Want your Car to Last? Maintain It!
Cars are expensive to buy and can be very expensive to maintain. A lot of us neglect our cars completely, or do the very bare minimum that we have to do to keep them on the road. Some of us want to take care of our vehicles, but don’t know what we should be doing other than oil changes. We’re going to make it easy for you. Here are ten fairly routine car maintenance tasks that should be done a regular basis. Some of these things you can do yourself, but others should be done by a mechanic or someone else who knows that they’re doing.
- Brakes – neglecting some of the components on your vehicle could result in a breakdown that’s at worst inconvenient. A poorly maintained brake system could lead to a deadly accident so your brakes are definitely not something that you want to ignore. If your brakes start to squeal or the brake pedal feels mushy, you’ve waited too long to have your brakes checked. You can check the level of your brake fluid yourself and top it up as required. If you know what to look for, you can also check the thickness of your brake pads. If you’re not mechanically inclined, as a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to have your brakes checked every two years so the pads can be replaced before they get too thin.
- Tires – each of your tires has a contact patch that’s about the size of a post card and that’s all that keeps you on the road. At highway speeds, a blowout can be disastrous. Tires need to be replaced eventually. Tread wears and after 6 to 10 years, rubber dries out and tires start to crack and lose strength. Tire pressure should be checked often and tires kept properly inflated to prevent premature wear and damage that can cause a blow out. Check your tread depth periodically and replace your tires when the tread gets too thin.
- Power steering fluid – should be checked every time you get your oil changed. Power steering fluid lubricates the steering system. There’s a little dipstick built into the cap on the reservoir so it’s easy to check the level. Top up as needed, but make sure that you add only fluid that’s recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
- Coolant – keeps your engine cool in the summer, prevents your engine from freezing in the winter, and stops corrosion. It eventually loses its effectiveness and can slowly drain out through leaks. It should be topped up regularly, and replaced every couple of years or so. If you are topping up your coolant yourself, it’s very important to use only coolant that’s recommended for your engine, and that you mix it properly.
- Engine belts – the belts that are visible in the engine compartment of your car keep your alternator and water pump turning. The timing belt is hidden under a cover (some vehicles have a timing chain that should last as long as your vehicle). It’s job is to keep your engine’s valves and pistons in sync and preventing them from slamming into each other with disastrous results for your engine. Belts get worn and cracked over time and the ones that run the alternator and water pump should be replaced every three years. The timing belt lasts much longer, but should be replaced between 96000 and 150,000 km on most vehicles.
- Spark plugs – if you have a car that burns gas, you have spark plugs. They’re the things that create the spark that ignites the gas vapours in the cylinders in your engine. No spark or weak spark, and your engine won’t run properly, your mileage will suffer, and you car might fail emission testing. Spark plugs aren’t very expensive, and they should be replaced every 50,000 to 160,000 km.
- Transmission fluid – your car’s transmission is a highly complex piece of machinery. Unlike engine oil, transmission fluid doesn’t have to be changed that often and it’s easy to forget that it’s even there. Transmission oil fights friction and keeps your transmission running cooler. If it runs low or gets dirty, your transmission can fail. Transmission repairs tend to be very expensive. Check your transmission fluid level regularly, and get it replaced as recommended in your owner’s manual.
- Air filter – your car’s engine needs clean oxygen to burn fuel efficiently. If your air filter gets clogged up with dust, the airflow will be restricted and your engine will start to run rich, lose power, and may run rough. If the air filter is severely clogged, the check engine light could come on and your car could stop running. A dirty air filter can also allow abrasive dust to get into your engine. Your air filter should be replaced at least once a year.
- Battery – a typical auto battery should last between four and five years. Most modern batteries don’t require much maintenance. If you have a maintenance free battery, about all you can do is make sure that your battery posts are clean and free of corrosion. If your car sits for a long time between uses, it’s a good idea to charge it from time to time. If you have a battery that can be serviced, you can take the caps off and add distilled water to the electrolyte if necessary. As your battery ages, it’s a good idea to have it tested every so often so it doesn’t leave you stranded at the worst possible time.
- Fuel filter – this is another car part that’s very easy to forget about. If you have a fuel injected car, the fuel filter works constantly to prevent impurities in gas from clogging the injectors. The fuel filter may be easily accessible under the hood but on some vehicles it’s tucked away in the under body or in the gas tank. Because fuel systems are pressurized and of course gas is toxic and highly flammable, it’s best to let a mechanic change your fuel filter. Your fuel filter should be replaced every 2 years or 40,000 km.
Follow your Maintenance Schedule
You know that maintenance schedule in the back of your owner’s manual? It’s not just there to keep you spending money at your dealership on a regular basis. It’s very important to follow the regular car maintenance schedule shown in your owner’s manual to keep your vehicle running well for as long a possible and to prevent more expensive repairs down the road.
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