Preventative maintenance is an important part of owning a car and keeping it in good running condition. Following the recommended maintenance schedule in the owner's manual can greatly reduce the risk of breakdowns. It can also extend the life of your vehicle.
Engine oil lubricates, cools and cleans your car's engine. It is under constant stress and can deteriorate rapidly compared with other fluids in a vehicle, so it is important to make sure the oil level doesn't get low. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommends that you check the oil every time you buy gas. Replace the oil and filter according to your car's preventative maintenance schedule.
Engine antifreeze is important for three reasons: preventing the coolant from freezing in cold climates, raising the boiling point of the coolant to prevent overheating in warmer climates and fighting corrosion in the cooling system. Most manufacturers recommend that green coolant be changed every two years, or 30,000 miles. Orange and yellow coolants have longer lifespans, so you can change them every five years or 150,000 miles. Unless you have experience in changing and flushing cooling systems, you should leave this job to a certified mechanic.
Belts and Hoses
Rubber belts and hoses under the hood can deteriorate over time, so check them once a month as part of your car's preventative maintenance schedule. Replace glazed, worn or frayed belts, as well as bulging, rotten or brittle hoses.
You should check the pressure in your car's tires every month to avoid under or over inflation. You can find the appropriate pressure level in the owner's manual or printed inside your car's door frame. You should also check the tire treads for uneven wear, which may indicate a wheel alignment problem. A tread-depth gauge is a useful tool for checking the life of your tires. If the tread is below 2/32 of an inch, replace the tires.
The air and fuel filters need to be changed on a regular basis as part of your car's preventative maintenance. The air filter should be checked every month. The fuel filter is the primary defense against dirt and debris in the fuel system. Debris can clog or wear the components of the fuel system, possibly causing expensive repairs. SAE recommends that you change the fuel filter every 30,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first.
A car's suspension system has many parts that can wear over time, including the shock absorbers. If the suspension feels springy, the shocks may need to be replaced. Worn shock absorbers can lead to irregular tire wear and wheel alignment problems. Unless you are experienced with the components of vehicle's suspension system, you should leave the testing and repairs to a licensed mechanic.
Finding a good mechanic can make following your car's preventative maintenance schedule easier. You can take your vehicle to the mechanic at the dealership where you bought it, or find a certified mechanic in the phone book or online.
- Auto Upkeep: Basic Car Care; Michael E. Gray; 2003
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