It’s happened to all of us at some point in time. You’re on your way out the door in a rush to get to work or meet a deadline, get in your car to do your best simulation of “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift ” or “Knight Rider ” and 15 minutes later you’re on the side of the road with your car overheating or your “check engine” light flashing. With rising fuel prices, the last thing you want to worry about is the costly repairs of your car breaking down.
To protect your investment and extend the life of your car, here are some tips to get from point A to point B as reliably as possible.
- Check engine oil regularly – To protect your engine and improve your gas mileage, change your engine oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles (roughly every 3 to 6 months). Changing your oil filter should be a part of this procedure also. Check the owner’s manual if you’re changing the filter and oil yourself. Complete this task regularly and it’s possible your vehicle can attain 200,000 miles.
- Change the air filter – Changing your air filter requires no assistance and no tools. Your owner’s manual will show you where to locate your air filter and you can purchase a new one from many auto service or auto part stores. Your air filter should be changed every 12,000 miles.
- Keep tires properly inflated – Tires not properly inflated can decrease your gas mileage as much as 10 percent and reduce the life of your tires by 15 percent. With many gas stations offering “free air” pumps or 50 cents for air, keeping your tires inflated is the easiest task in car maintenance.
- Check your fluids – You car uses several fluids to run properly. Check the levels of your brake fluid, antifreeze, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and oil regularly. Its important to check the levels often because even if your car does not seem to be leaking fluid, a leak can develop fast and leave your car alarmingly low on a fluid with dangerous consequences. Some of the containers are translucent, making it easy to see if fluids are low. Other containers, such as your oil container, are opaque and require extracting the dipstick for an accurate measurement.
- Rotate your tires – To reduce the uneven wear and tear on the tread, rotate your tires. Your tires should be rotated diagonally (front right to rear left and front left to rear right). However some tires, such as most on sports cars, are directional and are meant to only spin one way (indicated by a large arrow on the inside wall of the tire). Tires should be rotated twice a year or every 6,000 miles.
- Get a front end alignment – If your car is shaking while you drive at high speeds or your tread is wearing unevenly, you may need an alignment. Aside from increased safety, a wheel alignment is great for extending the life of your tires.
- Don’t let break pads wear down to metal – If your car shakes or makes a high pitch sound while you are stopping, your brakes could be damaged. The pad on your brakes can completely diminish, leaving you with only metal on rotor (disc) friction to stop your vehicle. This is very dangerous and costly. Rotors and brake calipers are exponentially more expensive than brake pads. Accordingly, if you make sure to change your brake pads regularly, you will save yourself a lot of money and also be a much safer driver. Use your parking break, (not in winter) especially on inclines, to help extend the life of your rear brakes.
- Be kind to your car – Don’t jump in your car and speed off without allowing your car to reach its proper operating temperature. The oil is cold and thick when your car is not at the peak operating temperature and driving like this can cause extraneous stress to your engine.
Furthermore, make sure you read the car’s manual and schedule maintenance accordingly to avoid costly problems. Drive less by combining short errands and wash your car to eradicate road sludge and pollution that can lead to costly bodywork. Treat your vehicle well by leaving sooner, driving smoother, and your car will live longer.