One way to remember to prepare your vehicle for spring is when you’re changing the clocks, “spring” cleaning the windows and/or sorting through all those no-longer needed items.
There are a few simple things you can do yourself to help your car last longer, give you better service and save money in the long run.
Service your car’s filters. Some of the filters your car uses can be changed by you. If it seems too overwhelming, check your owner’s manual to determine when these filters need to be changed and have your favorite technician do it when the oil is being changed.
For those more adventurous, the air filter isn’t so intimidating and can often be found housed in a plastic container under the hood. If you do this maintenance yourself, don’t skimp on the parts; rather, buy a good filter at a dealership parts department or at a NAPA store, not your local K-Mart.
Be faithful about monitoring the air in your car’s tires, once a month. Today’s tires can often appear to be low on air when in fact, that is just how they are structured. But it’s always a good idea to carry a handy tire gauge in your car so that when you’re filling up, you can check the air pressure at the same time.
Also, have the tires rotated every 6,000 miles, or at whatever interval your car’s owner’s manual suggests. This is important for even wear and the life of the tires.
When the tires are being rotated, this is a good time to suggest the mechanic look at brake wear. Brake pads when in need of being replaced will let out a high-pitch whine or squeak when you apply the brake. Metal rubbing on metal is not a good sign; get the car in right away before you ruin other parts of the braking system.
The electrical system is another important part of keeping your car running well. First up is the battery. Check for any corrosion around the terminals or any loose cables. It’s common for terminals to accumulate corrosion caused by battery acid. A build-up of too much of this will lessen the voltage and reduce efficiency of the battery.
It can also drain the battery and/or put a strain on the car’s alternator. Mix up a little baking soda and water, take an old toothbrush and clean the terminals. This mixture will neutralize the battery acid and remove any corrosion.
Clean your car’s headlights regularly. They become yellow, worn and cloudy due to acid rain and road soot. There are products on the market made especially for this purpose, to clean and restore the light housings that are often made of plastic.
Ask a friend to stand behind your car to assist in checking taillights and brake lights. Often we are not aware that one of the lights is out until we’re stopped by the local police. If you can locate the fuse box inside the car, check for any blown fuses or burned-out bulbs.
Check all systems: exhaust, radiator, heater, A/C, transmission, hoses, interior lights, hazard warnings, steering components and linkages, fluid levels (transmission, power-steering), tire air pressure.
The most important thing all drivers can do is read your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual, the least read book around! You’ll be amazed at what you will learn. Maintenance schedules are very different for today’s sophisticated automobiles.
Cars can go much longer between filter, plugs and hose changes than ever before. Although it may seem they are just about maintenance-free, the truth is it takes very little to keep a car running well. And you can learn to do it.
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