Tips on How to Maintain Your New Car
With so much emphasis on car buying, few people consider the regular maintenance requirements of an automobile. The modern car may have as many as 75,000 parts, and the malfunction of just one part can make your car have issues. Maintaining a car in good condition will help you stay safe while driving, extend the lifespan of the car, and increase the value so that it sells for a good price in the future.
Check Your Owner’s Manual
One of the most important pieces of equipment in your car isn’t under your hood—it’s in your glove compartment. We’re referring to your owner’s manual, which is full of make- and model-specific information about the vehicle you drive.What kind of fuel does the manufacturer recommend? Can you use chains on your tires in snowy conditions without voiding the warranty? The answers to these questions and many more should be within the pages of your owner’s manual, and that’s all the reason you need to become acquainted with it.
Do it regularly—monthly for a vehicle in good condition; more often if you notice an oil leak or find you need to add oil routinely. The car should be parked on level ground so you can get an accurate dipstick reading. Don’t overfill. And if you do have a leak, find and fix it soon.
Check Tire Air Pressure
Once a month and before any extended road trips, use an accurate tire-pressure gauge to check the inflation pressure in each tire, including the spare. Do this when the tires are cold (before the vehicle has been driven or after no more than a couple of miles of driving). Use the inflation pressure recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer, not the maximum pressure embossed on the tire’s sidewall. The recommended pressure is usually found on a placard on a front doorjamb, in the glove compartment, or in the owner’s manual. Also be sure to inspect tires for abnormal or uneven wear, cuts, and any sidewall bulges you can see.
Change Your Timing Belt
If your timing belt fails while you’re out driving, you could be in for some serious repairs—not only will you have to the replace the belt, but you may have to fix other components damaged by its sudden failure. Consult your owner’s manual for your replacement schedule. As a rule of thumb, you should expect to replace the belt every 60,000 miles or so.
Change Your Engine’s Air Filter
The air filter is another component whose maintenance schedule will depend on the manufacturer’s recommendation in your owner’s manual. Bear in mind that frequent driving in harsh conditions, like dirt roads, will clog up your air filter fairly quickly, and if this is the case with you, consider a replacement earlier than scheduled.
Fill Up the Engine Coolant
Coolant is the fluid responsible for keeping your engine from melting down from excessive heat while in use, and, for obvious reasons, this is not something to be ignored. One of the dangers you need to watch out for is a leak that slowly drains your engine coolant, until suddenly your temperature gauge is quickly rising up into the red while you’re on the way to the shopping mall.
Check under your car every so often to see if any fluids are leaking. While you’re at it, you can take a peek at your reservoir and under your radiator cap to make sure you have an adequate amount of coolant. It may be a good idea to keep some 50/50 coolant (available at any auto supply store) for those occasions where you’re running a little low.
Whatever you do, though, be sure that you don’t check your coolant while your engine is still hot—you could easily get scalded by the fluid.
Check Your Battery
A dead car battery is nobody’s idea of fun, as anybody who has been stranded at the side of the road can tell you. Luckily, many auto shops offer battery testing at a pretty reasonable price. This is a good way to spot problems with your battery before you get to the point where you have to pay for a tow truck. As a rule of thumb, car batteries should be replaced every four or five years, so if yours is in that age range, you need to keep an eye on it and prepare yourself to purchase a new one.