Basic and practical tips for keeping your ride in tip-top shape
When you purchase a car, you accept the responsibility of keeping your ride road-worthy. More than that, you need to be concerned about your safety and that of your passengers.
Every car owner (and driver for this matter) should understand the value of having a well-maintained car. While some think that money can be saved by skipping regular car maintenance, think again. Any item that gets used will experience wear and tear eventually. This inevitable process can and will affect the performance of your vehicle, meaning you can lose engine power, get slower response with the controls, or a myriad of other effects.
The habit of keeping your car in an acceptable (or even excellent) working condition takes unnecessary stress and expenses that you might get from sudden car trouble or worse, an accident.
A car, regardless of age, should undergo regular maintenance to address any condition. However, there is an obvious difference with the new ones from the old ones: technology upgrades. Newer models tend to have more components and setting tweaked using a computer.
Another factor affecting maintenance choices is the conditions the vehicle is subjected to. A daily driver might experience slower wear and tear than taxicabs and racecars. A car driven on well-paved roads might have a better chance staying in better condition than another regularly driven ride on bumpy country roads.
As such, here are some components that need regular attention and maintenance:
The Air Filter
Importance: The engine air filter allows cleaner air to be sucked inside the engine, trapping contaminants such as dirt, soot, or other particulates.
How to check: Using a flashlight, illuminate one side of the filter. If little or no light can pass through the filter element, it is likely due for a replacement.
How to address: Depending on the location, it is recommended that the air filter element be replaced every 20,000 km, or roughly once a year.
Importance: The battery provides the electric current needed to start the engine and power for electrical components when the engine is not running. With the engine running, the alternator takes over and subsequently charges the battery.
How to check:
The best way is to use a voltmeter. If it reads 12.7 to about 12.24 volts, your battery is still good. At 12.06 volts or lower, it is nearing the time to replace it.
For those without a voltmeter, try giving the electrical system a full load (i.e. activating the headlights on high beam, A/C on at full, and radio on at high volume). If the lights dim, then the battery might need replacing soon, and would warrant a check of the alternator.
Of course, the worst yet most clear cut indicator would have to be difficulty starting, with hesitation from the starter motor.
How to address: Have your battery replaced if already discharged and make sure the replacement battery follows the requirements for your car.
Importance: The belt synchronizes movements of shafts in the engine.
What/how to check: Look for abrasion, misalignment, cracking, glazing, and pilling on the belt. These are clear signs that the belt needs a replacement.
How to address: Belts are ideally replaced every 80,000km or about 4 years. However, if any of the symptoms above are visible, you should not wait for the prescribed period to replace the belt.
Importance: The brake fluid converts force from the pedal into pressure that activates the caliper or drum.
How to address: Brake fluid is replaced once a year. However, if the fluid level is low, you need to have the car serviced and refill fluid container to the prescribed level.
Importance: Effective brakes allow you to immediately make a safe stop in anticipation to a road hazard.
What/how to check: You can have it checked at your nearest shop to monitor the progression of wearing down. Most brake pads have a metal indicator that results in a squealing noise if pad is already worn down. You have to replace the brake pads as soon as the sound becomes apparent.
How to address: Brake pads can be changed as often as needed as its wear depends on driving habits and conditions. Remember that faulty brake pads surely spell accident.
Importance: The coolant is a fluid that circulates the system to help the engine keep its proper operating temperature.
How to address: Engine coolants are normally replaced every 20,000km or two years unless your manufacturer has specified an extended drain cooling fluid. If the level is low, you have to add more coolant mix.
Importance: Oil lubricates the engine components allowing the shafts to turn with minimal friction.
What/how to check:
The characteristic of oil changes into different kinds depending on what it is subjected to. Black oil is a clear sign that it is due for a replacement but you also have to watch out for the following signs:
- Light brown and milky – indicates a coolant leak in the crank case
- Oil feels gritty – the oil needs replacement
- Oil smells like gas – the engine, fuel system, or ignition system needs servicing
How to address: The engine oil should be changed every 10,000km or six months unless an extended drain engine oil is used which normally lasts for about a year. If the oil manifests any of the symptoms given above prior the scheduled change, replace at once.
Importance: The radiator hose links the engine to the radiator to facilitate temperature maintenance.
How to address: The hose is changed every 80,000km or 4 years unless there is evident damage.
Importance: Car lights provide visibility for the road ahead of you and warning to the driver behind you. It also signifies your intention to people on the road.
What/how to check: You should regularly monitor the lenses for clouding, and the bulb for brightness and beam focus.
How to address: It is recommended to replace light bulbs by pairs if at least one is dim or dysfunctional already. In the case of improper beam focus, have a mechanic to adjust the misaligned headlights.
Importance: The rubber tires are the only parts of the car that ideally touches the ground. Good tires improve fuel efficiency and provide a smooth safe ride.
What to check: Before setting out for any trip, you should check the tire pressure and look for possible punctures and wear.
How to address:
- Tires need to be pumped with air to regain recommended pressure once a month, and before and after road trips.
- If tire depth gauge reads 2/32 or less in the groove, it is a clear indication that your set needs replacement.
- Tire balance and rotation is recommended every 6 months.
Transmission fluid (for automatic transmission)
Importance: The transmission fluid aids valve operation, lessens brake band friction, torque converter, and gear lubrication
How to address:
- Low level – Address the issue immediately. You should replace the fluid and check for leaks.
- If not clear pink – It is time to replace the fluid and filter.
Importance: The wiper allows proper visibility for safe driving by wiping water droplets off the windshield.
What/how to check: A wiper due for replacement leaves streaks and does not wipe well.
How to address: Wipers can be replaced every 6-12 months, or as often as needed.
It is highly advisable that you also consult your car's manual to have a better understanding on the maintenance schedules and correct specifications for your car. It will also be helpful to build a good relationship with your trusted mechanic in order to maintain transparent and consistent feedback regarding your car's maintenance.