Owning a car can be one of the most rewarding experiences. But it’s not without responsibility. In order to ensure your car remains a reliable mode of transportation, you need to keep it in good condition. So we’ve collected a list of simple and easy-to-follow car maintenance tips to help you keep your car running smooth. These tips apply to pretty much every car owner. Most car maintenance isn’t really all that involved or difficult but some aspects are more involved than others and will require you bringing your vehicle to a service center.
Wheels & Tires
Make a habit out of checking your tire pressure. At least once every few weeks, when you stop in at the gas station to top off your fuel, take a few moments to check the air in your tires and make sure they’re all at good pressure. If not, add air until they’re at an acceptable PSI. Low tire pressure can affect your car’s fuel efficiency and make it less safe on the road.
Turn It Around
You should be in the habit of getting your tires rotated every 5,000 miles. The easiest way to do this is during your scheduled oil change if you use a service center. (If you change your car’s oil on your own, you’ll have to make a separate trip to the center for a rotation.) Rotating your tires will ensure they wear evenly and extend the overall life of your tires, saving you money over time.
Clean Your Brakes
Brake dust can build up over time and wreak havoc on your brakes and wheels. The longer you wait between cleanings, the easier it is for that road grime, moisture and heat to bake onto your wheels making it that much more difficult to remove. If you’re consistent, you should only need a damp sponge to wipe brake dust clear as it normally clings to wheels with static electricity.
Check Your Tread
If you’re keeping your tires properly inflated and rotating them regularly, your tread should last a long time. The rule of thumb is that your tread needs to be at least 2/32” in depth – you can use a penny to do a quick test. If Lincoln’s head is partially covered, you have at least 2/32” of tread left. But remember, that’s the minimum tread depth by law in some states. Minimum doesn’t mean ideal, so if your tire tread is getting low, invest in replacing them ASAP.
Check the Belts
Your engine compartment can be a hot and dry place – not the ideal environment for rubber, which turns brittle and crumbles over time. Have your timing belt and accessory drive belt checked every 25,000 miles to ensure their still in usable condition and are at the right tension. You may need to have them replaced every 50,000 miles depending on wear and deterioration.
Check Your Oil
This is a quick and simple task that just about anyone can do and will let you know if your car’s engine is in need of oil. Whether there’s too much or too little in the engine, the wrong amount of oil can be an issue for your car. To check it, make sure you’ve parked on a flat surface and allowed time for your engine to cool.
Once your engine has cooled down, you’ll want to locate your engine’s dipstick. Pull the dipstick out by the ring and use a clean cloth to wipe it clean. Then insert it back until it is seated properly in the dip tube. Wait a moment and then pull the stick out again. Now look at the level markers on the stick and where the oil has collected. If it’s between the high and low marks, then your levels are good.
Check Your Coolant
Another simple check while you’ve got the hood up. Check your owner’s manual to determine where your coolant reservoir is located. Typically, it’s found on the side of the engine in a semi-white transparent container. Check the level markers on the outside of the container against the liquid’s level and add more if it is below the minimum or getting low. Do NOT remove the radiator cap to check coolant. Depending on the temperature of the engine, it could be under pressure and may burn you when the cap is removed.
How to Disconnect And Reconnect Your Battery
If you need to do any work on your car’s electrical system, you need to disconnect the battery first. When you do so, loosen the connector for the negative/ground terminal first. Why? Disconnecting the positive side of the battery first leaves the negative side still connected and if you were to drop something on the positive terminal, you could cause an electrical short. With the negative disconnected first, you’re cutting off the return path for the current. If a tool were to touch either terminal and the car body, it wouldn’t matter because the electrical current doesn’t have a continuous path.
When you reconnect your battery, connect the positive terminal first. When you slip the negative connector on, there will be a spark as it gets close and makes contact with the negative battery terminal. This is to be expected.
Check Your Terminals
Most cars run on a 12-volt system. If your battery terminals (or contacts) are dirty, that impedes the electrical charge and makes it more difficult for the current. You can use a metal wire brush to clean the metal contacts to ensure a good terminal connection.
If your blinker flashes faster in one direction or not at all it is usually an indicator of a blown bulb. Your local auto parts store will be able to help you with the proper replacement. Your manual will provide instructions on how to access the indicator bulbs for replacement.
If you need to change the bulb for your headlight, be sure you avoid touching the glass of the bulb. Most bulbs for headlights have special coatings on the outside of the glass. If you touch the bulb with your fingers, you will leave oil and grease which will heat up when the lamp is on and can eventually cause it to crack. Be sure to only touch the metal bulb holder or use rubber gloves to install the bulb.