Whether you’re an experienced mechanic or a novice, there are plenty of important things that should be on your vehicle maintenance checklist. The key is to know what needs to be checked, and when. By doing so, you can maximize your car’s life and performance.
OIL AND COOLANT LEVELS
Engine oil is a lubricant that reduces friction between engine components as they spin thousands of times per minute. Without consistent oil changes, your engine could suffer severe damage. Coolant (antifreeze) keeps your engine cool in the summer and protects it from freezing in the winter. Low coolant levels could lead to problems with the radiator or other cooling system components.
The engine oil and coolant in your vehicle are among the most important fluids to keep at the right levels. They play a significant role in almost every aspect of your car’s operation, from fuel economy to longevity, so it’s important to check them regularly. Like the engine oil, coolant levels should be checked at least once a month.
Typically, most cars come equipped with disposable paper filters that are designed to last 12-15,000 miles under normal driving conditions. Over time, however, these filters can become clogged with debris and impede airflow into the engine. Most owners’ manuals recommend replacing the air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. In addition to protecting your engine, an air filter helps improve the overall performance of your vehicle.
TIRE PRESSURE AND TREAD DEPTH
Your tires’ tread depth is essential to safety, performance, and traction on the road. Shallow grooves cause your tires to lose grip and increase the chance of hydroplaning on wet roads. A tire’s tread depth is measured from the top of the tread to the lowest groove in the tire. Most tires have wear bars that are molded into the tread. When these bars become visually flush with the tread depth, it is time for replacement.
A tire’s pressure can also change during the day due to heat generated by driving and the sun’s rays, so it is important to check tire pressure at least once a month and before long trips. Your vehicle’s owner’s manual or the driver’s side door jamb should provide instructions for the factory recommended air pressure.
Spark plugs are a crucial component of your engine because they ignite the air and fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. They also help dissipate heat away from the cylinder head and ensure that your car’s engine runs smoothly. Besides being a critical part of your vehicle’s functioning, spark plugs have the added benefit of being easy to replace. They usually come in several different sizes, depending on the make and model of your car.
The serpentine belt is a rubberized belt that winds around a series of pulleys on your engine. It’s responsible for powering accessories like the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning compressor. Serpentine belts are designed to last about 90,000 miles before they break. The lifespan is largely determined by the quality of the rubber used in the belt.
There are many fluids to keep an eye out for, but transmission fluid is one of the more important, and one of the most overlooked. This fluid has the power to make or break your ride. To get the most out of your investment, learn your vehicle’s fluid replacement schedule and take a proactive approach to keeping it in tip top condition. It can be daunting to plan for the long term, but the smart driver knows that it is well worth the effort.
TRANSFER CASE FLUID
The key to keeping this system running efficiently is regular transfer case fluid replacement. It serves as lubricant for the gears and bearings inside the case, as well as a means of clearing contaminants that can cause damage to the parts. It also helps to protect the transfer case from excessive heat. As a result, this fluid should be exchanged at your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended intervals. A good place to start looking for the right fluid is to check your owner’s manual.
INSPECT SHOCKS AND STRUTS
Your car’s shocks and struts help absorb bumps in the road and limit your car’s bouncing. They also provide structural support for the suspension, as well as steering assistance. Struts typically are found on the front wheels of most vehicles. They incorporate a coil spring, spring seats, shock absorber, strut bearing and steering knuckle into a single unit that is mounted vertically behind the tires.
If your vehicle’s shocks or struts are old, it may be time to replace them. You can test the shocks of your vehicle to determine if they are worn out by pushing it up and down on the front or rear. If it bounces right back, then the shocks have lost their damping ability and should be replaced. You can also check for signs of deterioration by noticing your vehicle’s nose diving when you brake or the ride getting a little more bouncy.