Want your car to run smoothly for years to come? Want to save big money on car repairs? Want your car running and looking great? Well, you must take good care of your car if you want it to last and be dependable. What does that mean? It means you need to know a little about car maintenance and repair.
Proper car maintenance and repair starts Louis levels in your car’s engine area. Yes, that means you must pop the hood (or trunk if you own a Porsche, old VW bug or similar rear engine car). The first thing you should check is your vehicles oil level. This involves pulling out the oil dipstick, wiping it off, reinserting it and then pulling it back out again to check the exact oil level.
As a tip, please make sure that you are parked on flat, level ground while doing this. If you are parked on a hill or incline you could very easily get an erroneous reading and end up adding too much oil to your car or truck. If you cannot easily locate the oil dipstick (some cars are easier for locating this then others), then be sure and look it up in your owner’s manual).
Make sure that if you get a low oil reading that you redo the oil dipstick check to make sure there wasn’t an error and that your oil level is low – you don’t want to make the mistake of adding too much oil if it isn’t warranted. Then after the second check if it is still reading low on oil be sure and add the right type of oil (this should be listed on the inside of the car hood and in the owner’s manual).
At this time, you can also add an engine oil additive to increase performance and reduce wear and tear on the engine’s components (this is a good idea and is recommended on all higher mileage engines). If you find that you are routinely adding oil to your engine, then you either have a leak or are burning oil and should have your engine looked at by a mechanic. You could have a blown gasket or need an engine rebuild.
Next check your air filter. This is something very easy to do on most cars, and if not done regularly it will rob you of fuel economy and engine performance. A clogged or dirty air filter can easily cost you 3 to 5 mpg and at today’s gas prices that can quickly add up to a lot of money over a year. It will also cause your engine to work harder and reduce its lifespan – causing more expensive repairs more frequently.
You should change your car’s oil every 5,000 miles (unless the manufacturer states differently in the owner’s manual). Don’t listen to the car dealer as they recommend an oil change as quickly as possible to make more profits. I have seen and heard of car dealerships recommending oil changes at 3,000 to 2,500-mile intervals. One Ford dealership in Houston TX even recommended oil changes every 1500 miles – that is ridiculous and a waste of money. They were doing it to get unsuspecting customers back in so they could upsell them to some unnecessary and very costly repairs more often – borderline fraudulent behavior in my opinion.
Check your radiator levels (by looking at the overflow container) at least once a month. If it is getting low, you could have a leak or a blown head gasket. It is always better to catch the problem early rather than having to pull over on a hot summer day due to the engine overheating or worse yet seizing up. Keep your reservoir tank filled up to the appropriate levels as marked on the side of the tank.
Replace your spark plugs every few years as part of a tune-up. The contacts on the spark plugs can and will become dirty with soot and corrode over time reducing their effectiveness. New spark plugs will help your engine run better (therefore new spark plugs are a required component of every tune-up). You don’t need the super fancy or expensive spark plugs – the average ones will work every bit as good for half the money.
Once a year get your brakes checked. Unless you have a lift or a level area and a good car jack it is best to leave this to the professionals at a local service garage. I found a great mechanic from the local Toyota store through Craig’s List that changes my brake pads and checks my brake system for $40 plus parts.
How do you know if your brake pads need replacing? They will start squealing. There is a metal indicator tab that when the brake pads get worn enough (30% or so left) that they will start to scrape against the rotors. This means you should get a new set of brake pads installed. Do not keep driving on the old pads for long at this point else the pads could become completely worn and start to eat the rotors.
Check your tires at every fill up at the gas station. Your tires are extremely important ( if you didn’t know this they’re what stops you other than the brakes and provide traction while driving on the road). If your tire treads are worn down you will have less traction and while this may not matter much on a sunny day, wait until it rains hard, and you start to hydroplane. That is a very dangerous condition. Check your tires for abnormal wear, proper inflation, etc.…
Also, check your headlight lenses. Are your headlight bulbs working? This may sound stupid, but every day I see a car or two with one headlight burned out. This is very dangerous as it greatly reduces by 50% or more the amount of light emitted from your car. What that means is you won’t be able to see much at all at night time it will not be safe as you will not be able to react safely to road hazards.
Do you have cloudy, yellowed or ugly headlight lenses? This can reduce the light emitted through the lens by 80% or more. This is dangerous. Either replace or restore your headlight lenses to new again with a headlight restoration kit. I have used Turtle Wax T-43 Headlight Cleaner and Sealant from Amazon with great results. Either way, you need to fix this condition so you can see while driving at night.
There you have it – some great ideas on car maintenance and repair from checking your oil and other fluid levels to checking your brakes, tires and headlight bulbs and lenses. When done properly this car maintenance can greatly add to the longevity and running of your car and your enjoyment of your car. It will also greatly reduce the risk of expensive car repairs. Proper car maintenance is essential to your car running great and being dependable for many years to come.