It’s so easy to buy a car these days. And it’s quite easy to learn how to drive. However, it’s more difficult to understand what makes your car work, let alone know how to keep it in tip-top shape. Never fear–we’re here to help you become a smart, informed driver on the road. Here are ten basic things every car owner should keep in mind:
1. Have your oil changes done regularly (Adding engine oil)
All moving parts inside your engine are lubricated by oil. As you drive, the engine oil gets dirty and loses its lubricating qualities. Your engine wears faster when oil is dirty. By having your oil changes done regularly, you keep your engine well lubricated and clean inside.
As you drive some oil is consumed and the oil level drops. Running low on oil also increases engine wear. That is why it’s also important to periodically check the engine oil level and top it up if it’s low.
2. Keep all fluids in your car clean and topped up (Topping up fluids)
The health of your automatic transmission depends on the condition of the transmission fluid. The same goes for the braking and power steering systems, the engine cooling system, transfer case and front and rear differentials.
All the fluids are vital for your car and over time they evaporate, leak and lose their qualities, so change as needed and top up when the level is low.
If you use your car for towing, consider installing an additional transmission fluid cooler and change the transmission fluid more often.
3.Be aware of early signs of problems (Temperature gauge)
Any problem with your car will be less expensive to repair if caught earlier. Have your car checked out as son as possible if you notice any signs of problems.
Warning lights on the dash, engine temperature rising more than normal, leaks, noises when driving over bumps or while braking, unusual smell, difference in the way the car drives or shifts gears are some of the early signs of mechanical problems.
4.Wash and wax your car regularly, rustproof to protect from rust (Wash your car regularly)
If you live in the Rust Belt, rustproof your car to protect the brake and fuel lines as well as other undercarriage components from rust. Wash your car regularly as the corrosion starts in dirty areas. Replace your wiper blades at least twice a year; they are not very expensive.
Wax your car once in a while; car wax protects the paint and keeps it shiny. Touch up stone chips and scratches before they get corroded. Read more at car body care tips
5.Keep the interior of your car clean and dry
There is a lot of electronics and wiring in the dash, center console and under the carpet. Electronics plus water always equals trouble.
When you keep the interior clean, it stays smell-free. Once the moisture or garbage accumulate, it will be almost impossible to get rid of a bad smell. Most newer cars have a cabin filter that needs to be replaced every 10,000-15,000 miles. A dirty cabin filter also causes a bad smell in a car. Read more how to clean car interior.
6.Rotate your tires regularly and keep them properly inflated (Check tire pressure regularly)
Check tire pressure regularly as under-inflated tires wear faster and cause poor gas mileage. Improper tire pressure increases wear of the 4WD system. Over-inflated tires can cause damage to the steering and suspension components. Change winter tires back to all-seasons after the last blast of winter, as winter tires wear more on dry asphalt.
Rotate your tires regularly; in some cars tires can become cupped and noisy if not rotated as often as recommended (e.g. Mazda 3, Honda Civic). Have the wheel alignment checked at least once in two years. Improper wheel alignment causes increased tire and suspension wear and poor handling.
Full-throttle acceleration is bad for your car. Drive smoothly. One burnout or drag race will result in more wear than months of normal driving. The same goes for hard braking.
Driving fast over speed bumps can damage your struts and other suspension components, as well as the wheel bearings and rims.
If your daily commute involves only short trips, take your car on the highway once in a while. During short trips, your engine cannot warm up fully causing moisture to accumulate inside it.
8.Service your car at a reliable repair shop (Find a good trusted mechanic)
Find a trusted and knowledgeable mechanic or a reputable repair shop for all your service and maintenance needs. Ask your friends for recommendations. A mechanic who deals with your car on a regular basis will know better what it needs and will do a better job to keep you as a satisfied customer.
Have your car checked out at least once a year on the lift to keep it safe. It’s always better to use only OEM or known good quality parts.
9.Do regular tune-ups (Tune-up items)
Besides regular oil changes, your engine needs a few other things. An air filter needs to be replaced every 10,000-20,000 miles. Every 60,000-90,000 miles your car needs a tune-up. In some cars, the valve clearance needs to be adjusted regularly.
If your car has a timing belt, it needs to be replaced at recommended intervals too. You can check the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual or ask your mechanic.
10.Get to know your car (Wash your car regularly)
Your owner’s manual is a valuable source of information about your car. Keep it in your glove box and if you happen to have a minute, browse though it. It will tell you how to use various features of your car and prevent problems. Among other things, it has a map of the engine compartment, so you can see how to check your oil, coolant or transmission fluid.