There is really no excuse for not keeping your car in perfect condition; a well maintained car is economical to use, and safe to drive, and besides, you can save a ton of money by doing some simple preventative maintenance tasks yourself. Basic car care and maintenance is not hard to do; you rarely need expensive tools to do it and besides, you can save a ton of money by doing some simple preventative maintenance tasks yourself. Most serious break downs and failures are the direct result of poor maintenance so avoid huge, and unnecessary repair bills by regularly performing the tasks and checks listed below. There is really no excuse for not keeping your car in perfect condition; a well maintained car is economical to use, and safe to drive, and besides, you can save a ton of money by doing some simple preventative maintenance tasks yourself. Basic car care and maintenance is not hard to do; you rarely need expensive tools to do it and besides, you can save a ton of money by doing some simple preventative maintenance tasks yourself. Most serious break downs and failures are the direct result of poor maintenance so avoid huge, and unnecessary repair bills by regularly performing the tasks and checks listed below.
Your tires do much more that prevent your rims contacting the road surface; they are designed to cope with all the forces that accelerate, decelerate, and steer a car safely, so keep this in mind when you-
Rotate the tires:
By rotating your tires every 5 000 miles or so, you allow them to wear more evenly, which makes them last longer. Rotate tires by placing the back wheels on the front, and the front wheels on the rear axle. However, some tires are directional, which means they can only work on one side of the car. Tires of this type are always marked with an arrow or similar marking that indicates the direction of rotation- these tyres should only ever be rotated between axles, and NOT from side to side. Doing this will reduce the tires’ traction, and may even cause the tire to fail catastrophically.
Check tire pressures:
Incorrectly inflated tires cause increased fuel consumption, longer stopping distances, poor steering control, and of course, accelerated tire wear. However, NEVER rely on a tire pressure monitoring system to maintain tire pressures, because these systems can be (and often are), wildly inaccurate.
Use a good quality digital pressure gauge to check all the tyres for correct inflation at least once a week, but only when the tires are cold, and the vehicle is unladen. The pressure difference between hot and cold tyres can be up to ten pounds per square inch, so ALWAYS check tire pressures when the tires are cold.
Check the tread depth:
It is crucially important to maintain sufficient tread depth to maximize traction and to prevent aqua-planing on wet roads. Most modern tires have built-in tread wear indicators, so there is no excuse to allow tires to wear below these indicators.
Note that when a tire tread reaches the wear indicators, the tire MUST be replaced, since the tread is worn to the minimum legal depth, which is not the same as meaning that the tire is still safe to use. Tires that are worn down to the tread wear indicators are dangerous, since they can no longer drain water from the road surface as efficiently as before.
Remove brake dust regularly:
Brake dust is a witches’ brew of chemicals and substances that will discolor and stain alloy rims if it is left on the rims for any length of time. In time, the dust will combine with road grime and moisture, and when this happens the heat from the brakes will literally “bake” the dust onto the rims. For the best results, remove brake dust with clean, cold water and a sponge or very soft brush to reach all the nooks and crannies.
It is not enough to rely on the fact that no warning lights on the dash board are illuminated when it comes to properly caring for your engine. Many functions and components in modern engines do not trigger warning lights when something goes wrong, so be sure to prevent break downs, or even possible engine failure by doing the following-
Check the serpentine belt:
On many cars today, only one belt, called a serpentine belt, drives everything: the water pump, the alternator, the A/C system, and the power steering pump. This belt is under permanent tension and exposed to high temperatures; the combination of these factors and the fact that it is forced to follow very small bend radii around several small diameter pulleys and tension devices, means that it can fail without warning, and it usually does so.
Check this belt at least once a month for signs of fraying, cracking, or missing sections in the micro-grooves. Belts in this condition must be replaced immediately, and all pulleys must be checked for smooth operation, since belts are often damaged by worn or damaged pulleys. Better still, if the serpentine belt on your car is older than two years, replace it to prevent the possibility of it failing unexpectedly.
Check the timing belt:
We admit that it might be very difficult to physically check the timing belt every week, since accessing it can be a major undertaking in itself. However, even though it is one of the most important components on any engine that uses a timing belt, it is one of the most overlooked, and sometimes deliberately ignored items during routine servicing and maintenance.
Some types of engines, called interference type engines, can suffer extremely serious damage (and sometimes total destruction), when the timing belt fails, so be sure to have it inspected, or replaced strictly in accordance with your cars’ prescribed maintenance schedule. With that said, if you live a dusty area, it is an excellent idea to reduce the timing belt replacement intervals by at least a third, to prevent belt failure caused by abrasive dust.
Check the oil level:
Everybody knows that too little oil in an engine can cause engine failure, but so can having too much oil in the engine. When the oil level is too high, the crankshaft can whip the oil into foam that is impossible to pump. Thus, the engine can fail through lack of lubrication even though there is plenty of oil in it.
Moreover, all engines use some oil as the result of their normal operation, which makes it very important to maintain the oil level at the correct level at all times. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to check the oil level, but in this article we will only focus on the right way, which we will explain next.
- Park the vehicle on a level surface to ensure an accurate reading on the dipstick.
- Allow the engine to cool down, and to give the oil in the upper parts of the engine to drain down into the oil pan. Allow about 30 minutes or so for this.
- Extract the dipstick from its tube, and wipe it clean with lint-free rag, and pushed back into the tube all the way.
- Pull the dipstick out again, and check the level. All dipsticks are marked with dots that mark the upper and lower level, or a shaded, textured area that does the same thing, or the letters “L” for Low, and “F” for Full.
- As long as the level falls between the upper and lower marks, there is nothing to worry about, but it is always a good idea to keep the oil level as close to the upper mark as possible, without going over the mark.
- Adjust the level by adding a cup-full or so of the correct oil at a time, but remember to wipe the dipstick clean before each check to ensure the level is shown clearly. Also, allow a few minutes between each addition to allow the new oil to drain into the oil pan, and the oil level to stabilize.
- Do NOT overfill the engine- if you are uncertain about how much oil to add to bring the level up to the “Full” mark, leave it as it is, and have the level adjusted by a repair shop or service station. Even marginally overfilled engines can damage the emission control system.
Check the engine coolant level:
More engines fail due to coolant loss than for any other reason, which makes it very important to check the coolant level on a regular basis. By the time a coolant-, or temperature related warning comes on, the engine may already be damaged, so prevent this happening to you by checking the engine coolant level at least once a week.
On most modern cars, the coolant level is indicated on the expansion tank, which is a white, translucent plastic container in the engine compartment. It is not necessary to remove the cap on top of the expansion tank to check the level; it should be possible to see the level trough the material of the tank. However, ALWAYS check the coolant level when the engine is cold, and NEVER remove the cap while the engine is hot. Doing this will cause the boiling hot, pressured coolant to expand violently, which almost always results in third degree burns on the upper body.
A final thought…
The few tips listed here cover the most important aspects of basic car care, and if performed diligently they will save you money in the long run- for which you can thank us later.