the washing part, dry your car properly to prevent water spots because they can damage your car's finish. Use a clean microfiber towel or a car drying blade for this step.

Apply car wax

Waxing your car not only gives it this shiny finish but also serves as a protective layer against harmful elements like UV rays and pollution. You should apply car wax every three months to maintain steadfast protection.

Use paint sealant 

A paint sealant, applied once or twice a year, can provide an additional layer of protection to your car's paint.  This can help prevent scratches, dirt accumulation, and color fading on your car's exterior.

Check your brake pads

You should always keep an eye on your brake pads and listen when you brake. With time and use, brake pads will wear down and they need to be replaced to ensure optimal braking performance. If you notice any squeaking or grinding sounds when you brake, or if your car pulls to one side when you apply the brakes, it might be time for new brake pads. Regular inspection and timely replacement of brake pads is a crucial part of car care that shouldn't be overlooked.

Inspect for rust 

Inspect your car regularly for rust, especially if you live in an area with harsh winters where they salt the roads. If you find any rusted parts or spots, treat them immediately before they spread and cause serious damage.

Repair small scratches and dents

You can repair small surface scratches with touch-up paint or scratch remover. Just make sure that you clean the area thoroughly before applying these products. Left unattended, dents and scratches can lead to more significant problems down the line, like rust (corrosion) or paint chipping.

Clean and polish your tires

Your car's tires also need some TLC. Clean them regularly with a product designed for your type of tire, and use a brush to reach into crevices. Consider using a tire sealant for extra protection.

Rotate your tires

To optimize your vehicle's handling and maintain balanced wear on all four tires, regular tire rotation is essential. It is recommended to rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Even if the tires appear to be in good condition and show no visible signs of wear, it's best to stick to this routine.


Remember, the tires on your car's front axle perform differently than those on the rear axle, leading to uneven tread wear. High-performance luxury cars may require more frequent tire rotations compared to lower-performing vehicles. A regular tire rotation is a simple yet effective way to make your tires last longer.

Replace worn out wipers

Wiper blades play a crucial role in maintaining visibility while driving. For everyone's safety, you should immediately replace them once they start leaving streaks or miss spots on your windscreen.

Check/clean your lights

Ensure that all lights are working and don't forget to clean them regularly. Dirty or foggy lights can reduce your visibility to other drivers.

How to give your car’s interior TLC

Once you’re done with the exterior, give your car's interior the care it deserves. This not only enhances its appearance but also extends its lifespan. The following methods can help you ensure your car remains in top condition. 

Clean regularly 

You should clean your car regularly to maintain a flawless interior. Vacuum the seats and floor mats, wipe down the dashboard and other surfaces, and clean your windows to prevent dust and dirt build-up.

Condition the leather

If your car has leather seats, use a quality leather conditioner to keep them soft and prevent them from cracking. If you're unsure if your leather can handle a product, remember to do a spot test before applying it.

Check/change oil and filters

Checking and changing your car's engine oil and filters is important. Clean oil will help your engine run smoothly, and it will reduce wear and tear on the moving parts of it. Old oil can make your engine work harder, which means more fuel consumption. Don't forget to change your filters too, as they allow for proper air circulation within the vehicle.

Check your fluid levels

Keep an eye on your car's fluids like brake fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, and windshield washer. They're important for how well your car performs, and they will keep you safe.

Check/replace the battery

Always keep an eye on your car's battery. If your car struggles to start, it’s a sign that it might be time to replace it.

Wax and polish

Don't forget to give your car's interior surfaces a good wax and polish. Not only will this protect them from UV damage, but it'll also leave your car looking shiny and just like new.

Other ways to give your car TLC

Beyond your regular car check up and maintenance, there are other ways you can show your car some "tender loving care". One of the most effective ways is adopting a more mindful driving style.


Avoid reckless driving behaviors such as rapid acceleration, excessive speed, or slamming on the brakes as much as possible because these actions can cause unnecessary strain on your car, which will result in premature wear and tear. Choose to drive smoothly and responsibly so you can help preserve the integrity of your car's engine, brakes, tires, and other components.


Also, if you notice any unusual noises, vibrations, or warning lights, don't ignore them. These could be signs that there is something wrong with your car and you should take care of the issue immediately. 

How much does car TLC cost?

When it comes to giving your car some TLC, the costs can vary widely based on the services and treatments you need. However, you can piece together a rough estimate of potential expenses* from the following tables:


Car Care Task

Approximate Cost Range

Regular car wash

$10 — $20 per bottle

Dry after washing

$10 — $30 per set of microfiber cloth

Apply car wax

$10 - $50 per container

Use paint sealant

$20 - $80 per bottle

Rust treatment 

$20 (DIY) - $500+ (professional)

Repair small scratches and dents

$10 (DIY) - $100+ (professional)

Clean and polish tires

$10 - $20 per product

Tire sealant

$10 - $20 per product

Replace wipers

$7 - $40 per blade

Check/clean lights

$30+ per replacement kit

Wax and polish interior

$10 - $30 per bottle

Conditioner leather

$10 - $30 per bottle

Check/change oil and filter

$35 - $90 (oil change), $10 - $50 (filter)

Fluid levels

$10 - $30 per product

Replace battery 

$100 - $200


*These are approximate costs and the actual expenses may vary based on the specific products you choose, the condition of your car, and whether you opt for professional services.

Why you should give your car TLC

TLC for your car is more than just an act of kindness. Regular maintenance, including safety inspections and upkeep, serves to spot potential issues before they turn into bigger problems.


Beyond just safety and performance, consistent TLC enhances your car's lifespan, preserves its worth, curtails long-term expenses, and maintains its aesthetic appeal. A thoroughly maintained vehicle is likely to command higher resale values, signaling to prospective buyers its well-kept status. 


Plus, there's no denying the joy and pride that comes from driving a clean, well-presented car.

What is a TLC license?

TLC stands for 'Tender loving care', but if someone talks about a 'TLC license', then they mean a Taxi and Limousine Commission license. You need this type of license if you want to operate a For-Hire Vehicle in New York City.


The TLC Driver License is a versatile credential that enables you to drive vehicles - from yellow and green taxis to liveries, black cars, and limousines. This broad range makes it a popular choice among drivers seeking to maximize their opportunities in the city's bustling transportation scene.


You have to go through multiple steps if you want to obtain a TLC license, including paying any outstanding tickets, completing Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) training, and passing the TLC Driver Education Course. Applicants must also possess a valid chauffeur license or its equivalent. You also need to upgrade your current license to Class E or a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), complete Defensive Driving and WAV courses, and pass a 24-hour TLC course.


While the cost of a three-year TLC license is $252, additional costs such as fingerprinting and drug testing fees are also part of the application process. Despite these costs, many see the investment as worthwhile for the professional driving opportunities it opens up in New York City.

Final thoughts

Taking good care of your car inside and out through regular washing, waxing, fluid checks, minor repairs, and the like can go a long way. Doing these TLC activities helps keep your car looking good, extends its lifespan, and prevents big repair bills down the road. So next time your car needs a little TLC, roll up your sleeves and show it some love.


Not everyone has the time or inclination for regular car maintenance. That's where a car subscription from FINN comes in handy. You can drive a new car every six to 12 months without worrying about depreciation, long-term commitments, or even routine maintenance. One monthly fee covers everything from insurance to roadside assistance, ensuring you a smooth and worry-free driving experience.

TLC Meaning Cars
TLC Meaning Cars

Final thoughts

Taking good care of your car inside and out through regular washing, waxing, fluid checks, minor repairs, and the like can go a long way. Doing these TLC activities helps keep your car looking good, extends its lifespan, and prevents big repair bills down the road. So next time your car needs a little TLC, roll up your sleeves and show it some love.


Not everyone has the time or inclination for regular car maintenance. That's where a car subscription from FINN comes in handy. You can drive a new car every six to 12 months without worrying about depreciation, long-term commitments, or even routine maintenance. One monthly fee covers everything from insurance to roadside assistance, ensuring you a smooth and worry-free driving experience.

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