Why is Regular Vehicle Maintenance Important?
The owner’s manual of your vehicle will tell what needs to be checked and when, and it is a good idea to make reading it a habit. If you don’t want to check your vehicle yourself, then plan on taking it to your service professional and have them check everything – once a month is ideal for optimum coverage: tires, oil, other fluid levels and so forth.
The fluids in your car’s motor keep the engine running smoothly and keep the car from over heating. The levels of all the fluids in your vehicle should be checked periodically according to your vehicle’s manual. Check the oil to see if needs a top up – older cars may burn oil and checking the levels when you fill up with gas is a good idea. NEVER overfill the crank case with oil. This will damage your engine, so only top up your oil if the dipstick shows you need to.
Another important fluid is the coolant. Newer cars have an overflow tank usually visible in the engine compartment (typically under the hood) and it looks like a plastic reservoir. The coolant reservoir will have a “fill to here” line. Make sure you put in the correct mix of coolant to keep your motor running the right temperature. If you are unsure what to do, ask your service professional for advice.
You will also need to check the power steering fluid, the brake fluid, transmission fluid and the battery. If you have a maintenance free battery, you don’t have to worry about the battery fluids. But if you have a regular battery, you will have to take off the caps to check the levels inside. If the battery fluids are low, top them up using distilled water. Be careful you don’t splash any of this liquid on your skin or clothes. Again, if you are uncomfortable with this procedure contact your service professional.
Similar to the oil system, your transmission system has a dipstick too and similarly you should check the transmission fluid while the car is cold. It doesn’t do it any good to check while it is hot because you will get a false reading – warm liquids expand so it will look fuller than it is.
Unless otherwise directed by your vehicle service manual, remember to change the oil and filter every 3 months or every 5,000 kilometers, which ever comes first. TIP: In the winter, or with excessive driving, you might wish to change the oil sooner. Your service professional will also likely remind you that your radiator fluids needs to be changed every 2 years – as does the transmission fluid on most vehicles.
And don’t overlook your tires – they really are “that important.” Check the pressure in your tires (remembering the spare if you have one) once a week or before any long drives. The condition of your tires is crucial to the safety of your car. Under inflated or worn tires will effect your gas mileage too, and increase the risk of blowouts – a danger to you and your passengers.
While checking the pressure of your tires, look closely at the wear patterns on the tread. If the pattern is unusual it could mean your tires need to be rotated or balanced. It is a good idea to rotate your tires every 10,000 Km – roughly every second oil change. You should also have the wheels balance and the front end alignment checked once a year – sooner if you feel a shake or wobble when driving. If you drive on rough roads, your vehicle may need realignment and rebalancing more often. Remember, a set of tires costs hundreds to replace, balancing and realignment is a fraction of that!
A few other tips: Checking your belts, hoses and wiper blades – every couple of months is a good idea. Replace them if there are any cracks or nicks in them. Wiper blades need to be replaced every season. You should definitely change them before they start smearing and dragging across your windshield making it hard to see while driving!
Also, remember to check your air filter every few months. A dirty air filter decreases your gas mileage significantly. At the same time check your battery for any loose or worn cabling. If there is any corrosion on the battery terminals it may cause starting problems. When your battery gets old replace it rather than waiting for it to fail leaving you stranded.
These are just a few of the basic maintenance activities you can do to keep you vehicle in good shape. Remember, there is never a good time for a break-down, and preventative maintenance is proven to reduce unwanted vehicle failures. Prolong the life of your car and save your self the headaches – get preventive maintenance for your car.