Maintaining a car means a lot more than just driving it to the mechanic’s when you hear a bumping noise under the hood. There are some things that need to be constantly checked, regulated, readjusted or refilled. A car should be considered a big responsibility, not just because of the money you are investing in it every day, but mostly because not taking good care of your car puts you, as well as all other drivers, at huge risk. Here are a few things you should especially pay attention to when it comes to regular maintenance of your car.
Bad tire pressure can have numerous negative effects: it can hurt your fuel economy, reduce the lifetime of your tires, make your handling awkward and cause your drive to be very uncomfortable in general. You should check it once every week or two and make sure that the pressure is neither too high nor too low. The pressure should be checked when tires are cold, before you even start the car or after no more than a couple of miles of driving. The ideal pressure is indicated in the owner’s manual and sometimes on the sticker placed inside the door pillar. You can find pressure gauges at basically every gas station and measuring tire pressure is very easy – just remove the caps from the air valves, place the gauge into the valve stem, and wait for the reading to appear on the screen.
The key with brake maintenance is to react when you hear suspicious screeching or scraping noises coming from the direction of one of your wheels. Don’t worry – nothing tragic will happen if you don’t do something about it right away, but make sure to change the brake pads soon, before the grinding sounds start, because that’s when it can get bad. In theory, your brakes should be checked by a pro once a year or after every 10000 miles, but this could be done more or less often, depending on the type of the car you drive, its weight, quality of your brakes and your driving style.
Your car inhales a huge amount of air – a 2-liter engine “eats” approximately 3000 liters of air every minute, and that’s why you should make sure your air filters are in order. They get clogged with dust, bugs, dirt, and all sorts of debris, which can affect your fuel consumption as well as the general performance of your car. Again, how often you should check and change it should be indicated in the manual, but if you mostly drive in heavy traffic, you might be bound to replace your air filter sooner than expected. Locating the airbox, opening it and replacing the filter is fairly quick and simple, so you can do this yourself in just a few minutes.
The oil system is a kind of a bloodstream of your car. It runs through the entire engine, reducing friction between its parts, thus preventing damage and ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Since there’s a lot of metal-to-metal contact in your engine that needs to be lubricated, it’s very important to check the level and quality of oil regularly. Exhaust gasses and heat contaminate and reduce the viscosity of oil over time and a general recommendation is to change it every 5-10 thousand miles. However, you’ll want to check the oil level more often in case there are leakages: if you don’t have an electronic indication on your dashboard, just take the dipstick from under the hood and put it in the oil compartment – there’s usually a notch on the dipstick that indicates the required level. Make sure to use only high-quality oil, such as Castrol, since the low-tier types can make engine parts wear out faster and even cause huge breakdowns.
Checking your lights regularly obviously won’t make your car run better, but it will improve your safety on the road and you will avoid getting fined. Your headlights, brake lights, reverse lights and turn signals are all very important for a safe drive. How to approach your lightbulbs and change them is usually explained in the manual and it’s different for every car. Avoid touching the glass with your bare hands when changing the bulb, since leaving oil and grease on the glass can later cause the bulb to overheat and crack.
Apart from these, you should regularly take care of a number of other things, like controlling the level of other liquids such as antifreeze or power steering fluid, checking the tire tread depth and wheel alignment, cleaning the contacts of your battery and much more. The key is to keep your eyes open, stay alert, and not ignore any strange noises or occurrences that you notice.