You are probably familiar with the old adage of 3,000 or 5,000-mile oil change debate. When your headlights start to dim, you will change them almost right away. However, do you know how often you should flush your vehicle’s transmission fluids or check your car’s radiator belts and hoses?
If you answered, yes, but only when someone is wrong, you are not the only one. A good way to keep it all straight is to follow a basic vehicle maintenance schedule. You will find one in the owner’s manual for your car or you can create a customized vehicle maintenance list.
You should make a habit of undergoing regular vehicle maintenance. This will help to avoid potentially expensive breakdowns while also extending the life of your vehicle. You can handle some more basic repairs on your own by following the regular vehicle maintenance prescribed in your owner’s manual for your vehicle.
Become Family with the Owner’s Manual for Your Vehicle
Every car comes with an owner’s manual. This thick book is usually tucked away in the glove box or in another storage department in your car. If you are unable to find your copy, there is likely an electronic version somewhere online. If all else fails, you can simply contact your dealer to get a new copy.
You should flip to the maintenance schedule section of your manual. Take note of the recommended intervals for maintenance items like the engine oil and filter, tire rotation, belts and hoses, and more.
Change Your Oil & Oil Filter
Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. It serves as a lubricant, making sure that important engine components are prevented from grinding against each other and slowly destroying your engine. Motor oil that is not changed regularly can also damage your engine as contaminants gather due to friction as parts rub together.
A common question is what type of oil should be used — petroleum-based or synthetic? Should you just stay with one over another? Well, some experts claim that it is not very important. As long as the oil is in accordance with the service and viscosity requirements set in your owner’s manual, you can just switch back and forth as often as you want.
Check Your Tires Every Month
The only thing that separates you from the road is your car’s tires. They need to be inflated properly in order to function as intended and to decrease the risk of a blowout.
You likely know that you have to air up your tires from time to time. What you may not know is your correct tire pressure. You will find this information on a placard located on the driver-side doorjamb or in the owner’s manual. Inflate your tires when they are cold — driven less than one mile — in order to get the best reading. Otherwise, add 4 PSI to the recommended amount. Check your spare tire while you are at it and confirm all pressures with a tire gauge after the tires have had time to rest.
Inspect All Your Other Fluids
Motor oil is not the only fluid that should be checked. Your vehicle also has brake and transmission fluids, coolant, and washer fluid.
Similar to motor oil, you will check transmission fluid with a dipstick. Gauge brake fluid, coolant, and washer fluid levels by removing associated covers and inspecting each reservoir. Also, you should never remove the radiator cap to check coolant — you could risk being scalded or burned. You should instead check that level in the nearby transparent reservoir.
Examine All Belts & Hoses
If you want to go the extra mile beyond just basic routine car maintenance in San Diego, then you should inspect your hoses and belts in the engine bay. These hoses direct coolant flow to make sure that the engine is protected from overheating. If a hose has separated or is showing cracks or bulges, then you should have it replaced.
Also, you should check the belts. The timing belt, which is installed in most vehicles and small sport-utility-vehicles (SUVs), is important to the operation of your engine. If this belt is showing any signs of wear, such as cracking, glazing, and material loss (such as chunks missing from the belt), then it should be replaced.
While You Are at It, Check the Following Items
There are three other areas in car maintenance that you should stay on top of the following things:
- Wiper Blades. If the windows streak or the blades screech when in use, then your wipers should be replaced.
- The Battery. As for the battery, the main requirement is to make sure that the battery has no corrosion. A wire brush with a water and baking soda solution is all you really need.
- The Air Filter. As far as the filter is concerned, you will need to replace it once or twice a year. Check your air filter every oil change.
Now that you understand the basics of routine vehicle maintenance, you are on your way to making sure that your vehicle stays in optimal working condition. If your car is frequently facing any of these issues, you should consider switching to a severe maintenance schedule. The added cost of more frequent oil and transmission fluid changes can be potentially offset with fewer breakdowns and serious repairs.
As a good rule of thumb, however, you can use this general vehicle maintenance guide when fixing up your car.
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