Car maintenance: Oversights you should avoid
Last updated: January 1
While you may change your oil regularly, other small maintenance tasks can fall through the cracks. This can result in costly repairs and damage to your vehicle. But if you follow these few simple tips, you can help keep your vehicle running smoothly and maintain its overall value when it's time to sell.
Wash your car
Different climates present different obstacles to keeping your vehicle looking sharp. Winter can cause a buildup of road salt, ice and slush that corrodes the paint on your vehicle. Summer presents its own challenges with dirt, sap and sand that can also cause damage. Fortunately, you don't need to go to an expensive car wash every few weeks to keep your vehicle clean. Popular Mechanics highlighted steps for you to wash your car at home and potentially save a few bucks by avoiding the car wash.
If you are planning on washing your car, it's important to pick the right soap, according to Consumer Reports. Laundry detergent, dish soap or hand soap are abrasive and may strip off the protective wax. It's best to use a car soap that's specifically designed to be used on automotive paint.
Check the fluids
It may be tempting to ignore the warning light for a day or two when your car's fluids are low. However, according to Popular Mechanics, low fluid levels can negatively impact your car's performance, fuel economy and longevity. It's recommended to check your fluids, as well as top them off at every oil change. These fluids include:
- Motor oil
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
Also, as Car Advice points out, your fluids may need to be flushed and replaced periodically, since they can break down and lose potency over time. Remember to always follow the recommendations in your owner's manual to ensure you're adding the correct fluids and amount.
Inspect and maintain your tires
Engine maintenance is the key to a healthy vehicle, but don't forget about the only part of your car that touches the road, your tires. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire pressure and treadwear impacts everything from your vehicle's handling to your gas mileage.
Look at your owner's manual to find the correct pressure for your tires. (The number displayed on the tires may not be accurate.) By keeping your tires properly inflated you can maximize your gas mileage. The U.S. Dept. of Energy found that maintaining the correct tire pressure can improve your gas mileage by up to 3%. Also, to avoid potential flat tires and blowouts, it's recommended that you rotate your tires regularly.
Check your windshield wipers
Windshield wipers are the last thing on your mind until it's too late and you're caught in the rain. When they go bad, it can dramatically affect your vision and ability to drive safely. To avoid a lack of vision, check your windshield wipers regularly and watch out for any warning signs that point to a loss of effectiveness. These signs included squeaking, chattering while on the road, streaks and wet spots. The Family Handyman recommends replacing your windshield wipers on a regular schedule, typically every six to 12 months.
Check belts and hoses
A broken belt or a leaky hose can stop you in your tracks. For example, a snapped serpentine belt can cause several systems to fail, including your air conditioner compressor and power steering, according to Consumer Reports. Plus, they also point out that if your radiator hose is damaged or leaking, your car can quickly overheat, resulting in significant damage.
To avoid any problems, you, or your mechanic, should check your hoses and belts during every oil change. Also, it's easy to pop your hood occasionally to see if there are any overly worn belts, or cracked, broken or hardened hoses. As Bob Vila points out, if you hear any squealing or wailing noises when your car is running, a belt or hose may be going bad. Consult your mechanic and owner's manual on how and when to replace any belts or hoses.
With a regular maintenance schedule and a little elbow grease, you may be able to save time and avoid costly repairs in the long run. Set a schedule that works for you and you'll stay on the road and out of the repair shop.