Many drivers know the feeling of one moment sailing down the highway and the next moment hearing and awful, expensive-sounding noise coming from the vehicle. It could be the clunk-clunk of a flat tire, the grinding noise of brakes with worn out brake pads, or the knocking noise an engine with serious problems makes. Cars are significant financial investments. They are also, for many people, a necessity. Getting to work or getting kids to school is impossible for people in many areas of the United States without a car. Cars also represent freedom for some people. That freedom comes with responsibility and all vehicles require a basic degree of maintenance to continue operating.
The Importance of Car Maintenance
Proper car maintenance is vital for many reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is that keeping up to date with car maintenance will save drivers from more expensive repairs later. Sure, no one wants to pay $20-$100 every three months or so for an oil change. However, that’s preferable to paying $7,000 to replace the engine, which may be a likely outcome of not staying on top of oil changes. Staying up to date with car maintenance also makes it safer to drive. Proper maintenance can prevent issues (like old tires going flat) that lead to roadside emergencies. Keeping up with vehicle maintenance and maintaining repair records will often net you more money when you resell your vehicle. It’s also better for the planet. Excellent maintenance keeps the amount of pollution your car produces down. Regardless of the type of car, driving is more pleasurable in a vehicle that works well, with properly rotated and balanced tires, the correct oil level, windshield wiper blades that work correctly. Many people drive daily and with so much time spend on the road, it’s important to enjoy the drive when possible.
What to do in an Emergency
Vehicle maintenance protects the car and driver from many issues; however, no matter how attentive one may be to the needs of their vehicle, roadside emergencies can still happen. All drivers should know how to deal with simple car crises. A minor emergency almost every driver experiences is a dead battery. It’s easy to safely jump a dead battery. Newer cars are often more complicated to jump-start. Drivers should read their owner’s manual before to know best how the vehicle should be jumped. Similarly, almost every driver will experience a flat tire. The car’s owner manual also will explain where the spare is stored, what kind of spare is used on the car, and how the jack operates. Some people keep tow straps in their car so they can use a friend’s car or truck to tow their car instead of having to call a tow truck.
Common Maintenance All Automobiles Need
Some maintenance depends on the make and model of the car (for example, a hybrid car has slightly different maintenance requirements). Most basic maintenance, though, is required for all cars. An easy thing to do is to keep the vehicle washed and waxed. Doing so will extend the life of the car’s exterior paint. Drivers should also keep the wheels wiped down to remove any brake dust, which will eventually damage the wheels.
Regularly vehicle inspections are an important part of detecting issues with a car or truck. Remember to look at the dash when starting or turning off a vehicle. The dashboard houses a number of warning lights. When a light comes on, consult the owner’s manual to decipher the light. An ABS brake light and the check engine lights should be quickly taken in for evaluation. Mechanics can hook the car up to a computer and decipher the error code causing the light to come on. Some issues are quickly and cheaply solvable. Others threaten the life of a car.
Some maintenance is cyclical and critical. Tire care is very important. Rotating and balancing the tires assist in achieving the best fuel economy and makes the car safer. Usually, tires need to be rotated and balanced every 5,000 miles. Belts are also an important part of your car that wear out and can cause issues. Most cars have three belts. The recommended mileage before replacement differs between car manufacturers. The owner’s manual will tell you what belts are needed and when they will need to be replaced. Checking the oil level is also very important, and it is easy to do while putting gas in the car. Even when the oil level is fine, following manufacturer recommendation on the frequency of oil changes is recommended. Air filters and spark plugs can be replaced at your service center during oil changes, again following the mileage recommendation of the car’s manufacturer. People often think paying for premium gasoline is an easy (if more expensive) way to take great care of their car. However, premium gasoline isn’t necessary and provides no benefits to many cars. Always use the gasoline grade indicated in the vehicle’s owner manual.
Some drivers choose to save money by performing some or all of their car’s maintenance themselves. An easy first task is learning how to add windshield wiper fluid. Another simple task is changing out a headlight or rear light. Some people then go on and learn how to change turn signal relays or change their own oil.
Some basic tools will be needed to perform vehicle maintenance. A basic set would include screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, and channel locks in various sizes. A better quality jack than the one that came with the car is a good purchase. Also, try and find the car repair manual for the vehicle being worked on. This is not the same as the owner’s manual. The repair manual is designed for service center employees and gives detail and insight into how a car works and how to make basic repairs.
Using Technology to Track Maintenance
Staying on top of maintenance is a key part of keeping a car running safely and well. Luckily, there are many technological tools to assist drivers in staying up to date. The first is your cell phone’s calendar. Most maintenance is described as being so many miles or so much time (so perhaps the oil needs to be changed every 3,000 miles or 3 months). It’s easy to calendar reminders for oil changes, tire rotations, and spark plug changes. There are also dedicated car care apps that track maintenance. These include the Autocare app, which works on both Android and iOS devices.
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