You depend on your car, and your car depends on regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly. But sometimes it’s tempting to skip routine maintenance or put it off because of the cost or the inconvenience of being without your car. Don’t.
Mistake #1: Skipping basic tire maintenance
Your tires are the only parts of your car that make contact with the road and they do it for thousands and thousands of miles. That’s why even basic tire maintenance goes a long way.
Rotate your tires: Tires don’t wear evenly. The front tires usually have more wear on the outside edges, because they lean when you turn right or left. The front tires also hold the weight of the engine. To help your tires wear evenly, you need to rotate them every 5,000-7,000 miles.
If you don’t rotate them, your front tires will wear out more quickly and you’ll need to replace them thousands of miles sooner.
Align your tires: If you’ve ever taken your hand off the wheel while driving, and notice your car veering toward the side, you need an alignment. You need to align your tires to keep them pointing straight ahead. You can easily knock them out of alignment by going over a pothole.
If you don’t align your tires, you can experience steering problems, poor fuel economy, and uneven tire wear.
Check tire pressure: You should also regularly check the tire pressure. If yours is a newer vehicle, it comes with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) which helps you know when you’re low.
An underinflated tire will increase your risk of a blowout.
Mistake #2: Ignoring your fluids
Your car relies on engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid. Fluids deteriorate over time and can get dirty, making them less effective and even corrosive. It’s important for all of these fluids to be at the right levels so they can do their job.
Change the oil: Engine oil keeps everything lubricated, but it gets dirty over time. Changing the oil regularly is important. It used to be that we changed the oil every 3,000 miles but if you’re using synthetic oil, you can go longer. Check your vehicle recommendations for the timeframe.
If you don’t change your oil, it can become so dirty that it doesn’t work. That will cause your engine to overheat, blow a gasket or seize up.
Check the coolant: Coolant, or antifreeze, keeps your engine from overheating or freezing. If your temperature gauge is running high, it’s time for a coolant flush. You also might notice a maple syrup scent that occurs when your car is burning through coolant and needs a refresh. You should have your coolant system inspected regularly; check your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
Your engine could overheat or blow a gasket, necessitating major repairs. Dirty coolant also can cause corrosion.
Check the brake fluid: Brake fluid can last for years. But sometimes moisture can get into the sealed system and impact your ability to brake and cause corrosion. Get your fluid checked every couple of years.
If you don’t maintain your brake fluid, your brakes may feel spongy and it may take longer to come to a stop. Your brakes could even fail.
Change the transmission fluid: Transmission fluid lubricates the gears, cools them, and helps provide hydraulic pressure to make them work. Whether you drive a vehicle with a manual transmission or one that’s automatic will depend on how often you need fresh transmission fluid. Check your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
If you don’t change your transmission fluid, you will have difficulty shifting gears and your transmission could overheat.
Look for leaks in the power steering fluid: Power steering fluid helps you turn the wheel easily. As long as there are no leaks, and your car’s manufacturer does not suggest changing the fluid, you’re probably fine to leave it be.
If there is a leak, and your fluid dips down, it will be hard to steer. Parts of your steering system could corrode.
Mistake #3: Waiting too long to replace your brake pads
Brake pads apply pressure on the rotors, which is what ultimately slows and stops your vehicle. How fast they wear depends upon your driving habits, your car’s make and model, and other factors. You might notice signs of your pads wearing out, such as a squeaking sound or a clicking noise when you brake. The brake pedal may vibrate when you brake. Perhaps it takes you longer to brake. Don’t wait for weeks or months after the first warning signs.
Without good working brake pads, the whole braking system could overheat and fail. It also could cause damage to the rotors.
Mistake #4: Ignoring noises or dashboard warnings
Sounds serve as warning signals. That’s why if you hear something new or unusual when you’re driving, pay attention. Here’s what some common sounds could mean:
- Hissing – leak in the cooling system or the vacuum system
- Clunking over potholes or bumps – faulty, loose, or worn parts
- Howling – bad bearings or worn gears
- Knocking – valve clearances need to be adjusted or rod bearings need to be replaced
- Shrieking – serpentine belt may be slipping or need to be replaced
- Moaning or growling – failure of the power steering pump
- Metallic rattling or pinging – abnormal ignition
- Crunching – clutch issues in a manual transmission
Also, don’t ignore the dashboard warnings. Those lights are there to give you an early indication that something needs to be addressed.
Waiting too long to address a noise or dashboard indicator gives the problem a chance to become larger and more expensive.
Mistake #5: Not following your car’s maintenance schedule
The most important thing you can do is to follow your car’s maintenance schedule. This schedule is specific to your vehicle and will help to avoid costly repairs. It increases safety, helps maintain your vehicle’s value, and ultimately saves you time. Just as preventive care keeps you healthy, this maintenance schedule keeps your car operating at peak performance.
Not following your car maintenance schedule could void your warranty, and you’ll be responsible for the expensive repairs.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
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