Preventive Car Maintenance Guide
A motor vehicle is like a human body — the health of the whole depends on the health of each part. If a person’s liver fails, other organs will fail. If his heart fails, the lungs cannot continue to breathe. Likewise, a car cannot run reliably if its owner doesn’t take care that all its systems are in working order. An unreliable car is an unsafe car. Preventative car maintenance helps to keep a car healthy.
Just like any machine, maintenance schedules help the longevity of a car as well as keep everyone on the road safe. The owner should also respond quickly if there are warning signs like a burning smell or strange noise. Read on for tips on keeping your car safe from the Preventive Car Maintenance Guide for 2021.
Nine Car Maintenance Pitfalls
The fluids in a car prevent components from overheating, rubbing together and running inefficiently. It doesn’t make any sense to have to replace an entire transmission when changing the transmission fluid would have been sufficient! Oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, steering fluid, and antifreeze are just some of the fluids that need attention in a motor vehicle.
How often you need to get your oil changed depends on the make and model of your vehicle as well as how you drive. If you put miles on your car quickly or if you engage in particularly rough driving, you need to change your oil more frequently. Regular fluid checks can occur when you have your oil changed or at other relevant intervals.
Just as your liver and kidneys filter contaminants from your bloodstream, the oil, transmission fluid, and fuel filters remove contaminants from the various channels of your car to keep it running smoothly. Filters make it possible to drive without flushing out the entire system every time a few particles invade. The health of the car’s circulatory system depends on the filters. Filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to change compared to major auto repairs. Be sure to check your filters on a consistent schedule.
Your brake system is one of the most important components of your vehicle. It also is one of the components that gets the most use. In addition to making sure the brake fluid is clean and well-filtered, you should make sure the brake pads and rotors are in good shape. The brake pads provide the friction necessary for the driver to command the rotors which apply pressure to stop the car. A wiggling steering wheel when you come to a stop is a sign of damaged rotors. Worn brake pads may cause squealing or squeaking before the brakes fail completely. Because brakes are your primary safeguard, their repair should not be put off.
4. Safety Devices
Seat belts and airbags have saved countless lives since their debut. But lives have also been lost when seat belts have failed to latch properly or detract, and when airbags have not been deployed in a crash. You might think a car accident is a long shot, and that as long as you’re careful, you can let malfunctions in these systems slide.
However, your own care cannot guarantee someone else’s. Always wear your seat belt. Make sure that your airbags are in working order. Pay attention to recalls and field service actions relating to your airbags or seat belts.
5. Head and Tail Lights
You cannot avoid dangers you cannot see – this is why you can be ticketed if one of your lights is out. Visibility is essential to safe driving. When a headlight or taillight goes out, you may not immediately realize it. Perform regular checks of the lights and lamps on your vehicle.
Suspension is what keeps your car from ricocheting into space every time you hit a speed bump without slowing down. Your car’s body is designed to bounce rather than lose contact with the road. Luckily, problems with suspension are easy enough to detect—your car will simply start to feel like a bounce house. Suspension problems can make your vehicle react unpredictably and become more difficult to control.
Steering problems are usually fairly obvious: you will have trouble steering. Difficulty turning the wheel, a vibrating sensation or a loose steering wheel are all signs of a problem. Equally obvious are the reasons why this is troublesome: to drive defensively, you have to be able to remove yourself from a dangerous situation quickly.
Windshield wipers are easy to take for granted until you need them. Blizzards and torrential rain are hostile driving environments, even when you can see the road ahead of you. When you can’t, you’re better off just pulling over than just driving without working windshield wipers. Your vehicle needs a certain size of wipers that are custom-fit to work on your windshield.
Tires are the car’s ambassador to the road. It is vital that they maintain a close and personal relationship. Friction is all-important to this relationship, so tire tread should be checked regularly. When tire pressure is asymmetrical, the tires will wear unevenly or even cause the car to drift. The size of tire you need depends on your vehicle. The kind of tires that are right for you depend on where you live and how you drive.
Fuel Follies – Don’t End Up Spending More On Gas
Most people know that the faster you drive, the more gas your car uses. But there are several other factors that contribute to extra gas being used. Here are ways to save money on gas.
1. Don’t Be Idle
Many people have the common misconception that restarting your car requires more gas than idling. However, this is true only if you plan on idling for less than 30 seconds. If you plan on waiting in your car for more than 30 seconds, turn your engine off. This will save you gas. And, it’s better for the environment.
2. Lose Some Weight
Taking extra items out of your car will save you money on gas. Every 250 pounds of extra weight causes you to lose a mile per gallon.
3. Check Your Tire Pressure
Over or under-inflated tires can reduce your fuel efficiency by 25%. If your car is newer, the recommended pressure should be on a sticker on the driver’s door. Most car tires should be between 32-35 psi. Check your tires after they have sat for a while as driving increases tire pressure.
Note: You should not inflate your tires to the number on the tire itself. This is not the recommended pressure, but the maximum the tire can hold.
4. Gas Bypass
Pedal away from the metal. Accelerating and decelerating too quickly will decrease your fuel economy. Try to keep your rpm’s low.
5. Car Maintenance
Dirty air filters can decrease your gas mileage by 20%; poor spark plugs can reduce it by 12%. Air filters need to be changed about every 20,000-30,000 miles and more often if you drive on dirt roads.
There is some controversy over whether or not poor spark plugs cause a decrease in fuel efficiency. Some say that poor spark plugs can decrease fuel efficiency up to 30%. Others say that modern car fuel economy is not affected by poor spark plugs because of the electronics. One thing everyone can agree on, though, is that neglecting routine service can hurt your fuel economy.
6. Air Conditioning
Rolling down the windows decreases gas mileage as much as turning on the air conditioning because it creates drag. Of course, in the summer months, you want to use your air conditioning. But if it’s not necessary, don’t keep the windows down when you drive.
Drag decreases fuel efficiency. Traveling with unnecessary items on your car like bike racks creates drag.
8. Buying Gas
Buying gas on Wednesdays will save you money on gas over time. On average, gas is the least expensive on Wednesdays.
If you buy gas at the coldest time of the day, you will also save some money on gas, as gas gets denser as it gets colder. Since it is sold by volume, not density, you will get more gas for your money.
9. Don’t Speed
The benefits of not speeding include avoiding tickets, increasing the safety of you and other drivers, decreasing the wear and tear on your vehicle, and of course, saving money on gas.
The US Department of Energy states that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an extra $0.25 per gallon for gas.
Car Maintenance Schedule
We all know about regular oil changes. But it can seem intimidating to keep track of all the things we need to do to keep our cars on the road. Our vehicles are often one of our biggest monetary investments. Nothing is a punch to the wallet as much as an unexpected major car repair. Here is a guide for maintaining your vehicle.
- Tire Pressure: Check your manufacturer’s recommendations to maximize your ride and fuel efficiency.
- Check Engine Light: The check engine light is your car basically calling you by name and asking for a mechanic. Don’t ignore this light and you’ll prevent damage later on.
- Lights: Failure to have all working lights can result in a citation or a crash. Be aware of your lights and test them regularly.
- Windshield Wiper Fluid: A dirty windshield is a serious road hazard. Make sure to fill your wiper fluid every month.
- Power Steering Fluid: The loss of power steering makes a vehicle at high speeds nearly impossible to control. Check regularly.
- Oil: Oil is the life-blood of a vehicle, this one should not be ignored.
3 Months or 3,000 Miles
- Transmission Fluid: If you have an automatic transmission, it is vital to your vehicle’s drivetrain to replace and replenish your automatic transmission fluid. Transmission damage can be very costly.
- Battery: Often battery problems can be traced to corrosion on the connectors. This is an easy fix that will make starting your car easier. If that doesn’t help, make sure to check the cranking amps of your battery. If less than half of standard, it should be replaced.
- Exhaust System: Having a poor or out-of-date exhaust system can give your car bad performance, increased emissions, and create large decibels of sound. Plus, problems with your car’s exhaust can warrant a ticket from the authorities.
- Filters (Exhaust, Engine, and Fuel): Your engine’s performance will be seriously hampered if it can’t breathe. Engine air filters are crucial to let your car get the best fuel to air ratio for power and economy. Cabin air filters keep the air circulating in your AC and heater clean. Fuel filters keep grit and dirt from entering the engine which can cause serious irreparable damage.
- Power Steering Fluid: The power steering fluid should be checked annually depending on what kind of driving you do. Normal wear and tear can begin to seriously dampen your car’s handling ability.
- Belts: From serpentine to timing, belts connect all the different moving parts of your engine. They need to be maintained or replaced before breaking and messing up the intricate balance your car needs to work. Belts help run everything from AC to engine power. Major damage can result from not checking these every 3 months or so.
- Steering and Suspension: These systems should be checked annually, depending on what kind of driving you do. Normal wear and tear can begin to seriously dampen your car’s handling ability.
- Oil and Oil Filters: Oil helps a car run smoothly and keeps the engine clean. Without the proper oil changes, your car can run slower and with less control. The filter also regulates the car. If the oil or oil filter is bad, this can cause larger internal car problems.
- Hoses: These are the veins and arteries of your car. They get all the necessary fluids where they need to be. They can become brittle with age, and could start spilling your car’s vital fluids. Check these with your oil to prevent long-lasting problems.
6 Months or 6,000 Miles
- Lubricate your Chassis: Lubricating all your flex points will cut down on wear and tear and make for a smoother ride.
- Wiper Blades: Wiper blades are used to keep your windshield clear in storms. If you have bad wiper blades, your driving could be seriously impaired in bad weather.
- Polish: Taking care of your car on the outside is just as important as taking care of the inside. A good polish can save the car’s paint job for years to come.
12 Months or 12,000 Miles
- Cabin Air Filter: This filter regulates all of the incoming air to your car. If it is bad, it can seriously harm the air you breathe.
- Steering and Suspension: These systems should be checked annually, depending on what kind of driving you do. Normal wear and tear can begin to seriously dampen your car’s handling ability and can be dangerous.
- Lights: Be sure to check that all of your lights are in working order.
- Antifreeze/Coolant: This keeps the car from overheating and burning up. Antifreeze is a very powerful solution. Without its use, the car would be permanently damaged.
- Spark Plugs: Over time, spark plugs become corroded and begin to affect your car’s effectiveness. If they are bad enough, your engine can even become flooded when trying to start it. Sometimes simply replacing the spark plugs, an inexpensive fix, can increase fuel efficiency by up to 10%.
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