With the hustle bustle of everyday life these days, the thought of car maintenance has become akin to going to the dentist and often remedied with a quick oil change – if we happen to think about it and have nothing better to do. But effective preventative maintenance goes well beyond regular oil changes, much less random, infrequent ones.
Preventative Maintenance – better now than never.
With automobile prices where they are today, it might be wise to slow down and spend more time taking care of your investment – your car. Preventative maintenance really does extend the life of your car, and rest assured, it can’t all be done in the time it takes to change the oil.
Items that need to be checked when the hood goes up should include:
The Oil: The oil should be changed in most passenger cars and light trucks every three months or 3,000 miles (6 months or 5,000 miles for some vehicles or when using full synthetic motor oil). Although the intervals can be stretched to as much as twice this under light use or when using synthetic oils, the savings are often questionable and if you are driving in the Texas heat, light use becomes a misnomer. After all, a few quarts of oil are much cheaper than an overhaul. Oil filters need to be replaced every time the oil is changed. The oil filter traps contaminates in the engine oil that would otherwise come between moving engine parts causing premature wear. A new filter is cheap insurance against major engine damage, so why take unnecessary risks? Another reason for replacing the filter every time the oil is changed is to prevent the contamination of the fresh oil.
The Fluid Levels: Coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, battery water and even the windshield washer fluid need attention. If low, fluid levels need to be topped off. And if unusually low, the corresponding system needs to be checked for leaks or other ailments.
The Filters: Air, fuel and crankcase breather filters need inspection as well. Don’t just rely on the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. Air filters need to be inspected regularly, especially in dusty climates, and replaced as often as necessary regardless of mileage or time. Dirty air filters can increase fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
For vehicles equipped with serviceable fuel filters, the fuel filter should be replaced annually and/or at every tune-up or as specified in the manufacture service interval. With a clogged filter, either the engine is starved for fuel or unfiltered fuel is allowed to by-pass the filter. The latter can be very damaging to the fuel injectors.
The Tune-up: Opinions differ as to what a tune-up should include but every engine should be given as thorough a check-up as possible. Replacing the spark plugs, fuel filter, checking various emission control components should be included in most “tune ups”. Automotive professionals generally recommend a tune-up every 30,000 miles. If your vehicle has platinum spark plugs, they’re usually good for 60,000 to 100,000 miles or possibly more.
Chassis Lubrication: Most passenger cars today have sealed ball joints and tie rod ends but not all, so be sure to check. Some U-joints on rear-wheel drive vehicles are serviceable via grease fittings but CV joints are not. Still, be sure to check the protective rubber or plastic boots around the CV joints while you’re under the car. If damaged, they need to be replaced because they keep the grease in while keeping the dirt and water out.
The Coolant: Bi-metal engines (engines with aluminum heads and cast iron blocks for example) and those with aluminum radiators and other cooling system components are vulnerable to electrolysis corrosion if the coolant isn’t replaced often enough. It is important that there is the correct amount of coolant verses water in your engine’s cooling system and that the coolant is of the correct type. A misstep in this area can cause cooling system boil over and rapid evaporation in the summer or freezing of the cooling system in the winter. A 50-50 mix of coolant and water is usually most effective against both freezing and boil over. Car Care Central offers a free cooling system inspection to alert you of any service needs!
The Belts and Hoses: Never close a hood without inspecting the belts and hoses. Belts and hoses need to be checked regularly because a failure often disables a car. This is especially true of timing belts! All belts and hoses eventually must be replaced because the rubber simply deteriorates. Heat makes rubber brittle and prone to cracking with age. So belts should be inspected for cracking, fraying or glazing. Make sure the belts are adjusted properly too. If you ever hear squealing from the engine compartment, have the belts inspected immediately. Hoses tend to soften and swell with age and heat and when they come into contact with oil based chemicals. Inspect for swelling, cracking and splitting.
Don’t forget the brake hoses too! They should be inspected whenever the wheels are removed and during any brake system maintenance.
Tires: Proper air pressure and alignment of your car’s front end is extremely important in getting the most out of your tires. Nobody likes buying tires, and the longer they last, the better.
Contrary to popular belief, the inflation pressure listed on a tire’s sidewall is the maximum pressure the tire may be safely inflated to and not necessarily the pressure recommended by the manufacturer of your car. Check your vehicle owner’s manual or the placard located on the driver’s door jamb or inside the glove box for proper inflation figures. In addition to accelerated wear, a tire that is a mere four or five pounds under inflated can rob up to a half a mile per gallon!
Hybrid/Electric Vehicles: Much of the aforementioned maintenance items will apply as a hybrid vehicle will still have a gasoline powered engine, brakes and tires, among other things. Strictly electric vehicles won’t need fuel filters or spark plugs, but will have other applicable maintenance requirements as will the electrical component of a hybrid vehicle’s drivetrain. A qualified technician familiar with hybrid and electric vehicles should be consulted regarding specific vehicle makes and models.
These are just some guidelines for effective preventative maintenance. Individual vehicle requirements and driving habits play a major role in determining a comprehensive, effective preventative maintenance program. At Driver’s Edge, we perform all types of Preventative Maintenance including periodic, 30, 60 and 90,000 thousand-mile services. Please call or visit a Driver’s Edge location near you to schedule your vehicle for a complimentary inspection.