Simple car care tips

2016-11-30 06:00
Maintaining a clean, adequate supply of oil within the engine is absolutely critical for the long-term life of your vehicle.  Photo: sourced

Maintaining a clean, adequate supply of oil within the engine is absolutely critical for the long-term life of your vehicle. Photo: sourced

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THERE are times when you really don't have to care much about a car or car maintenance.

On the other hand, you have the car parked in your driveway.
You know the one: It has your name (or your favorite bank's name) on the title. You're paying for it (or you've already paid for it). Cars aren't cheap today, and it just makes good sense to look after them. The day we drove home from the dealership, most of us aspired to keep our new car pristine. But plenty of folks have "memory lapses," or, more than likely, they fall back into bad habits when it comes to car maintenance.

Falling into a maintenance rut can be expensive in some situations, really expensive by causing many common car problems. Here's a list of car maintenance tips people too often don't follow:
Check tyre pressure

Upward of 90 percent of all the vehicles on the road are driven with improperly inflated tyres, and we suspect the majority are underinflated. Driving with low tyre pressure can compromise cornering, braking and stability. In a worst-case scenario, incorrect tyre pressure can lead to tyre failure. And it should come as no surprise that underinflated tyres also affect fuel economy and tyre life.

Tyre pressure changes constantly. This may be caused by a minor leak, but the most common factor in pressure change is ambient temperature. When tyre pressure is too low, friction between the road and the tyre increases, which increases tyre wear. Driving with low tyre pressure also can cause tyres to overheat, which usually ends in catastrophic failure.
Check the oil
You really can't ignore some car maintenance essentials, such as checking the oil level in your vehicle's engine on a regular basis. That should be a no-brainer. Two conditions can cause drops in oil level: burning oil or leaking oil. Either way, if the oil level becomes too low, you're risking major engine damage. Often, the first thing to go – the bearings – is the worst that can happen. If they're toast, you won't go very far before the crankshaft and the connecting rods weld together.

Checking oil level (and condition) is not difficult. For the most part, it's a good idea to check the oil every time you fill up, especially if your vehicle is considered high mileage. It's not difficult to check your car's oil and it doesn't even take five minutes.

Change the oil and filter regularly
Okay, we've mentioned checking the oil, but how many people postpone oil and filter changes (engine oil, engine oil filters and coolant as well)? Plenty, we'll bet. Maintaining a clean, adequate supply of oil within the engine is absolutely critical for the long-term life of your vehicle. Operating conditions have an effect upon how often you should do an oil and filter change. Seasons have an effect too.

Many of today's cars and light trucks are engineered so that the condition of the oil is monitored based upon your driving habits. When it's time to change the oil, a message (actually, an "electronic nag") will be displayed somewhere on the instrument cluster. If not, the owner's manual will clearly spell out when it's time for a change. Oil filters should be changed with the fluid, but at some deep-discount oil-change businesses, they use the cheapest filter they can find. When it comes to oil filters, the words "cheap" and "good" usually cannot be used in the same sentence. Ditto with coolant. Coolant does, in fact, wear out. As a result, the system should be "cleaned" and replenished on a regular basis.
Replace brake pads when necessary
Stop-and-go driving (including freeway travel), driving in mountainous terrain, hauling loads or pulling a trailer can severely shorten the lifespan of your brake pads. Mix all or some of them together and your brake pads (particularly the fronts, since they get the most use) will usually wear out quicker than you might imagine.

Modern cars and brake pads are virtually all equipped with audible wear sensors. Once worn, the pads will emit healthy squeals, and not only when the brake pedal is depressed. The squawking and squealing will go on continuously, which tells you it's time for a brake pad replacement. If you don't, the rotors will eventually be destroyed. A routine (and inexpensive) brake job then becomes costly.

Check the lights
How many times do you take a walk around your car to check the lights? You're not alone. Plenty of folks neglect vehicle lamps, which should be a routine element of car maintenance. Lamps are (obviously) incredibly important, and there's no reason not to check them regularly, since it's a simple process. Turn on the headlights. Check park lamps, high and low-beam lamps and the license plate light. If your vehicle is equipped with fog or driving lamps, inspect them. Examine the indicators (all four corners) and follow up with an inspection of the hazards. Back up against a wall where you can see the lights, apply the foot brake and check the brake lights. Place the vehicle in reverse (with the hand brake on) and check the backup lights. If any bulbs are burned out, or if there is a lighting problem, it's obviously time to repair. And the repairs aren't difficult or expensive.

Don't overload the vehicle
Drive down any road, in any part of the country and you'll see it soon enough: An overwhelmed car or truck filled to the brim with someone's "load" and/or yanking a trailer. Most frequently, you'll see the results at the side of the road, with the hood raised. Often, it's simply a matter of an overtaxed cooling system, but in other cases, we've even examined buckled frames and broken axles.

As you can well imagine, those things cost plenty to fix. It's a lot less costly to simply figure out what load you're carrying (or towing), then cross-reference it against the load capacity decal on the door jamb of your vehicle. Keep in mind that passengers and their luggage are also included in the total "load" figure. If the load is too big, then either reduce the size or use something more capable of handling it. This is a serious safety issue and shouldn't be taken lightly.

Replace worn-out wiper blades
Windshield wipers need regular inspection, because rubber (no matter the blend) deteriorates over time, due to sunlight, ozone, cold weather and other factors. Once the deterioration begins, wiper blades lose the ability to flex and flip over in use. They also crack. Additionally, normal use simply wears down the blade. Once the sharp edge is gone, the squeegee effect of the blade goes away as well. All of those factors prevent the blades from making full contact with the windshield. Wipers can chatter against the glass and, in most cases, the result is a blade that can't clear the windshield effectively. There's only one fix: replace the blades. - Supplied

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