In order to keep your car running at its best, it’s important to keep up with routine maintenance and inspections. By properly maintaining your vehicle, you’ll reduce future repair costs, optimize your car’s performance, maintain its value and extend its life. Here are some regular maintenance check list to keep in mind:
Oil is essential to your engine. And for most people, changing it every three months or 3,000 miles is the first thing you should do to keep your car in good shape. But sometimes, your oil needs some extra attention. If you tow a trailer, drive in dusty conditions, or frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic, you should change your oil more often. Short trips without letting your engine warm up can contaminate your oil and require more oil changes than average too. So, to keep your car running smooth, make sure you have the following engine-related services done regularly:
- Change the oil
- Change the oil filter, air filter and fuel filter
- Check the PCV valve for proper operation
- Check the spark plugs, spark plug wires and the ignition coils
Your transmission makes your car move by bringing power from the engine to the wheels. A regular checkup of the transmission fluid will keep your car shifting smoothly.
Batteries store the energy that is needed to start your car’s engine. And once the engine is running, the alternator starts re-charging the battery for the next start. Maintenance includes keeping the battery clean and secured so it doesn’t vibrate, keeping connections clean and tight at the terminals, and checking the water level (if necessary).
The Emission System
Your emission system runs almost the entire length of your vehicle. And in the process of moving exhaust away from the engine and passenger cabin, it analyzes the gases, refines them into water vapor and less-harmful gases, and directs them through dampers to reduce noise. Your emission system does all of this important work while hanging from the bottom of your vehicle – and as you can imagine, it can take a lot of abuse down there. So to keep your car running smoothly, quietly and efficiently, you should have your emission system inspected every year.
The Brake System
Your car’s owner’s manual will provide a maintenance schedule designed to keep your brakes in good condition. Following it is the easiest way to avoid expense repairs and the potential for catastrophic brake failure. At the very least, you should have your brakes inspected every year. But, anytime you notice something irregular about your brakes, it’s a good idea to have them checked out.
You may not know it, but in many of today’s cars the heating and air conditioning systems are integrated so that some parts of your climate control system are working hard all year long. Your driving comfort improves greatly when your heater or air conditioning is working properly.
Your air conditioning system works like a refrigerator, pumping freon through an evaporator under the dashboard. The freon absorbs the heat from the passenger compartment, circulates it through the condenser and releases it through the front grill of your car. When running right, this is a constant process that results in a cool and comfortable driving environment for you. If your air conditioning system isn’t keeping you cool, it’s usually due to a leak in the system. You should have your full climate control system inspected regularly to ensure it is working properly.
The Cooling System
The cooling system keeps your engine at the optimum operating temperature by pumping coolant between the engine and the radiator. Your mechanic can help you keep your cooling system in good condition by checking the coolant levels in the reservoir tanks, checking the hoses for wear and tear and providing a flush-and-fill service, which drains dirty fluid and replaces it with clean coolant.
The Suspension System
Your shocks, springs, struts, steering and tires are all part of your suspension system. They all work together to keep you comfortable and in control on the road.
But sometimes, a problem in one area can be a symptom of a problem in another area. For instance, if you notice that your tires are wearing unevenly, it may just be your tire pressure. Heavier wear in the middle means the pressure is too high. Heavy wear on the edges means the pressure is too low. But if you notice excessive wear on just one edge, it’s usually a sign that you have an alignment problem that a mechanic should handle. For that and other symptoms – like steering vibrations or pulling – you should have your steering and suspension systems inspected. That inspection should include: checking the power steering fluid, listening for unusual noises while the vehicle is in motion and a visual inspection of all major suspension components including the shocks, struts and springs.
Following a regular maintenance schedule is an important step in keeping your car safe and running for years to come. Consult your owner’s manual or mechanic to see when your car should have its next maintenance checkup.