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May 29, 2015

Regular Car Maintenance 101: What You Need To Inspect Between Servicing

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Regular preventive maintenance is important to keep your car in tip-top shape and avoid expensive major repairs. Knowing how your car works and how to detect common car problems is a good way to prepare yourself for repairs and avoid rip-offs. You can identify many common problems using your senses: listening for unusual noises, scrutinizing the area around your vehicle, noticing strange odours, or noticing a difference in the way your car handles.

Regular Car Maintenance 101

Here are some tips to head off repair problems:

First, read your owner’s manual

Different auto repair shops ask you to maintain a specific maintenance schedule that is usually shorter than that specified by your auto manufacturer. To avoid falling for maintenance myths, like changing oil every 3,000 miles, check what your manufacturer says about changing oil, transmission fluid filters, timing or drive belts, and other fluids and components. This will also ensure that you use the right oil and other fluids.

Inspect your vehicle

Check the lights on your car periodically to ensure that they are working well. Also check the air pressure and treads on your tires every month or so to spot possible problems. If you detect wet spots under your vehicle, check them immediately. You can identify the leaking fluid based on its col or:

  • Clear puddle – probably water from normal condensation from your car’s air conditioner
  • Red oily spot – leaking transmission or power-steering fluid
  • Dark brown or black oily fluid – leaking engine oil due to a bad seal or gasket
  • Yellowish-green/fluorescent orange/pastel blue fluid – antifreeze leak due to faulty water pump, hose, or radiator

Check your fluids

Even if there is no leakage, you should check the level of different fluids, including oil, coolant, antifreeze, transmission fluid, power-steering fluid, and coolant. You can assess the tank level directly, or use a gauge or dipstick. If you’re running low, top the fluid up, or get it changed.

Research unusual smells and sounds

You can identify certain car problems by their odour or noise emitted. For instance, a sweet, steamy odour could indicate a coolant leak. The smell should be accompanied by a temperature warning light. But if the temperature gauge does not indicate overheating, drive carefully to the closest service station while keeping an eye on the gauges. A hot, metallic odour and steam from under the hood means that your engine has already overheated.

Replace your air filters

Your vehicle’s air filter is perhaps the easiest to replace without seeking professional help, though you may need to visit a technician to get the engine air filter changes. Your owner’s manual should indicate how often the various filters should be replaces.

Other useful inspections include:

  • Checking the battery contacts for mineral build up or leakage. It is best to buy a battery cleaning brush for your own maintenance
  • Replace windshield wipers yourself when the view gets streaky
  • Inspect your engine belts, and check your owner’s manual for the proper changing interval
  • Check spark plugs for build-up or wear, and replace them as instructed by your manufacturer

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