A car is an important personal investment. In the civilized world, a car is an absolute necessity. But owning one – whether new or used – takes a lot of hard work. It has to be well taken care of to ensure it would work well for your safety and increase its life. No one wants to buy a car only to end up malfunctioning for a year or two. Car maintenance will keep your vehicle running safely, smoothly, and efficiently down the road for a longer distance.
Here are some tips to ensure your car is properly maintained:
Make sure you read the owner’s manual.
Every vehicle comes with an owner’s manual. If you don’t have the copy anymore, you can find an electronic version online.
Then, head to the maintenance schedule section and take note of the intervals for maintenance items like engine oil, tire rotation, oil filter, belts, hoses, and other things that need maintenance. It’s important to follow these manufacturer instructions to keep the engine running as smoothly as possible.
Drive with care.
To help ensure that you won’t experience any issues with your car, drive it with care. If you are hard on your car – like, hard shifts, fast takeoff, quick braking, riding over bumps at high speed, sharp and quick turns – then your car will wear faster. Don’t accelerate your engine during start-up, as this can quickly wear out the engine. Accelerate slowly when you start driving and shift to neutral at red lights to give your engine some time to rest. Be considerate with your machine, and you’ll be rewarded with needing fewer repairs in the long run.
Wash your car once a week.
Wash your car once a week to keep it clean, shiny, and free from corrosion. Don’t forget to clean the interiors, too, as dirt particles and food crumbs can be abrasive. Meanwhile, spilled liquids can cause corrosion. Vacuum your car interior and wipe the lenses on the dashboard with a damp cloth. Take out your mats and brush or hose them down. Then, dry the mats thoroughly under the sun before putting them back in the car.
Remember that it’s not just the car interior and exterior that needs cleaning. The engine must also be washed at least every year. A clean engine runs cooler than a dirty one, and it allows you to spot leaks and service its components easily. Also, some minor debris can end up in the wrong place, causing damage to your car if it’s not cleaned. You can have your engine professionally cleaned or opt to do it yourself.
To keep your car not only running but also looking good, you must wax your car often. The wax can help slow down oxidation and create a barrier against pollution and bird droppings. It can also make your car look better by adding extra shine.
While how often you should wax your car is open to debate, it is generally done somewhere between once every six months and once a year. If you want to make your car look shiny most of the time, waxing every three months is fine.
Protect your car from the weather.
UV rays, weather, and nature can take their toll on your car. When it’s sunny, always park your car in the shade to prevent interior damage. If a shaded area isn’t available, use a car shade, a window deflector screen, or a UV protectant to protect the insides of your car.
Extreme cold and extreme heat can wreak havoc to both your car’s insides and outsides. If it’s the coldest of winter days, better use covered parking space and use your garage to park your car to protect it from the cold. The cold can be hard enough for the engine, but a blanket of snow covering your car can be damaging as it can cause other parts to freeze.
Change oil and oil filters regularly.
Motor oil is the lifeblood of the engine. It serves as a lubricant to keep the essential engine parts from grinding against each other and destroying the engine. Frequently changing your oil can flush out abrasive metal and dirt particles out of the engine to prolong its life. The oil filters must be changed, too, as old filters can contain dirt and oil buildup that will otherwise remain and mix with the new, clean oil.
Engines today run longer with less maintenance, so carmakers advise changing oil every 5,000 or 7,500 miles. But how often you must change depends on many factors. For instance, if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, only travel to distances less than 10 miles, drive infrequently, or drive in extreme weather, you may need to change your oil more often.
Inspect other fluids.
Motor oil isn’t the only fluid that needs to be checked and replaced. Experts recommend checking your transmission fluid, brake fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid.
Like motor oil, transmission fluid is checked with a dipstick. While they don’t need to be checked and replaced nearly as often, transmission and differential oil need to be changed about every 30,000 miles, but it’s better to consult your owner’s manual to see what’s recommended for your car.
For the cooling system, maintaining it is easy to do. Start by checking the coolant every time you change the oil. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be changed often. In fact, it’s okay to have it changed once every two to three years, or 24,000 to 36,000 miles – whichever comes first. But if you drive in extremely hot temperatures, you may need to change the coolant more often.
Meanwhile, the brake fluids also need to be regularly checked, and if needed, changed. It is needed to maintain your brakes and make sure it works smoothly, as inefficient and ineffective brakes cause some accidents. The brake fluid must be bled and replaced every year. If the brake fluid is dark, then you have to replace it; if it’s low, fill it to the proper line. If it’s empty, it probably has a leak that needs to be fixed right away.
Check your tires regularly.
The tires are the thing that keeps your car rolling down the road. It needs to be properly inflated to do its job well. As a driver, you must learn how to add air to your tires. But besides that, you must also know how to correct tire pressure, which you will find on the placard located on the driver’s door jamb or in the user manual. Always keep them inflated to the recommended pressure.
Another thing to look out for in tires is uneven wearing. Prevent the wearing of tires to make them last longer by getting them rotated every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Tires do not wear equally, so by rotating the front and rear tires, and you balance the wear.
You must also know when you should change your tires. Many factors contribute to how often you need to change tires, including how and where it’s driven, what type of car you own, and how well you maintain them. To decide, examine the tread wear bars on your tires. The tire needs to be replaced if you find that these bars are at the same level as the tread pattern. It can also be determined by using a depth gauge.
Lastly, have your wheel alignment checked every 30,000 miles. Improper wheel alignment can cause steering problems and shorten the life of your tires. If the steering is stirrer than usual or your car tends to pull to one side, you need to check your wheel alignment.
Grease and lubricate regularly.
Any machinery that has moving parts need grease to perform well. Greasing starts with the chassis of the vehicle, which includes the components such as steering arms and suspension systems. Generally, it’s a good idea to grease every three months or 10,000 miles or so. You may also prefer to lubricate every other oil change.
Other parts that need lubrication include door hinges, window tracks, door seals, door locks, etc.
Change your spark plugs.
If you notice that your engine is not working efficiently, the spark plugs can be to blame. Ensure that your spark plugs are still in good condition to maintain high engine performance and good fuel mileage. If left unchecked, it could wear out and be covered in the buildup. Check spark plugs and spark wires if your car is not performing as well as it usually does. Spark plugs usually last for 30,000 miles or more – see your user’s manual for more information.
Check your battery.
It doesn’t matter if your manufacturer claims that the battery is maintenance-free – you still need regular checking of your car battery to extend its life. Keep its terminals clean and free from corrosion by cleaning them with a damp rag with some detergent. Also, check if the battery case is free of cracks, bulges, or any signs of damages. If you have a dead battery, here’s how you can deal with it.
Check your brakes.
It’s dangerous to have faulty brakes. It helps you avoid rear-end collisions, as well as prevents you from crashing. Needless to say, the brakes take care of you, so you must make it a priority to take care of them.
As a driver, you must always be aware of how your brakes feel and what they sound like each time you drive. If it feels spongy or needs more pressure than normal, you need to get it inspected by a professional.
If you want to check the brakes yourself, inspect the brake pads and brake fluid reservoir. The easiest way to check what’s wrong with your brakes is to take them to a service center. As you drive, look out for a screeching sound. Most brakes have a warning indicator when they make a noise when they are low as you press on the pedal. If you’re worried, it’s best to get it checked because your safety on the road is on the line.
Check your air filter.
Many car problems arise due to loosely-fit or clogged air filters. The air filter prevents dirt and particles from entering the engine, and during combustion, the engine needs air. If the filter is clogged, it may affect performance.
Depending on how much you drive, you may need to replace your air filters once or twice a year. It’s best to check it also when you change your oil.
Ensure that the cooling system works.
Heat, high pressure, or old age can damage the hoses that carry the engine coolant. When this happens, a leak almost always occurs.
When you go get your oil changed in a shop, they will usually check the hoses for you, but you can always ask if it’s included.
To check it yourself, look for a clear or white coolant reservoir and check if it’s at the right level. If not, you may have a leak, so look for residue that has the same color as the coolant. It should be found around where the hoses and connections are made or under them. Any loose hose clamps must be tightened or replaced when damaged, and any cracks mean the hose must be replaced.
Replace wiper blades as needed.
Driving is a hassle when you have a dirty windshield. If it’s not cleaned regularly and if you don’t replace your wipers as needed, it can cause visual impairments and possibly, accidents as well. The driver needs to have a clear view of the road while driving.
If the blades screech when the wipers are operating, or if it causes a streak on the windows, it’s time for a replacement. Always check your wipers if they are still functioning well if the rainy season is approaching. Using damaged wipers can scratch the glass and obstruct your view, which may lead you to replace your entire windshield.
Carry tools at all times.
To maintain your car on the go, make sure to carry some basic tools always in the car so you can be ready to face different issues and have tools to work with. Tools that are helpful include thick gloves, wire cutters, different screwdrivers, jack, lug wrench, electrical tape, heat-resistant waterproof silicone tape, tongue and groove pliers, knife, and a flashlight. You may want to lug them on a tool kit placed in the trunk of your car. Also, make sure you always have a spare tire handy, especially when you’re going on long drives.