Keep Going: Some Basic Maintenance Tips to Increase Your Vehicle’s Longevity
It’s only a matter of time before your car suffers some kind of mechanical failure or breakdown that requires a long lay-up in a mechanic’s garage. If your car is older or already has a history of issues, you probably cringe at every knock, squeak and sputter that it emits on the highway. Your vehicle won’t last forever, but keeping a few simple maintenance tips in mind may extend its life for tens of thousands of extra miles. Take a moment to brush up on your maintenance IQ.
Increasing Your Visibility
If you’re a car care newbie, the best place to start building your knowledge is an area that produces serious safety returns without requiring extensive mechanical experience. Perform bi-weekly safety checks on features that increase your ability to see the road ahead as well as your visibility to other drivers, including:
- Your windshield wipers and your windshield’s waterproof coating, if you have one
- Headlights and taillights
- Turn signals
- Fog lights and brights
Replacing your windshield wipers is as easy as checking your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s preferred blade size, purchasing a new pair, and snapping out the old ones in favor of the new. Headlights and taillights are usually replaced from within the vehicle, through either the trunk or hood, and aren’t much more difficult to handle than typical light bulbs.
There are plenty of other easy-to-perform maintenance checks with low effort-to-results ratios. Taking a few minutes each week to inspect your tire levels will reduce the likelihood of an unexpected blowout on the road, and don’t be afraid to get down on all fours from time to time and check your undercarriage for leaks. Often, the only way you’ll catch slow leaks is to examine the blacktop under your car for liquid deposits after you’ve been parked in the same place for a while. Finally, pay attention to dashboard warning lights. If you don’t know what something means, consult your owner’s manual or call your mechanic.
It takes some confidence to pop your car’s hood and start tinkering around, but it’s necessary if you’re interested in protecting your investment. Use your car’s dipstick to check your oil levels each month, or every two weeks if your car is older or known to burn lots of oil. Visually check transmission, brake fluid, coolant and windshield washier fluid levels as well, paying attention to “recommended fill” lines.
Electronics and Drivetrain
You don’t need a computer science degree to understand a few basic things about your vehicle’s electronics, wiring and drivetrain systems. You’ll know when to change your battery because its nodes will be covered in white-green corrosion and it won’t start as quickly as before, for example. Likewise, a “check engine” or other warning light will usually appear when there’s a problem with one of your belts, eliminating the guesswork associated with deciding when it’s time to replace the device.
Performed properly and regularly, basic car maintenance can drastically reduce the number of trips you’ll need to make to the mechanic. It can also keep your vehicle going strong for thousands of extra miles, lightening the load on your wallet and leaving you free to worry about more important things.
Howie Lemley writes for auto repair blogs and most recently guest writes for www.autorepair.net where you’ll find more tips on repairing your car.