No matter how old or how new your car may be, the key to keep it running as efficiently as possible is to ensure that it’s always well maintained. The role of your vehicle is to get you where you need to be, safely and efficiently. Your role is to help your vehicle continue to provide you with the reliable service you need. By following these five car maintenance tips, you’ll keep your car at the top of its game and you’ll save a lot of money in the long run:
1. Check the Oil. Before checking the oil level in your car, be sure it’s parked on a level surface; also, make sure that the engine has been off for at least five minutes. This five-minute lag allows the oil to run back out of the engine and into the oil pan. When you’re ready, remove the dipstick from the tube that serves to guide it into the pan. First wipe the oil off the dipstick; then put it back into the guide and down into the pan. Slowly bring it back out and check the oil level. If the oil level lies between the MIN and MAX marks on the stick, your vehicle has a proper amount; if it’s below this level, it’s time to add more oil.
2. Cooling System Maintenance. Just like with the engine oil, it’s vital that you keep the coolant at the right level, too. Prior to checking your coolant, you’ll want to make sure the vehicle is on a level surface and that the engine is cool. You can determine whether the temperature has reached an acceptable level by turning the ignition key on and watch the temperature gauge; do not open the coolant reservoir if the gauge doesn’t indicate a low temperature (158 degrees F or below). If the coolant level is low, it is time to replenish the fluid as directed.
Something to remember about car fluids: When the fluid level is too low, there’s usually a reason. The low level could be the result of normal use, but don’t take this for granted. There could also be a loose or busted line that needs repair. When I find a low fluid level, I take my car into Richmond’s Aarrow Transmission repair shop for a proper inspection.
3. Clean Your Vehicle Regularly. Most people think the only reason to keep a vehicle clean is for the sake of appearance. Not so. Here in Virginia, the underside of cars can be vulnerable to the build-up of road grime, salts, and even moisture. Avoid damaging rust and corrosion by washing your car’s underside regularly and doing what you can to keep it free of deposits – particularly after wintertime snows.
4. Brake Fluid Check. One of the best ways you can keep your vehicle in good condition is to avoid accidents. And one of the best ways to avoid accidents is to keep your brakes in top shape. A proper level of brake fluid makes it much easier for your brakes to stop your car within a safe distance. Make checking the brake fluid part of your regular maintenance activities. You should be able to find a plastic reservoir near the brake master cylinder, on the driver’s side of the care. You’ll want to see a fluid level within a half-inch of the top of the reservoir.
5. Proper Tire Pressure. Considering the size of your vehicle, its connection to the road is quite small. Just the very bottoms of your tires are responsible for generating the traction and grip needed to start, stop, and maneuver along roadways. Without proper traction, you’re much more likely to suffer a car accident; without proper pressure, your tires may also suffer excess wear and require early replacement.
To help your tires keep you out of trouble, be certain to check them regularly to confirm they are properly inflated. While an eye test is helpful, using a tire pressure gauge (and referring to your manufacturer’s recommended pressure) is the best way to go.