Not only can regular car maintenance save you money but it can also prevent unexpected mechanical failures. Nobody wants to be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm, or when leaving your home because of an local emergency or disaster. Keeping up with your vehicle’s needs is critical to a happy ownership experience and fortunately there’s quite a bit the average motorist can do to keep their ride running in tip-top shape.
Hikingware.com offers these basic suggestions from professional car mechanics to make sure you can get in your vehicle and GO if and when the need ever arises suddenly:
Lubricate door latches and key holes.
This may seem like a small thing, but it can become critical if you live in a part of the country where it gets below zero and/or experiences ice storms. Unlubricated, a car door can become frozen shut — making it nearly impossible to open. Use a lithium-based grease spray on hinges and key holes every 6 months. At the very least, it’ll prevent squeaks!
Change the air filter.
An air filter prevents dust and grit from entering the delicate internals of your car or truck’s engine. Luckily these are generally simple and inexpensive to change. Depending on how polluted and dusty your area is, it’s a good idea to change them at least once every six months.
Disposable paper filters can be purchased for as little as $20. Installing a new one is an easy way of insuring your engine has a good supply of fresh air. If you want a little extra performance and to help the environment you can invest in a washable, high-flow filter.
Traction and stability can be affected by tires that are either over or underinflated. Having a good pressure gauge is the only way of properly keeping tabs on this. You can get a simple analogue unit or even a battery-operated one with a digital display; either will do the deed without breaking the bank.
Of course there’s more the average motorist can do with his or her vehicle’s tires. Rotating them can increase the number of miles they last, saving money in the long run. All that’s needed for this task is a socket or tire iron for loosening the lug nuts, a good quality jack and some jack stands for safety. If you don’t feel up to rotating them yourself, check to see if free rotation is included the next time you buy a new set of tires — it often is.
The serpentine belt.
The serpentine belt is what powers all of your vehicle’s accessories. It takes the engine’s rotation from the crankshaft pulley and uses it to turn other things like the water pump, alternator and air-conditioning compressor. Without a belt your car or truck’s engine would overheat and its battery would die. So check for wear and tear, and keep an eye out for even the smallest of cracks — when you see them, it’s time to make a change!
Changing your serpentine belt can be accomplished with basic hand tools in just a few minutes. Additionally these rubber components are very affordable so there’s no excuse for not taking care of this maintenance item.
And while you’re under the hood it might be a good idea to change the spark plugs as well. This task is a little more challenging as they can be a bear to get at in some vehicles.
More adventuresome motorists that are up to the challenge may find the job rewarding, it can also improve performance and fuel economy. Many vehicles these days come with spark plugs that are equipped with platinum-tipped electrodes. These are often rated to last for 100,000 miles so you don’t have to change them very often.
Changing your ride’s oil is one of the simplest and most effective ways of keeping it running well for years to come. A good quality lubricant will protect internal components from the damaging effects of friction, heat and other combustion byproducts. A premium filter will prevent any particles from damaging delicate internal components.
Read the service manual.
Finally, one of the best recommendations professional mechanics make is picking up a good service manual. These books offer invaluable advice on how to repair and maintain your vehicle. They’ll walk you through even complicated procedures one step at a time so you can succeed in making necessary repairs. A service manual is a smart investment if you plan on keeping your ride reliable after the factory warranty expires.