For most people, the car is the second most expensive purchase made, after a home. This fact has been repeated over the years. As with any investment, a car needs to be cared for in order for it to maintain maximum resale value, and to extend its life as much as possible while giving reliable service to the owner.
It is important to know the basic care of a car. We are not talking RV renovation projects, welding and spray painting here, just basics. It will avoid expensive repairs. Although today’s cars are much more complicated than older models, the basic maintenance still applies. Below are some car maintenance tips every motorist should know.
Checking the exterior and under the car
- Check the tire pressure with a pressure gauge at least twice monthly. This ensures that the tire wear is minimized. Also check them for any uneven wear, which may indicate the need for front end alignment.
- Inspect the place where the car is normally parked. There should be no signs of any leaking fluids. However, remember that the car air conditioner will drip water under the vehicle for a short while after driving.
- Check for any smoke from the exhaust as it may be an indication of an engine problem.
Inspect the engine compartment
A car owner doesn’t need to be a mechanic to do the following visual inspections under the hood. It is important to do the following on a regular basis, maybe weekly.
- Check engine oil level and cleanliness of the oil. The color should be dark, but not black.
- Check the coolant level. This can be done without opening the radiator cap by checking the level of coolant in the overflow container. Remember to never open the radiator cap when the engine is still hot.
- Inspect the brake and clutch fluid levels.
- If the car has automatic transmission, check the fluid level. There is a separate dipstick for this in the rear of the engine compartment.
- Check the various belts for any damage or excessive wear.
Other items that should receive a visual inspection are the various hoses, tubes and electrical connections. Any signs of unusual wear or damage should be immediately addressed. Many of the above items may need the assistance of a service station or repair shop with the proper tools and replacement parts. The car battery is one such item.
Importance of oil change
In order to prevent damage and extend the life of the engine, oil and oil filter change is of utmost importance. The recommended oil change interval used to be every 2,000-3,000 miles, but today most automobile manufacturers recommend an oil and filter change every 5,000 miles.
It is a good idea to have the oil level checked every time you fill up the tank. Make sure the oil level stays between the minimum and maximum lines on the dipstick. Keep a container with the brand and type of motor oil used in the trunk, so oil can be added if needed. Most car manufacturers recommend the use of synthetic oils in today’s car engines.
Other important items
The air filter should be kept clean and changed at the intervals recommended by the car manufacturer. A dirty air filter affects the efficiency of the engine and can cause damage to the fuel injection system.
The change of spark plugs should also be done on a regular basis for performance reasons. For safety reasons, items such as turn signals, brake lights, windshield wiper blades should be inspected and replaced if necessary. Worn windshield wiper blades will easily scratch the windshield and also affect the driver’s visibility during rain.