With the stresses of daily use as we approach the halfway-point of this year, perhaps it's time give your car a treat.
If your car has traveled over 10,000 kilometers over the past year, perhaps its time to bring it in for a service. We've all heard of the importance of regular maintenance but what exactly needs to be done? Here are the five things that are checked and replaced every time you drive in for service.
There's a saying that goes 'motor oil is the lifeblood of your engine'. With hundreds of moving parts in your motor working to propel you forward, there's a lot of heat and a lot of friction involved - hence the importance of proper lubrication. However because it's fluid it eventually degrades and will need replacing periodically. If you fail to do so, oil turns into sludge and does even more harm to your engine considering the oil contributes to friction rather than removing it. So now the question presents itself: How often should you change your oil? Every car (and owner) will have different answers, but for convenience's sake simply follow the manufacturer's recommendations on your service manual.
An engine needs three components to run: Air, fuel and ignition. Taking care of ignition are your spark plugs and, without it, your car won't start. Spark plugs go through a lot of heat and pressure so you can imagine that small yet vital part will eventually lose its performance. Fouled up plugs can lead to misfiring of your engine, as well as a drop in fuel economy. Mind you, a misfiring engine will eventually lead to a blown engine if not addressed immediately. With a fresh set of plugs, you car can run smoother and more efficiently until your next scheduled service. Do take note that spark plugs are only found in gasoline engines and not in diesels.
Oil isn't the only fluid keeping your car in tip top shape. There are a lot of vital fluids involved in keeping your car's various systems in check. At the front, you have your coolant in the radiator. Given the Philippines' perpetually hot climate, there will always be a risk of overheating. To prevent that, a 50-50 mix of distilled water and coolant will keep engine temperatures down with proper use.
Next, you have fluids for your transmission. It's no longer a case of manual or automatic as there are different kinds of transmissions now available in the market, namely CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) and DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission). There are different specifications of transmission fluids but to choose the right one, refer to your vehicle's owner's manual. Special transmissions, like the ones stated above, have their own specific kind of fluid.
Stopping is just as important as moving and, for that, you need brake fluid. Again, there are different kinds of brake fluids available but a quick look at your manual will sort things out for you. With the dawn of electric power steering, there's little maintenance to be done with the steering system but if your car is equipped with a hydraulic type, make sure it's full and fresh with proper power steering fluid.
It's not enough that you just change your oil. Just as important is your oil filter. The filter is designed to separate the contaminants in motor oil, but through time, it eventually gets packed up and clogged. Simply changing your oil but not the filter means your fresh motor oil immediately becomes contaminated and the filter gets more clogged. With a clogged filter, the oil is no longer making it to the areas it's supposed to protect and eventually suffers damage.
Other filters to replace would be your air filter and cabin air filter. A clogged air filter means less air getting into the engine, bogging down performance and fuel economy. As for the cabin air filter, a new one will provide fresher, more breathable air to the interior.
Vital components, such as the radiator fan, alternator and aircon compressors, are run by a series of belts. Should these belts fail, important parts may fail to work and damage your cooling system, electrical system or even the whole engine. Normally, these belts last long and a mechanic is on hand to tell you whether or not it needs replacing. If you are unsure, consult the owner's manual.
All these items are your usual wear-and-tear items that will be replaced during servicing. While it may be the mechanic's job to take care of sorting these out, it's your responsibility as an owner to keep your car in check to give your mechanic an idea of what he'll be working with.